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  THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC

More nutty Indonesian horror, and far from the best example of such. Still, THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC definitely has moments, and was one of the first (and only) films of its kind to make any kind of impact in the USA.

The Package
     THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC (RATU ILMU HITAM), from 1979, was a fairly typical example of the sort of horror-themed films being made in Indonesia at the time, and starred the sultry brunette Suzzanna, that country’s reigning horror queen. Suzanna had been acting since the fifties but hit her stride in the seventies, with BIRTH IN THE TOMB and this picture, and solidified her popularity in the eighties, with the popular Snake Queen and “Ghost With Hole” pictures.
     As for QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC, in the 1980s it was released on VHS in the US, in an English dubbed version entitled BLACK MAGIC TERROR (and as such was falsely advertised as being part of the Shaw Brothers’ BLACK MAGIC franchise). It was one of the first Indonesian horror films to achieve such recognition, and so marked the premiere exposure for many cult horror fans (this one included) to the mind-boggling joys of Indonesian cinema.

The Story
     In a small village in rural Indonesia, a young woman named Murni is waylaid by villagers who believe she’s used black magic to ruin a wedding ceremony. In fact Murni was set up by her asshole boyfriend, which nearly causes her death at the hands of the village mob. She survives, though, and ends up in the lair of a real black magician, who after listening to her tale of woe offers to help enact revenge on her tormentors--by teaching Murni how to really bewitch them!
     This he does, in a ROCKY-esque black magic training montage, after which Murni wastes no time carrying out her revenge. She makes hundreds of bees sting a guy to death and causes large sores to appear all over another guy’s body. Another is devoured by snakes, while the most memorable mutilation is saved for Murni’s old boyfriend, whose head is ripped from his body and made to fly around biting people.
     Eventually Murni decides she’d rather not continue her revenge, but the magician won’t have this. He carries on the madness by making a guy’s stomach swell. Luckily a good magician enters the scene, and through the power of prayer causes the afflicted man’s hideously swollen stomach to deflate.
     But Murni has found her stride as the “Queen of Black Magic.” After a guy she’s had her eye on takes up with another woman, Murni becomes determined to destroy the entire village in a final fire-spouting, spear-tossing, body-exploding, voodoo doll-smashing supernatural showdown!

The Direction
     Director Liliek Sudjio lacks the crazed inspiration of his contemporaries Sisworo Gautama Putra (THE WARRIOR) and H. Tut Djalil (MYSTICS IN BALI, LADY TERMINATOR), but makes a conditional success of THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC. Like Putra and Djalil, Sudjio utilizes actual South Asian mythology in crafting his narrative, along with mystical elements that will seem downright surreal to non-Asian viewers.
     The film is jumpy and fast moving, and contains some truly eye-popping special effects. Foremost among the latter are the exploding boils that appear on a guy’s body and that amazing severed head that flies around biting chunks out of people.
     The major highlight is of course the unforgettable Suzzanna. There’s a reason she’s a horror icon in her native land: she’s quite attractive and has real screen presence, particularly in the latter scenes, when her character’s magic powers get the better of her. The early sequences depicting an ostensibly innocent and naïve young woman make little impression, but the lip-smacking glee with which Suzzanna conveys her descent into evil is simply priceless.
 

Vital Statistics

THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC (RATU ILMU HITAM)
Rapi Films

Director: Liliek Sudjio
Producer: Sabirin Kasdani
Cast: Suzzanna, W.D. Mochtar, Alan Nuary, Sofia W.D., Teddy Purba, Alan Nuary, Siska Widowati, Dorman Borisman, Jufri Sardan, Mien Brojo, Tizar Purbaya, Gordon Subandono

     

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