The title translates at Rites, Black Magic and Secret Orgies in the 14th Century, which sounds as much like an encyclopedia entry as an exploitation come-on. An astonishing, if slightly tiring exercise from out-there Italian horror specialist Renato Polselli, this reduces Mickey Hargitay, star demento of Bloody Pit of Horror, to blending in with a parade of grotesques, bizarros and tortured topless lovelies.
Isabel (Rita Calderoni), witch queen of the 14th century, was tortured to death by a mob. A modern-day cult, led by her reincarnated warlock lover (Hargitay — perhaps playing Dracula), want to bring her back to life by sacrificing a collection of young women. The movie avoids mystery or suspense: we are told what is going on, then Polselli stages a series of scenes in which young women are tied to crosses, stripped semi-naked and mutilated via fakey-looking heart-ripping, breast abuse and eyeball-gouging. The grey-faced Isabel – a rotted hole between her naked breasts where her heart used to be – observes. Some characters find the warlock in his coffin, cuing the use of Bava-ish lighting effects, and the reincarnation is thwarted, which brings everyone back happily to life for a reprise of the comedy by-play which has occasionally interrupted the black magic rites/orgies.
It’s hard to work out who’s who until the show is nearly over, then it doesn’t turn out to be very important (all those sacrificed girls are indistinguishable). The uninhibited if silly horror-sex is so shoddily presented it never approaches the transgressive — which is probably just as well.
Extract from Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon.