Saturday, May 7, 2011

Black Magic (aka Cagliostro)

(1949, USA/It, 105min, b/w)
d Gregory Ratoff, Orson Welles p Gregory Ratoff, Edward Small sc Charles Bennett ph Ubaldo Arata, Anchise Brizzi, Otello Martelli ed Fred R. Feitshans Jnr, James C. McKay, Renzo Lucidi ad Jean d’Eubonne, Ottavio Scotti m Paul Sawtell cast Orson Welles, Nancy Guild, Akim Tamiroff, Frank Latimore, Valentina Cortese, Margot Grahame, Stephan Bekassy, Charles Goldner, Berry Kroeger, Lee Kresel, Raymond Burr

Narrated by Dumas père to his fils (an unlikely and distracting Raymond Burr) this gears up to be a splendid romp through the capitals of eighteenth-century Europe, with gypsies and castles and magic, before getting bogged down in the intrigues of the Parisian court, a Marie-Antoinette lookalike and the nobleman who hung Cagliostro’s parents. Welles has a whale of a time with the title role, phony prestidigitator and genuine hypnotist with delusions of theism, and he oversaw great chunks of the picture while Ratoff hovered on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Sets and costumes are lavish, but despite some atmospherics and high-toned playing, it’s a largely two-dimensional affair, most notable for being the movie for which Welles forsook the Macbeth editing suite, and for introducing him to the subsequently invaluable Tamiroff.

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