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 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.
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
Director Liliek Sudjio lacks the crazed inspiration of
his contemporaries Sisworo Gautama Putra (THE
WARRIOR) and H. Tut Djalil (MYSTICS
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.
THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC (RATU ILMU HITAM)
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