Black Magic 2 film review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Do You Believe in Magic?
When the subject of Shaw Brothers Studios horror films is discussed, its most likely the collaboration with the vaunted Hammer films that produced the interesting, intriguing, but ultimately flawed Legend of the Seven Vampires (1974) which is more often then not the subject. But, the Shaw Brothers made numerous outstanding horror films, and although their martial arts films are what put the studio on the map, there is no discounting many of their excellent horror efforts. The Shaw Brothers produced some of the most insane, terrifying, bat-shit crazy horror films with the likes of The Killer Snakes (1975), Hex (1980), Corpse Mania (1981) and Human Lanterns (1982), ever to soil the big screen. The film under review Black Magic 2 (1976), as well as the first film Black Magic (1975), should both be included in the list of the best horror outings the company has to offer.
The director of Black Magic 2, Meng Hua Ho, decided to helm a similar, but distinctly different film than its predecessor Black Magic, which he also directed. Meng Hua Ho moved the subject matter into more deranged avenues, still building the crux of the story around good versus evil, but instead of two masters trying to out battle each other in the primitive magic arts, Black Magic 2 allows a modern man of medicine to ultimately confront and defeat the black arts. Meng Hua Ho’s list of credits churning out classics for the Shaw Brothers assembly line is quite impressive, including such wonderfully realized films as The Cave of the Silken Web (1967), Vengeance is a Golden Blade (1969), The Lady Hermit (1971), The Flying Guillotine (1975), Oily Maniac (1976) and Mighty Peking Man (1977).
While Black Magic is an outstanding film, Black Magic 2 in my mind is the better of the two. The reason being that Black Magic 2 is much more lurid and Lo Lieh as the villain turns in a more deranged performance than the evil master in Black Magic, even though Ku Feng turns in a delightfully perverse performance as the master of the black arts in the first film. While both films allow the mixing of the past with the modern, along with the eternal battle of good versus evil, Black Magic 2 takes the narrative of the film firmly into a globalized modern time. And as our unfortunate modern skeptics find out in the film that the ancient beliefs and folk tales of the cultural past can’t be dismissed so easily. This meshing of the two cultural examples creates a juxtaposition of the two worlds; one entrusted in the beliefs of their rudimentary past and the other of the modernization of the world. While quite possibly not an overt attempt by the Shaw Brothers studio to entice a younger more urban audience, the film is seemingly trying to leave some of the past behind, even though its subject matter is firmly entrenched in it. And although the crux of the action is constructed in the modern, its sensibilities lie in the past, as exemplified by the use of the ancient forms of magic, in the transformed modern society of where the majority of the film is set. The Shaw Brothers had been so established in their formalistic, systematic martial arts and fantasy films that they had begun to lose some of the more youthful movie-goers in Hong Kong, who had begun to turn away from the Shaw Brothers period films. Thus, attempts were made to produce more modernized fare.
Black Magic 2, besides having the same director, had many of the same stars from the first film including Lo Lieh, Ni Tien, Ti Lung and Lilly Li. The same writer Kuang Ni, wrote the screenplays for both films, as well as many of the same principle members on the technical side, were retained. The story is basically a good versus evil tale, with a modern man trying to defeat something he does not know how to confront because it is not a scientific fact. And although our hero and his wife laugh at the thought of magic, it's that very magic which eventually saves both of their lives. The film ramps up the action to a furious level and never lets up for a moment, throwing, nudity, sex, insanity and gore constantly at the viewer. We get zombies who are controlled by the black magician Kang Cong (Lo Lieh) and are revived by nauseating close-up, realistic nails hammered into their heads. Take that lengthy nail out of the cranium and the zombies revert back to maggot encrusted corpses. This leads up to one of the most deranged endings ever committed to celluloid. And in that glorious ending of Black Magic 2 we get, self-eye removal by the dying good magician after a battle with Kang, and the ingestion of his “old wise eyes,” by the hero of the piece Zhongping (Ti Lung). Those eyes help him see the evil spirits floating around Kang’s house, and his hoard of zombie assailants. But nothing can prepare one for the lunacy that the ending packs into it, and while the first film ended on a gloriously grotesque note, the second film ramps its up tenfold.
The BluRay release
The 88 films release of Black Magic 2, is a thing of beauty to behold. While some of the other releases of the film have been very good including the one from Tokyo Shock, this release is absolutely stellar on both the audio and video side. The film could not possibly look any better as the colors are perfect and intoxicating to the eye. The whole presentation is flat out outstanding and really does justice to this Shaw Brothers masterpiece of grotesque horror. Special nod to the informative enclosed booklet by the venerable Dr. Calum Waddell (first pressing only, same as the matte finish slipcase).
The transfer was remastered from the original negative, and you have a choice of the English dub or the Mandarin original track with English subtitles. For extras, there's a great audio commentary by film journalist and webmaster at Rock! Shock! Pop!, Ian Jane. More details about the BluRay.