Black Magic, AKA Cagliostro, sadly not available on DVD, will be showing on TCM on Monday, July 14 at 5:30 AM! This is very exciting for me, as I have never seen this important Welles title. Hopefully the TCM showing heralds a proper DVD release!
Black Magic is one of the few movies starring Welles for which significant circumstantial evidence exists of his having had a hand in the direction. Looking forward to debating the yeahs and nays after tomorrow's showing!
I'm pretty sure Joseph Balsamo's life did not end as depicted in this film. Other than Orson decked out in secret society insignias in that one "party" scene and his general svelte appearance, I personally don't consider this memorable. And why didn't they come back to Raymond Burr at the end to tie up the tale?
The sound is so bad on the copy I have of this its virtually unwatchable, but I can tell that its a marvellous part for Orson; surely his great lost role. The character is so in tune with his love for magic, and he finally portrays a physically attractive character, so its a very pleasurable experience. Would just love to see a restored print of it, unfortauntely am not in possession of cable.
This was an extremely weak movie on most counts. The TCM print looked pretty good, but the audio had lots of hiss.
The scripting is downright terrible and the direction/editing mediocre to poor. The one advantage of the pedestrian direction throughout is that one can easily see where Welles had an influence in this department. Note how a number of the scenes with Welles and Tamiroff on their own feature overlapping dialogue and more inventive blocking. These attributes are completely absent in other portions of the film. Every so often the camera does something interesting and it's usually in a scene that involves Welles (that long tracking shot following Welles through King Louie's palace is extraordinary and unlike anything else in the movie).
Welles' performance is uneven and resembles Franz Kindler crossed with Colonel Haki. Those ridiculous close-ups of his eyes are inserted almost randomly. There are a few moments where Welles displays a certain degree of subtlety and he obviously loves doing the sleight-of-hand tricks which he does quite well.
The way the story is treated reminded me of something the Marx Brothers might have done if they had attempted a costume picture. Certainly you could have stuck Bob Hope in the lead role, adding a few jokes and dropping the darker elements, and you would have had roughly the same film.
The art direction/set design/costumes were all quite good, but it's not a film worthy of Welles' talent and he doesn't put forth a whole lot of effort in it.
Gotta disagree on this one: Black Magic has always been one of my favourite Welles's acting pictures: I really love it. I have no problem with the script, or plot: it's just good entertainment. I love the cinematography and I really like those closeups of welles when he's hypnotizing people. And Tamiroff is just an added bonus. Clearly Welles relished the chance at playing a famous magician, and he's very handsome in the role.
I guess I'm just not very critical of Welles's non-directing efforts: I almost always enjoy them, and the look of the late 40s black and white European films he was in is so lush, I can't resist them. I also adore Prince of Foxes and the Black Rose.
I haven't seen all of it, and I haven't seen it with good sound, but although I found it boring and hard to get into the first time I saw it, I loved Orson in it from the second time, the look and performance both. Of course on an intellectual level its not going to compare well with The Trial, but its such a fun part, and he seems to relish it.
I remembered enjoying this when I watched it several years ago, and probably said as much in the Acting page on the site, but having watched the first 20 minutes or so again, it's really pretty poor. The opening with Dumas père et fils is hilariously bad, and it doesn't get much better. Welles is fun to watch, and that's about it.
As I've posted elsewhere, BLACK MAGIC is not exactly what I'd call a good movie, but it's good campy fun, and Welles does some of his best scenery chewing as Cagliostro. The entire movie is now on Youtube, in decent quality. Here's part 1 (of 5):