Tragic Ceremony

Tragic Ceremony

Tragic Ceremony

directed by Riccardo Freda

starring Camille Keaton, Tony Isbert

Dark Sky Films/MPI

This nifty little Riccardo Freda horror film appeared in 1972 under the rather clunky title, Estratto Dagli Archivi Segreti Della Polizia Di Una Capitale Europea (From the Secret Police Files of a European Capital). Like many Italian films of the era, the pace is languid, underlain with a bouncy soundtrack by Stelvio Cipriani.

The horror takes some time creeping up on you, although there is an apparently inexplicable flash forward of a collapsing corpse near the beginning. Plot-wise, we have a group of erstwhile hippies bumming around in a yellow dune buggy. Bill (Isbert) has oodles of money, oddly erotic Jane (Keaton) doesn’t put out, and the two drifters, Joe and Fred (Máximo Valverde and Giovanni Petrucci), are nice enough as boon companions to Bill, although not above clipping a few bucks in a rigged bet. As night falls, they repeatedly run out of gas, meet a creepy gas station attendant (José Calvo), and avoid the rain in lavish Villa Alexander. It seems they’ve arrived on a Very Special Night, and in a serious version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a Satanic mass goes horribly wrong, killing everyone except the four kids. Heads split, guts spill, and we’re not even half-way through the film. There’re a few quarts to come, but the best bits get lopped off at midpoint.

Plot and production values are respectable for a ’70s flick, and while the actors are likable, the only real standout is Bill’s mom (Irina Demick), who kicks the kids out on a rainy night so she can spend time in the bubble bath with her lover. The cinematography is quite similar to the notorious I Spit on Your Grave, and while the film engenders occasional disgust, it’s low-rent gore by today’s standards. The DVD rendering is excellent — colors are true, the sound track is crisp, and the subtitles are the nice “yellow with black outline” type that never wash out. Special features are limited — subtitles on or off, the original theatrical trailer, and a nice interview with the star Camille Keaton (Grand niece of Buster and stepmother to Lorna Luft.) If nothing else, the fashion sense of this movie is classic Euro — peasant blouses, tight fitting pants, and pre-disco hairstyles. This one is as much for style as shock, but as someone once said, “It’s not ALL bad.”

Dark Sky Films: www.darkskyfilms.com

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