Dark Sky Films // 1972 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 28th, 2008
Once upon a time in the dark...
What do you get when you cross four hippies, a dune buggy and a group of wealthy Satanists? This movie.
Four friends are on a summer vacation. Their plans are simple: strum the guitar, play some cards, do whatever hippies do, but when a summer storm hits them in the middle of the night, they're forced to seek solace in the manor of Lady Alexander. On the surface she seems normal enough -- rich, attractive, has a thing for ogling young girls in sheer nightgowns, but she and her bourgeoisie pals are harboring a dark secret. You see, they can't get enough of Satan and love having ceremonies.
Too bad for them, the one they have scheduled for this night will be tragic. When they grab one of the hippie girls (Camille Keaton) and lay her out on the ritual slab to offer her up to the Dark Lord, her buff hippie pals crash the ceremony, steal her back, and take off, leaving the Satanists to kill each other(?).
Moral of the story: don't worship Satan and play with knives at the same time.
This Ceremony is certainly tragic, but I think the real tragedy may be the hapless viewer that gets roped into tuning into this largely unremarkable dose of '70s Italian horror.
Hey, I'm always down with some bodacious import Satanic filmmaking, and Tragic Ceremony has its share of fun, exploitation-rich moments, but enough to merit you going out of your way to secure a copy? Don't think so. However, if you do find yourself the willing or unwilling recipient of this disc, I doubt you'll be completely disappointed, mainly because of the outrageous, titular ceremony.
Up until this point the film lurches along with little fanfare, highlighted by a goofy vision the girl has of her pal Bill (Tony Isbert) caked in blue clown make-up and drooling, and a bathtub scene. It's a prolonged trek until you get to the ceremony, but you'll be met with some gratuitous, and poorly staged, violence.
Once the hippies rescue their friend, something gets into the Satanists and they go loopy and begin slaughtering each other. This translates into an over-dependency on fake heads and dummies and fake-blood spigots. So on one hand you get close-up shots of folks taking a knife to the skull or getting capped in the temple with a .45 caliber having their noggins lopped off, but on the other, it all looks laughably fake. Seriously, these are some of the fakest dummy heads ever, with plastered skin, wide, painted-on, unblinking eyes, and collapsible rubber cheeks. At least the blood flow that follows is copious, though sporting a consistency not unlike the delicious Campbell's tomato soup I used to eat with grilled cheese following a fun day of sledding and snowball fights.
From that point on -- because Bill offs one of the Satanists -- the film becomes a mix of hippies-on-the-run and slasher film, as one by one the pals meet untimely ends. Who can be behind the slayings? You'll be able to guess right away, but the exposition-crammed ending offers a nice little supernatural twist.
Another typically nice disc from Dark Sky: a decent, though aged, 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, 2.0 mono Italian audio (subtitled in English), and a 12-minute featurette on Camille Keaton.
An otherwise-mediocre movie gets a kick in the pants because of a sequence of ridiculously corny bloodletting. Not enough for a recommendation, though.
The accused is busted for loitering.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dark Sky Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Italian)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Not Rated