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Black Magic

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Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Henstooth Video
  • DVD Release Date: November 20, 2012
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B009E3EX66
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,393 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Based on a novel by Alexander Dumas, BLACK MAGIC stars Orson Welles as the 18th century master hypnotist and charismatic charlatan, Cagliostro. After his mother is executed for supposedly practicing "witchcraft," young Joseph Balsamo is raised by gypsies. Under their tutelage, he perfects his skills performing magic tricks and selling snake oil in the gypsy's travelling caravan show. Eventually Balsamo meets Franz Mesmer, the famous hypnotist, who convinces Joseph he has even greater gifts which could heal the sick. But Joseph chooses a very different path assuming the name Cagliostro and embarking on a vendetta for power over the man who ordered his mother's death.

Customer Reviews

Welles masterfully plays his villainous role, who we shamelessly root for.
Brian Forrest
A great film in many respects but it is ruined by Orson Wells playing a largely fictionalized story of Cagliostro.
J. koch
The cinematography is very good, despite the fact that Welles didn't direct this film.
J. Moore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By F. J. Harvey on November 8, 2007
Format: VHS Tape
Orson Wellles was ,in real life ,a noted amateur magician ,and this may account for the relish with which he attacked his role in this 1949 United Artists movie.He is playing another real life character ,the self -styled "Count "Cagliostro ,a man of French Romany origin who learns the arts of hypnotism from Doctor Anton Mesmer (Charles Goldner)and deploys them -along with large doses of charlatanism and showmanship-to attain wealth and power at the court of the French King .His allies are the scheming and devious Viscount De Montagne and Madame DuBarry-played respectively by Stephen Bekassy and Margot Grahame .They plan to substitute the real Dauphine ,Marie Antoinette ,with a double ,Lorenza,and so manipulate the throne to achieve ultimate power .They are assisted by two of Cagliostro's companions from his gypsy days -played with suitable melodramatic menace by Akin Tamiroff and the splendidly sinister Valentina Cortese -and opposed by L;orenza's lover (Frank Lattimore)
The movie is narrated in flashback using a framing device of the tale being told by Alexandre Dumas Senior to his son ,Alexandre Dumas Junior - a cameo from Raymond Burr
Welles is pretty much the whole show and gives a suitably creepy and slightly hammy peformance wholly in keeping with the theatrical hucksterism of the real life Cagliostro .There is a nice turn too from the pretty Nancy Guild -an actress who did too few movies in my view -in the dual role of Lorenza and Marie Antoinette .

The direction by Gregory Ratof is a bit flat and I miss the zest a director like ,say Michael Curtiz,could have brought to proceeding .However the 18th century court setting is nicely realised and this is an enjoyable slice of melodrama that lovers of the period movie should enjoy
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Moore VINE VOICE on July 26, 2007
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
This movie has it all: swashbuckling action, intrigue, romance, mind control, and Orson Welles. Wells plays the historical figue Joseph Balsamo, who later styles himself Count Cagliostro (a la the Count of Monte Christo). Balsamo was a poor Sicilian con man who wheedled his way into many a royal court in Europe before finally getting arrested by the Inquisition in Rome. This movie is very fictionalized account of the infamous "affair of the necklace", a controversy involving Marie Antoinette.

Welles delivers a stunning performance as the anti-hero/anti-villain Cagliostro who uses flim flam and the power of suggestion (like Mesmer) to gain power over people. Notably, Raymond Burr plays a small role in the film (look for him in the first few minutes of the movie.

The sets, costumes, and cinematography are stunning - making for a wonderful period piece. The cinematography is very good, despite the fact that Welles didn't direct this film. The film is black and white and, I believe, orginally released in 1949

My biggest complaint is that I have only been able to find this film on VHS tape from 1987. My copy is in good shape, but the film begs to be re-released on DVD.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Chuck Snow on December 28, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This review is for the November 2012 Hen's Tooth DVD release of "Black Magic", and it is aimed at those of you who may opt not to purchase this stunningly produced and photographed black & white gem because of misinformation.

First of all, it is NOT a Region 2 DVD. It is a Region 1 DVD, as clearly stated in the product details section, and it WILL play on ANY US DVD player.

If you've never seen this sumptuous 1949 costume movie and you enjoy this genre you absolutely must acquire it. I have not seen this goody on cable - ever, but I remember a local station in my hometown showing it often many years ago. Maybe there have been some copywright complications that have kept this film from circulation all these many decades, but it' a good thing that it is available once again in a beautifully restored print.

The film was shot in Italy using at times real locales. The only drawback for me is that I wish the studio had beefed up the budget and photographed it in Technicolor.

The plot deals with a boy whose mother is cruelly executed. The boy grows up to become Cagliostro, a famous magician and charlatan. Cagliostro then becomes involved in a plot to destroy the man responsible for the mother's death. Unfortunately, things get out of hand. This is the notorious "necklace" episode involving Queen Marie Antoinette that you have probably seen in the more recent Hilary Swank version. Except I think this oldie is a lot more fun, if nothing else for Orson Welles' usually hammy performance matched scene by scene by Mr. Tamiroff, scene stealer supreme. Enough to say that that other wonderful ham, Gregory Ratoff (of All About Eve fame) directed this, so that may explain the acting style that prevails.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Scott Prazak on March 11, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
When the name Orson Welles is mentioned, the knee-jerk responses are usually Citizen Kane, War Of The Worlds, and the Mercury Theater. Black Magic came out in 1949 and has gone largely unnoticed unfortunately. Based on the book Memoirs of a Physician by Alexandre Dumas, the film focuses on the character Count Cagliostro (Welles), his rise from a gypsy carnival faker to a world renowned hypnotist drunk with power and revenge against the man who killed his parents when he was a child, and his obsession with a beautiful woman whose physical resemblance to Marie Antoinette he uses in his plan for conquest.

The big positives here are Orson of course and the terrific film score by Paul Sawtell. Despite a chilling performance by Welles and good direction from Gregory Ratoff, weak performances from the supporting cast particularly Nancy Guild and Frank Latimore kind of leave this a bit flat in spots. The additional cast is pretty solid. Akim Tamiroff always gives 100%, and Stephen Bekassy plays a real good nasty. I wish there was more of him in this.

Hen's Tooth Video has brought some of the best and hardest to find classics to DVD such as The Count of Monte Cristo, The Corsican Brothers, and Man in the Iron Mask. Finally they caught this gem. The sound quality is very good, and the video (although a little grainy in spots) is very good as well.

No additional features on this DVD; just the feature with a scene index. No complaints from me though. To at last get a region 1 DVD of this is quite the blessing!
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