27 April 2017 | jcorelis-24336
Good neglected Welles film
Black Magic is an unjustly neglected 1949 Orson Welles film, based on Alexandre Dumas's novel Joseph Balsamo, a fictionalized version of the life of the occultist better known as Cagliostro, set mostly against the background of the days just before the French Revolution. The film is entertaining and well done, though it's a pity that it's in black and white, since the meticulously recreated ancien regime sets and costumes would have looked much more impressive in color. Welles reportedly said that he had more fun making this film than any other, and it's easy to see why, since the melodramatic script gives ample room for over-the-top histrionics, which only an actor of Welles's talent could put over convincingly. It's interesting that Welles here again plays an eccentric genius whose early success was soon undermined by his own flaws -- in other words, a character whose career is intriguingly parallel to his own. I think most people will find the film entertaining, and real Welles fans should consider it a must-see.
The Hen's Tooth Video DVD seems to be the only Region 1 DVD currently available, and it's of adequate sound and image quality, though from a rather poor original print. The film is certainly important enough to deserve a redigitized version with booklet and special features, if possible from a better print, but lacking that, the Hen's Tooth Video version is watchable.