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  • During his lifetime Orson Welles appeared in many films of other directors to earn money to finance his own projects. Some of those films were horrible, some contained some of his best performances. I always have felt his best performance in a non-Welles film is in Compulsion. Many would hold out for The Third Man. But I think some would say that his portrayal of Cagliostro the great mountebank of the 18th century would get a few votes.

    The opening scene and dialog with Berry Kroeger and Raymond Burr as Alessandro Dumas Senior and Junior is an interesting well acted scene. Kroeger has set out to write a novel based on Cagliostro, but he cannot get a handle on the character. A common complaint with authors trying to reach a goal.

    The real Cagliostro's character would probably rate a mini-series. This guy was some piece of work. The affair of the diamond necklace as portrayed here was only one chapter in Cagliostro's life. Failing as the senior Dumas said he was doing he wrote a novel with some plot elements from previous work like The Three Musketeers and The Man In The Iron Mask.

    As a child Joseph Balsamo aka Cagliostro saw his gypsy mother executed for practicing black arts by Stephen Bekassy the local prefect, a skill which he inherited. His natural abilities as a hypnotist were developed with study under Dr. Mesmer played here by Charles Goldner. But like characters in stories involving superheroes Orson Welles as the grown up Balsamo now stylizing himself as Cagliostro is ready to make a name for himself.

    Bekassy has also risen in power and influence and he's got some intrigue going. Welles whom he does not recognize is part of his plan, but Orson has some plans of his own.

    Part of those plans involve Nancy Guild who plays the dual role of a girl from out of town and the Queen of France herself Marie Antoinette. Guild does equally well as the girl in love with soldier Frank Latimore the nominal hero of the film. As Marie Antoinette she's not as noble as Norma Shearer in the same part, but no doubt she's royal personage used to royal prerogatives. I do love the scene where Guild gives Madame DuBarry played by Margot Grahame the old fashioned heave ho.

    The real Cagliostro died in 1795 surviving the King and Queen of France and he left the mortal coil in Rome. But Black Magic is the kind of film that makes you wish what happens here is true. Orson Welles has so many emotions working at once in the title role, greed, revenge, lust and a spark of a little boy whose mother was taken from him. Note also good performances by Akim Tamiroff and Valentina Cortese as the gypsy confederates of Cagliostro. Cortese is carrying one big old freedom torch for Welles, but he's no time for her, eyes on the prize as it were the prize being the power behind the throne of France.

    Quite a few people will see Black Magic as Orson Welles's best performance in a non-Orson Welles film.
  • I just watched the video of BLACK MAGIC again tonight and was once again impressed with it. Orson Welles turns in one of his finest performances. I was also impressed by the quality of the production considering it wasn't a Hollywood studio production (although it was released by United Artists). Elaborate costumes and sets and tons of extras. Interesting plot and photography. It has a nice film noir look to it. But the best part of BLACK MAGIC is Welles.
  • Orson Welles is mesmerizing and perfectly suited to the roll of Count Cagliostro. The Count has waited silently for over 20 years secretly planning revenge on the ruling class he holds responsible for the drunken public execution of his mother he witnessed as a boy.

    Is Cagliostro an ambitious Gypsy charlatan or a demonic master of the black arts? Is he really a Count?

    There are several entertaining scenes where Cagliostro gains the upper hand over odds stacked against him such as the "choking rope" switcheroo in the jail, and the "your legs are like wax" turnabout. Yet similarly to SVENGALI (John Barrymore) he will not be able to exert this will power forever over everyone.Welles seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself throughout.

    BLACK MAGIC has threads in common with "The Prisoner in the Mirror" Boris Karloff presents THRILLER teleplay, an updating of the evil magician known as Cagliostro. The real mystery is why such an enjoyable movie starring Orson Welles was so long overlooked, not released on DVD until 2016 (unfortunately the source print used by Hen's Teeth is not nearly as clear as the sharp print TCM aired in January 2017).

    Though considered by some as a costume melodrama with little more than Welles and the art direction going for it, ever since I watched a primitively colorized print of BLACK MAGIC (aired on a local San Francisco station KOFY-TV20 around 1990) it's been my favorite off- beat Welles movie, always a fun find to share with friends who hadn't seen it!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A real film for the connoisseur. Welles agreed to play the main role of Cagliostro provided he could direct his own scenes himself. Extraordinarily, Ratoff agreed to this remarkable proposal and so we have one of the most astonishing films ever made. In fact, Welles directed only the actual shots and camera set-ups in which he personally appeared. Of course, as he had by far the biggest part in the film, there were a great many of these, but he did not necessarily direct whole scenes — where the camera was focused exclusively on other players within the scene, these shots were directed by Ratoff — an arrangement which must have given the film editors nightmares, as the two directors had totally different visual styles!

    Things worked well when Welles had the camera glide after him as, dressed all in black, he wended his way through the crowded salons and antechambers of the palace, and the subsequent audience where Ratoff directed a few innocuous reaction shots of the king laughing; but in the trial scene where straightforward shots of the wigged judges are intercut with weirdly-lit reaction shots of Welles, things worked less well (the weird lighting on Welles seemed also to emanate from no natural source); though later on, the use of a subjective camera, during Mesmer's hypnosis, was more happily integrated. And as for the climax, Welles has directed this with typical passion and fury, topping the somewhat similar denouement in "The Stranger".

    As usual, Welles the director is masterfully in command of Welles, the actor. His is rightly the most powerful and engrossing performance in the film. Welles' influence extended to the other players in his scenes. He has turned Nancy Guild into a sort of wax doll, which contrasts well with her spirited portrayal of the vicious Marie Antoinette in her Ratoff-directed scenes (as she plays a dual role, it was certainly a masterful touch having a different director for each!) Incidentally, it is pleasing to note that this film continues a not uncommon practice in European films of having the same actor play in disguise two entirely different and separate roles — a practice that is virtually unknown in Hollywood. Stephen Bekassy is at home in his role as the villain, Margot Grahame makes a realistic study of DuBarry. Just about all the roles, in fact, are judiciously cast.

    The script abounds in nice realistic touches like Louis fixing his clocks. However, the film suffers from some unfortunate additional scenes and dialogue contributed by Richard Schayer. The most ridiculous of these is an absurdly-contrived framing Prologue in which young Alexander (sic) Dumas (played by Raymond Burr of all people — he seems excusably ill-at-ease in the part) visits his father. A casual reference to "Camille" is dropped into the conversation with as much subtlety as a bomb at a tea-party, while Dumas Senior (Berry Kroeger in an odd-looking wig) makes some equally clumsily-contrived allusions to "The Three Musketeers" and "The Count of Monte Christo"! The direction here is as leaden and routine as we usually expect from Ratoff. However he does improve as the film progresses, though both he and actor Goldner can do little with the absurd contrivance of having Mesmer of all people volunteer as an advocate for the Crown in the final trial scenes.

    It is obvious that Welles has prevailed upon Ratoff to let him direct some of the crowd scenes. These are directed with bite and fury and with a pictorial and editorial extravagance (some shots of enormous hordes of people are on screen for less than two seconds) rare to the American cinema. Also, there are some exciting montage routines using Cagliostro's luminous eyes as a focal point. Production values are exceptionally lavish, with atmospheric photography, vast, picturesque sets, attractive costumes and eye- catching use of natural locations.
  • jsmarr416 September 2004
    I saw this movie as a boy and it lingers after nearly fifty years as a haunting memory. It may be what we now call noir, but the twinkle in Welles' eye also lingers, suggesting a gris texture. That twinkle is the same that Harry Lime (cine verde?) flashed to Holly Martin in the alley scene of The Third Man (which was also made in Europe in 1949).

    Cagliostro was a brilliant montebank, alchemist,poseur and rascal of the first order. Welles gave him credibility, perhaps recognizing a kindred spirit down the centuries. I still remember the dark, cobbled streets and slick rainy roof tops of eighteenth century European cities -- scenes also not unlike the ones in The Third Man. The ending, I remember, was also bitter sweet.

    I wish that those who produce lesser know classics for DVD restoration might see this "foreign" movie; it is obviously available somewhere since there have been other reviewers. If they chose it I could have my childhood Madeleine experience, and others would have another Welles film to compare with the finite now available.
  • 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.
  • Trivia Question: What role was played (in the movies) by both Orson Welles and Zero Mostel? Answer: Joseph Balsalmo, a.k.a. Cagliostro, the charlatan magician who was a leading social figure in Europe in the 1780s and early 1790s. Mostel, early in his film career, played the imposter in DU BARRY WAS A LADY, opposite Red Skelton and Lucille Ball. Welles played the role in BLACK MAGIC, a more serious film based on one of Alexander Dumas Pere's innumerable historical fables.

    Basically, the film follows the rise and fall of Cagliostro, building up his tangential involvement in the notorious "Affair of the Diamond Necklace" (1785) which has been the subject of a serious film two years ago. Cagliostro was arrested in that affair's investigation, as the actual culprit was smart enough to lay a path of clues pointing to his involvement.

    He was released at the conclusion of the investigation (and banished from France). This movie puts him into the center of the plot, his hope being to use it to discredit the Bourbons and take over the country (in reality he would not have gotten anywhere near such a situation - his own aristocratic associates would have prevented it). Welles does nicely as the power-intoxicated anti-hero, but the plot is so ludicrous that it is hard to believe what's going on. But, come to think of it, the affair of the Diamond Necklace itself was pretty ridiculous, so who should complain.

    There seems to be a cottage industry among film scholars to try to expand the films of Welles that he directed. For the record he directed CITIZEN KANE, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, IT'S ALL TRUE, THE STRANGER, THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, MACBETH, OTHELLO, CONFIDENTIAL REPORT/MR. ARKADIN, TOUCH OF EVIL, THE TRIAL, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, F IS FOR FAKE, and two television films: THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH and THE IMMORTAL STORY, all of which he completed except for IT'S ALL TRUE (which has since been somewhat preserved and edited, and is on video). He also had a hand in JOURNEY INTO FEAR, MONSIEUR VERDOUX, and THE THIRD MAN. There are some films he directed that (for one reason or another) were never cut or released: DON QUIXOTE, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, and one other that had to do with people on a sinking yacht. Roughly 21 movies. For a major cinema talent it is a pitiful number (only the French director Jean Vigo is of Welles' stature and did less - but Vigo died prematurely after making three films). So it is understandable that Welles' myriad of fans would want to expand his filmography. But is this actually wise.

    If one could show Welles' involvement in a film it is a plus to his reputation and that film. Take MONSIEUR VERDOUX. Chaplin had to put down credit that Welles' gave him the idea for VERDOUX - actually Welles suggested doing a film with Chaplin as Henri Landru (the actual wife murderer Verdoux is based on) and Chaplin said no but took the story and turned it into the greatest black comedy film made before DR. STRANGELOVE. People pass ideas back and forth all the time. There is no evidence that Chaplin asked Welles to suggest camera angles or look over the script (Chaplin was brilliant enough to handle that by himself). But it is mentioned in the film credits that Welles suggested the idea for the film. Enough said for that reason.

    There is no screen credit for Welles assisting Gregory Ratoff in directing BLACK MAGIC. Perhaps there is a reason for this - Welles may have accepted this for tax reasons (he had large tax problems in the U.S. after 1946 when a Broadway production of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS with music with Cole Porter flopped). Or perhaps because of industry word that he was an unreliable film director who went over budget (his most successful film was THE STRANGER, which is also one of his least Wellesian in structure or special touches). Or, Welles may have noticed the film was not that particularly interesting or good. It isn't. It is rather padded, and has only one curious element in it: Welles or Ratoff had most of the cast play two roles each. That is a curious innovation, but hardly worth noting. The same year that Welles or Ratoff did that on Black Magic, Alfred Hitchcock did his famous nine minute static scene takes in ROPE. Although not a great idea, it was innovative, and most people recall that film for that particular innovation. Hitchcock also made DIAL "M" FOR MURDER in 3-D, with more success than most directors. But then Hitchcock was a better director than Ratoff.

    Welles and his friend Akim Tamiroff do well in their juicy parts, but not so the other performers (although the role of Dr. Anton Mesmer is of some interest). As a result the film is fairly forgettable. Which would be a good reason not to include it in a list of Welles' films that he directed. Keep his own work under his own name. Hopefully more of the cut scenes from his own films will eventually get restored. Even to THE STRANGER, but (from our words to God's ear) most hopefully for AMBERSONS.
  • Not having readt the story by Dumas,I really don't feel qualified to comment as to this film's fidelity to the original work.However,it has very little,if anything,to do with the actual history.till,it's a superb example of a cross between swashbuckling and film noir. Has anybody ever commented on the fact that,when Orson Welles did historical or Shakespearean figures,he was really telling so much about himself.Noble,talented,gifted people,whose grandiose designs were brought low by their own tragic flaws.And how good looking he was.If he hadn't doubled his girth in later years,he could have played leading men similar to those of Walter Pidgeon.

    HISTORICAL NOTE:The real Cagliostro was exiled from France in 1789,following the business about the diamond necklace.He then moved to Rome,where he established a Masonic Lodge.Now,in Europe,the Masons are NOT viewed as a men's fraternal organization,as in the U.S.A.,but,rather,as a hot bed of treason,treachery,and heresy.Consequently,he was arrested,and sentenced to be executed.The Pope commuted the sentence to life imprisonment,and he spent the rest of his life in prison.

    MORAL:We really don't need anyone else to foul up our lives,now,do we?We happen to do a great job on our own.
  • mermatt6 August 1998
    Warning: Spoilers
    This is a little-known film but it is quite effective. Welles gives a wonderfully spooky performance as a con man with plenty of charm. So effective is he that he helps bring down the French monarchy. The movie has lots of good atmospheric music and settings plus solid performances from a great cast.

    Beware! You could easily be hypnotized by Welles.
  • Black Magic surprises on many levels. For a non-Hollywood film, it's suprisingly well produced. You have Welles, who, except for the louder moments of Citizen Kane, usually underplays, being big and bold and involved. He struggled with his weight, and here he is thin, wears tights, and engages in an extended Errol Flynn-like final swordfight. Some have noted here that those who want to extend Welles' body of directorial works include this film, even though Gregory Ratoff is credited as director. I recall that Welles said that he could have taken an associate producer credit on this film. But the final duel and fall does evoke memories of Welles' The Stranger and another film that Welles starred in and is said to have co-directed, Journey Into Fear.
  • An excellent adaptation of a rather obscure (even in France) novel by Dumas who appears 'in the flesh" in the first -and a bit pointless- scene.But all that remains is quite absorbing and there's never dull moment.

    The beginning displays an unusual cruelty ;the hangmen are about to scratch the boy's eyes out :in the distance ,we can see the gallows,where his parents have just been hanged .Orson Welles is absolutely stunning in his portrayal of a disturbing dreadful mysterious person,who could mesmerize (no pun intended) the crowds who stood in awe of this French Rasputin (too bad Welles never portrayed the Russian monk).

    Taking with French history the largest liberties ,to put it mildly , the screenplay mixes fictionalized events with some real ones :yes,the king would play the occasional clock-maker ,a footnote of history;yes, Marie-Antoinette could not stand La Du Barry and she had her sent to a convent for two years after Louis The Fifteenth 's death;actually the affair of the necklace occurred about ten years after in 1785. Dumas replaced the Dramatis Personae by his own characters: thus Lorenza unintentionally plays the role of Madame De La Motte ,of evil memory,and the Viscount of Montaigne that of The Cardinal De Rohan ,a naive man who wanted to attract the queen's attention .On the other hand,Cagliostro did take part in the greatest French swindle of the eighteenth century (the queen was totally innocent,in spite of the liars Madame De La Motte would write ,in her obnoxious memoirs ).Cagliostro ,nevertheless,did not die after the trial but about ten years later (apoplexy):he got a life sentence,after being tried for heresy by the papal court .

    The love affair is almost devoid of interest ,but it's Welles that counts and he delivers the goods: the scene of the would be sick people in the palace of Versailles ,or Cagliostro digging up Lorenza ( a Poesque scene) can still grab today's audience.
  • eyefan17 December 2003
    The trite dialogue, Ed Wood style special effects and ridiculous plot of this film creates a beautiful "cult" charm. Orson Welles plays a highly entertaining Gypsy and even directed a few of his scenes. Matching, and sometimes even topping Welles's fiendish performance is Akim Tamiroff, the sideman actor that played in many of Welles's films from Don Quixote to The Trial. This film is a bit tragic but most certainly charming. There are so many close up shots of Welles's black eyes mesmerizing the audience against a spine tingling score whispering lines like, "you will submit" that it makes me wonder why this film hasn't been re-released and put in the "cult classic" section of video stores. Good luck finding it.
  • A curious, little-seen oddity based on an Alexander Dumas tale, it adapts the story of Cagliostro, played by Orson Welles, an 18th century magician and charlatan who has strange hypnotic powers and becomes involved in a plot to overthrow the French monarchy in order to revenge himself on the aristocrat who was responsible for the execution of his parents.

    In black and white, it makes use of dark scenes, shadows, close ups and other film noir techniques to accentuate the pseudo-magical qualities of Orson Welles' character. Akim Tamiroff as Welles' gypsy friend is rather good, but Nancy Guild in the dual role of Marie Antoinette and Lorenza, the woman who Cagliostro first rescues, then manipulates, is not outstanding. There is some sword-play and many elaborate costumes are on display in the court episodes, and the early scenes showing Cagliosto's gypsy boyhood when he falls foul of the aristocrat who hangs his father and mother and sentences the boy to be whipped and blinded are strong stuff for the time.

    The film seems to have been made in Rome for United Artists and although the plot is somewhat bizarre it is strangely watchable.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Ratoff's and Welles' Black Magic (1949) is a great film, in the storytelling tradition of Cinematic Art. It spins what seems like an incredible yarn, but a well thought out screenplay, great acting by Orson Welles in the lead role, and very good direction makes the story believable enough that the film captivated my imagination, and fully engaged me throughout the whole film. By the way, my cynicism about the improbability of this tale was quelled when I read the Wiki article about the real Caglioostro. Although the story in this film deviates significantly from Cagliostro's biography, the real man was even MORE outrageous than the character that Welles portrays in this film.
  • Watching this very entertaining film for the first time today, I was curiously reminded of the screwball comedy "Start the Revolution Without Me" made twenty years later. I didn't even remember Welles participation in the film, which starred Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland, but rather the Queen's annoyance toward her husband's obsession with clocks.

    I had always wondered why Welles appeared in this zany farce directed by Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin. Now I'm sure he had a hand in writing the script! The antics between Marie Antoinette and the King seem to be a continuation of ideas that began with "Black Magic".

    This fine Alexander Dumas classic utilizes the same plot device from "The Man in the Iron Mask". In that one Louis the XIV has a twin while Marie Antoinette has one in "Black Magic". Not only does this movie deserve a DVD release, but would be a great one to see in a theater as well.
  • brad-jan12 February 2007
    Would like to see this film on TCL channel. As a Wells admirer, it will always be a classic. My husband was a stage hypnotist, in the 1950's, having studied psychology at The Detroit Institute of Technology in Detroit Michigan. (several stories in local papers) He appeared on stage along with the showing of Black Magic,(Vanity Theatre) in Windsor Ontario Canada while a student to demonstrate hypnosis. As a result, he traveled to several cities giving demonstrations. At one time he had his own by- line in a Michigan paper in which he discussed hypnosis, Father Stan Murphy (Asumption College Windsor, Ontario Canada) had him on The Christian Culture Series, and demonstrations for the Canadian Police. His picture and stories were carried along with the movies credits in the media. (Have clippings for anyone interested)
  • The necklace scandal of Marie Antoinette's was always an impossible subject to do anything about in literature, drama or film, since it was a totally undramatic intrigue of a rather foolish kind depending entirely on stupid people's duplicity. Cagliostro had nothing to do with it, except that he observed it from above with some glee and might have had a hand in its manipulation. The real architects and victims of the plot are not even mentioned in the film: the Cardinal de Rohan and the adventuress Jeanne de la Motte, who got brandished and banished for her part and kept writing hateful pamphlets against Marie Antoinette all her life although the Queen was entirely innocent - she never wanted to buy the necklace in the first place.

    But the scandal fascinated all the gossips and minds of Europe, and Alexander Dumas wrote three or four volumes of novels about a Cagliostro that was entirely dreamt up in his imagination. The real Cagliostro was perhaps the greatest and most typical of charlatans and nothing else, a Sicilian who tricked his way into society and up the ladder of politics in Paris and might really have been as megalomaniac as Orson Welles makes him, obsessed with power, but much more discreetly and furtively than Orson Welles' more swashbuckling character. He ended his life in destitution and prison.

    Alexander Dumas endows him with the power of hypnosis, which is pure fiction. Cagliostro was a great manipulator and cheat but was never serious about anything, rather something of a universal amateur, while Anton Mesmer was very serious about his more scientific research. In the film they meet in the beginning, and their coupling is perhaps the most interesting trait of the film, as they meet again in the end.

    Orson Welles has here the opportunity to play out his greatest powers as an actor, and he stops at nothing and enjoys every turn of it, especially in the grandiose finale. The court scene is a joke, though, falling flat on its own comedy - not even in pre-revolutionary France could such a court have been possible, and it's the only objectionable part of the film, due to a weak script. Even 18th century France would have laughed at it.

    They have done their best to turn an impossible story into a good film, and although nothing remains of reality in this hullabaloo of a national scandal, it's a great film, and Orson Welles makes one of his very best performances, if not the best after "The Third Man" - there is not much time between them. He was a great magician in reality, you can also see him performing in "Casino Royale" as Le Chiffre in the 1967 version and in "The Sailor from Gibraltar". He actually won some prizes for his art, and he always enjoyed practicing it, which you can see here what a professional he was.

    In order to put some drama into the story, it's all muddled up, and it's almost as impossible to follow all the turnings and intrigues of it as it was in reality, but it is very entertaining, lavish in its sumptuous costumery, and there is no drama lacking in the climax. The director was Gregory Ratoff, but you can see Orson Welles' hand in it as well in quite a few scenes.
  • Years ago, I had significant training in hypnosis when I was in graduate school. One sad fact I learned is that despite films like "Black Magic" and "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", you cannot use hypnotic skills to turn people into slaves to do your evil bidding. I know...I know...a real shame isn't it? So, when I watch movies with plots like these, I just have to turn off my brain and enjoy them without thinking like a psychotherapist.

    When the film begins in the 18th century, some gypsies are unfairly accused of witchcraft and are executed at the orders of the Viscount de Montagne...and the couple's young son, Joseph Balsamo, is ordered blinded!! The boy is fortunately rescued...but not until after he witnesses his parents' execution. Not surprisingly, this embittered the boy and one day he would return for revenge...but how?

    One day, the famous hypnotist, Anton Mesmer, recognizes the young man's innate hypnotic skills and trains them. However, Balsamo isn't concerned with using the powers for good and soon disappears...out to make his fortune abusing his gifts. And, soon he's come to once again see the Viscount...and he hatches a plan to destroy him. However, after a while, revenge alone isn't what Balsamo wants...he wants power...and all of France!!

    The best thing about this film is Orson Welles' magnetic performance. The story is also quite good...and is well worth seeing.

    By the way, throughout the film folks use the word 'hypnosis'. This term was not coined until the 1820s and the film was set in the 1770s. Not a huge mistake...but it would have been referred to as either magnetism or mesmerism instead.
  • Orson Welles plays Joseph, a travelling gypsy who is performing a variety of cons, as part of a carnival, in the French countryside, duping local inhabitants out of their hard earned money.

    However, he has a real penchant for hypnotism, and this catches the eye of the infamous Mezmer.

    Mezmer invites him into his home and encourages him to utilize his abilities to heal...which he is quite adept at doing.

    But instead of taking the moral high road, he runs, and seeks to exploit his abilities for power and profit...rebranding himself as the mighty Cagliostro in the process.

    Dawning a masons cap and zodiac cloak, he starts healing people publically...which establishes him with a reputation as nothing less than the second coming of Christ.

    But a happenstance meeting sees him become infatuated with a young woman who is the doppelganger of the Queen-to-be Marie Antoinette.

    And he soon finds himself infiltrating a plot to smear the beautiful young Queen, and seize power.

    However, he has his own plans to hijack the con, for his own gain.

    The young woman has fallen in love with a man named Gilbert from the Queen's court...but Cagliostro uses his abilities to focus her attention on himself.

    Meanwhile a local count and rival of the Queenship plan to frame Marie Antoinette in order to get the populace to turn on her, so that she can take her place in the eyes of Louius XV.

    They plan to hypnotize the young girl, get her to pretend she is the Queen, and use public funds to purchase exorbitant jewels, during a time of poverty, in order to instigate a revolution against her.

    However, Cagliostro has his own win the public's trust, play both sides against each other, and prop himself up in power.

    But will his power over the mind be enough to overcome the powers of the heart?

    He's playing a high risk game that will come with great rewards or a devastating fall from grace.

    Both Welles, as Cagliostro, and Nancy Guild as both Marie Antoinette and her doppleganger, Lorenza, shine in their roles.

    While Ratoff has fashioned a very stylish film, that is as intriguing as it is entertaining.

    I'm honeslty surprised it is not considered one of Welles better known performances, or a more discussed film in general, considering the obvious influences it had on Hitchcock's later masterpiece Vertigo (the spiral staircase; chosing the wrong woman- lust over love; the man refashioning the other woman in the image of another, in order to exhibit his power; and, of course, the finale).

    A highly underrated story and film, for sure.

    8.5 out of 10.
  • The mesmerit 18th century hypnotist magician Cagliostro, born Joseph Balsamo, is an enthusiast, all-round scoundrel, thunderous conjuror in his own right who uses his powers for vengeance against Louis XV's court . Dealing with his tempestous life and career and his real attempt to gain influence, clout, fame and fortune in Italy and France by using his weird and sinister talents. This is the tumultuous story of his imagination and fair-play for magic, the power of supertition and hypnosis. It begins when being a child he sees how his parents were wrongfully hanged and he himself mistreated, tortured by the orders of Viscount Montagne. He turns an embittered carnival charlatan who attracts the attention of Doctor Meisner, a pioneer of rare, dark sciences, the latter teaches him the art of hypnosis. Then Cagliostro seeks fame, fortune and revenge too, and eventually to find it , thanks to his skills in showmanship, deceiving and bizarre illusion . Conquering a lot of success across Europe by mixing mysticism with hypnotism and spectacle. Later on, the magician becomes involved in a complex plot to supply a double for Marie Antoniette : Nancy Guild in a dual role as Lorenza and as a woman who resembles the Queen . As he is called to cure a pretty girl who bears remarkable resemblance to future queen, wife of the heir of the throne of France Louis XVI , that's why they want to seize the power by discrediting her. As Marie Antoniette being accussed for corruption caused for the queen's collar issue , that was the reason for her subsequent beheading by guillotine during French Revolution . Along the way, Cagliostro is followed by his faithfully gypsy friend named Gitano : Akim Tamiroff and by Zoraida : Valentina Cortese, both of whom help him to getaway from his fateful misfortunes . The greatest cavalcade of intrigue, spectacle, adventure and excitement you'll ever see on the screen. It will hold you in its spell !

    Handsome and interesting film providing historical remarks as well as intense drama, thrills, emotion and a spectacular final roof-top duel . The picture certainly has its own appropriate atmosphere and florid ambient, resulting to be an acceptable historic drama, but packing some flaws and gaps . Here Welles revels in the character of notorious eighteenth century Count Cagliostro, however, overacting encouraged by an over-riped personage and clambers all over and just about he spits out the pieces as well . Welles must have been greatly attracted to this role, in fact Orson was expert on playing strange, mysterious and better than life characters such as in Citizen Kane, Mr Arkadin, Moby Dick, Macbeth, Man for all seasons, The Third Man, Lady from Shanghai, King Saul, The stranger. The star co-directed uncredited this nice movie, though at times it shakes down to a rather amatheurish effort. He is well accompanied by the beautiful Nancy Guild who performed too few movies in spite of her extreme beauty , as well as an effective, fine support cast, such as : Margot Grahame as Madame Du Barry who was Louis XV's lover, Frank Latimore as Gilbert, the brave captain of king's guard, Akim Tamiroff, Valentina Cortese and Raymond Burr and Berry Kroger as Alexandre Dumas father and son. It contains atmospheric and adequate cinematography in black and white by Ubaldo Arata and Brizzi, being shot in Italy . As well as evocative musical score by Paul Sawtell. The motion picture was well directed by Gregory Ratooff and Orson Welles without credit . Rating 6/10. Decent and notable drama.
  • olsonjoshuajohn23 February 2019
    I see a lot of praise heaped on this is some of the other reviews and I have to wonder how much of that is based on the idea that Welles was frequently behind the camera and taking the lead.

    That is the case and it often shows. Welles style and eye can be seenbat several points during the film. Unfortunately this in and of itself does not ultimately make this a good film. It is very much a product of the assembly line era that it came from.

    Take out Welles contributions which in certain scenes give us great shots and what you have is a completely forgettable period piece with a convoluted story that overstays its welcome in terms of length. The film feels too long, yet does not do enough with its running time. Here is Cagliostro the boy, here is Cagliostro the man, here is Cagliostro the toast of high society... all in the blink of an eye, with the only exculpatories being some montages of mass healings. Poor and rushed storytelling, only to hurry up and wait when Cagliostro happens upon the man whom he has sworn to never forget, and the rather tedious and drug out revenge plot takes over.

    Nothing I say will stop anybody from watching this, and that's a good thing, you should watch it. It is an interesting bit of the Orson lore, but don't expect the "lost classic" or a "hidden masterpiece". It is neither of those things.
  • From Dumas was the first novel that l'd read on my teenage years, Monte Cristo, after that thrilling experience l become an eager for Duma's work, in this forgotten picture from the master of the French literature gave us another gem, Orson Welles as always did a great acting as Cagliostro, a dark gypsy character, who discover thru Mesmer that has a magnetic eyes, let an old man fully hypnotized and suggesting to his mind to believe that is no longer is ill, having in mind such power he decides follow his own evil instinct to climb toward the powerful rich's circle of the European society, reaching there quickly, a story of the guy from lowest social class into the most prominent "Doctor" who has an unusual psychic power over all people around, this picture had a remake in 2001 as "The Affair of the Necklace", we must recognized to DVD's era this lost gem, without the tool's restoration available and a strong market place to drain those amazing pictures that turned back to my generation!!!


    First watch: 2019 / How many: 1 / Source: DVD / Rating: 8
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Alexandre Dumas pere tells one of his stories to Alexandre Dumas fils about Joseph Balsamo who begins as a conjurer and patent medicine seller and ends up as Count Cagliostro in the French court of Louis XV as a healer and mystic, involving himself in royal politics. This is partly due to him having under his sway a woman called Lorenza who is the double of Marie Antoinette. On the way he encounters Franz Anton Mesmer who will have a great effect on his life. Handsomely mounted with a big cast and filmed in Italy it is a beautiful looking film with a splendid music score by the prolific Paul Sawtell.

    Count Cagliostro is played by Orson Welles and no one could have done it better. A villain indeed but one with a sense of humour. He dominates all the scenes he is in. Nancy Guild plays two roles, the biddable Lorenza and the fiery Marie Antoinette and acquits herself well in both parts. Added to this are able supporting actors like Akim Tamiroff, Valentina Cortese, Margot Grahame and familiar British face Ronald Adam. It makes for good entertainment.

    The title 'Black Magic' for the film is not really appropriate as none is involved though Mr Welles does get to show off some of his skilled conjuring.
  • Sometimes a film is bad enough to exert an almost irresistible fascination, and here's a case in point: an idiotic but colorful melodrama saved in part by Orson Welles' flamboyant performance as Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, a mystic gypsy hypnotist and infamous 18th century charlatan plotting to substitute a somnambulistic imposter to the French throne. Each labored twist of plot falls conveniently into place with an obstinate disregard for logic or coherence (notice how every peripheral character is neatly killed off during the rousing climactic chase), and the period dialogue is, to a word, laughable, in particular during the wacky prologue, where Ramon Burr (as author Victor Hugo) site bedeviled by the character taking shape on the pages before him. Welles' control over the material is obvious: he may have been only an actor for hire, but every baroque and stylish excess bears his unmistakable signature.
  • Sumptuous Production Design and Sharp Noir Cinematography, Highlighted by an Orson Welles Performance that is "Mesmerizing". The Story is loosely Based on the Writings of Alexandre Dumas with some Historical Facts.

    The Film is Rich with Occult (Gypsy) Symbolism and the Application of the Newly Discovered Practice of "Hypnosis", that was, Uncovered by but Not Invented by, Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer (Charles Goldner) who is a Minor Character in this Fiction.

    Welles Dominates the Screen in front of Lavish Sets and Costuming that looks like it Cost a Fortune. It truly is a Visual Feast on the Screen. The Character based on a Real Life Mystic, "Cagliostro", is Central to the Court Intrigue that Includes "King Louie" and "Marie Antoinette" and the Plot is one of Doppelgangers and Revenge.

    It's all a Bizarre and Beautifully Told Tale with Nancy Guild in a Dual Role as Marie/Lorenza, Akim Tamiroff, and a Good Cast all around. But the Attraction is the Attractive Production and Welles Powerful Performance.

    It's an Off-Beat, Little Seen Movie and is one to Seek Out for Fans of Welles, Historical Dramas/Adventures, and Movie Fans of all stripes. It is an Atypical and Sizzling, Sure-Fire Treat for some Over-the-Top Shenanigans, Gripping Suspense, and Grandiose Filmmaking.
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