Issue #219           HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES                  July 5th, 2004

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Black Magic
(1975; Shaw Brothers)

Cantonese: Gong tau
Mandarin: Jiang tou
English: Hex


RATING: 6/10


Rural sorcerer Shan Jianmi (Ku Feng) terrorizes the populace by selling his evil abilities to anyone offering the right price. When a young couple suffer a horrible death from one of Shan's curses, benevolent seer Furong (Koo Man-chung) engages him in a magical battle but is not quite able to vanquish his rival. Handsome construction engineer Xu Nuo (Ti Lung) is coveted by rich widow Luo Yin (Tanny Tien Ni), but he continually rejects her advances. Meanwhile, gold digger Liang Jiajie (Lo Lieh) covets Yin and strikes a deal with Shan to cast a love spell. When Yin realizes what has been done to her, she decides that Shan's magic is the answer to getting Nuo into her arms. The spell is effective and Nuo walks out on his wife (Lily Li Li-li) during their wedding reception. She soon realizes what has happened and enlists the aid of Furong to save Nuo and destroy Shan.

Ku Feng (left), Tanny Tien Ku Feng (left), Lo Lieh Ku Feng

While time has blunted its shocks somewhat, Ho Meng-hua's BLACK MAGIC remains an enjoyably gruesome thriller. Shan's spells utilize unholy ingredients like human milk, blood, flayed skin, severed heads, and an unidentified putrescence drawn from a freshly exhumed corpse. There are other charming elements like self-mutilation (during the initial attack by Furong, Shan slices open his tongue with a dagger and uses the blood to launch a counter spell), people disintegrating into masses of putrid flesh, maggots, and bone in a matter of seconds (unconvincing lap dissolves), and one especially unlucky victim is left with worms crawling around under her skin! The soap opera level romantic conflicts, thankfully, do not slow the film down to any great degree and the cast (which also includes Lin Weitu, Yueh Hua, Chen Ping, and Norman Tsui Siu-keung) is as believable as one could expect under the circumstances. Ho's in-name-only 1976 sequel, BLACK MAGIC 2, features Lo Lieh as the spellcaster and offers even more gruesome diversion. It was originally due on DVD from Intercontinental in the fall but has been dropped from this year’s release schedule.

Ti Lung (left), Lily Li Tanny Tien (left), Ti Lung Koo Man-chung


World Northal released an English dubbed version of this picture stateside in 1979 with a campaign playing up the voodoo aspects of the storyline and a cast list of anglicized names like Ty Young, Lilly Leigh, and Lee Ann. Despite a complete lack of martial arts, the company went on to include the film and BLACK MAGIC 2 (US title: REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES) in their "Black Belt Theater" TV packages. It is that censored TV version of BLACK MAGIC (also issued on the bootleg SB Video label) that most Westerners have seen, but the Region 3 DVD looks far better and offers the entire scope image. The anamorphic presentation looks sharp and blemish free, with deep hues and good detail. Minor digital video noise reduction flaws are occasionally noticeable but an acceptable trade-off. The post-synced Mandarin language track has, thankfully, been left in its original mono and has no serious flaws. Some bios/filmographies, two small photo galleries, and a handful of video promo spots are also on hand.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd #101663
  • Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Post-synced Mandarin Language Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.36:1)
  • 91 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Hong Kong: IIB
  • Quebec: 18+
  • Singapore: PG (cut)
  • United States: R
  • Contains moderate violence and gore, and brief nudity


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful