The Queen of Black Magic (Ratu ilmu hitam) is another slice of highly entertaining Indonesian horror weirdness from Mondo Macabro.
Murni is a young woman in love with the the handsome Kotar. He promises to marry her, but after taking her virginity he marries another woman, the daughter of the village headman. Murni is not well pleased with this. The wedding does not go off smoothly, with the bride having strange visions of skeletal husbands, and in fact the whole event becomes a shamble. It is clear to the villagers that black magic is at work here.
Kotar persuades them that Murni must be responsible. They find her, burn down her mother’s house and hurl Murni off a cliff as due punishment for her assumed witchcraft. But as luck would have it, an old man catches her and saves her. He heals her, and then rebeals his secret to her. He is a master of blsck magic, and he will teach he his secrets so that she an revenge herself on Kotar and the other villagers who tried to kill her. This seems like quite a good idea to Murni, which (considering that they did throw her off a cliff) is rather understandable.
Murni soon masters the black arts, and is now the Queen of Black Magic. She begins her campaign of revenge. A remarkably grisly campaign it is too. It looks like the whole village is doomed until a mysterious Moslem holy man arrives. A young handsome Moslem holy man. He persuades the villagers that the only way they can combat the wave of black magic is through prayer and faith. But things become a little complicated. He spots Murni bathing in a river, and not knowing that she is the notorious Queen of Black Magic he falls in love with her. Meanwhile an epic battle is being waged between Murni’s mentor in black magic and the holy man.
The plot resolution when it comes relies on unlikely coincidences and destiny and all that sort of thing, but it fits the mood of the film which at times is like a very dark fairy tale.
In common with many Indonesian horror movies it’s based (somewhat loosely perhaps) on genuine Indonesian legends and folklore. The appearance of the Moslem holy man gives the impression of being an element added by the producers to avoid trouble with the Indonesian censors. The movie is surprisingly gory and there’s a certain amount of implied nudity, pre-marital sex and general sexual misbehaviour, so it may have ben a wise move on the part of the producers, Rapi Films.
Veteran director Liliek Sudjio directs the film with a great deal of energy and verve. The pacing is quite frenetic. The special effects are cheap, but they’re executed with such flair and enthusiasm that they work surprisingly well. Even the scenes with people pulling their own heads off (yes, really). There is of course a very large element of camp to the proceedings, but combined with the rapid pacing and the general exuberance it all adds up to a very entertaining mix.
W. D. Mochtar, one of Indonesia’s most renowned actors, is delightfully obsessive and outrageously over-the-top as the black magician who rescues Murni. And for a man in his early 50s he does some pretty impressively physical acting. Celebrated Indonesian exploitation actress Suzzanna plays Murni, and it’s not difficult to understand why she enjoyed such legendary status in the world on Indonesian exploitation cinema. She’s sexy without being too obvious and she provides a nice mix of wickedness and wronged innocence.
Mondo Macabro have done a great job with the transfer on this one. It looks absolutely splendid.
It’s crazy and bizarre and completely excessive, and is probably an ideal introduction to the world of Indonesian horror.