Black Magic (Jiang Tou) is a Shaw Brothers movie without any martial arts at all. This 1975 production is a straight horror movie in a contemporary setting and it’s not without interest.
The beautiful but unscrupulous Luo Yin (Tanny Ti Nien) is a rich widow who is accustomed to getting what she wants. What she wants is usually a man. And what she wants now is handsome young engineer Xu Nuo (Lung Ti). Unfortunately for her Xu Nuo is in love with Wang Quming (Lily Li) and he doesn’t want to know about Luo Yin.
Luo Yin has other problems. The sleazy Lang Jiajie (Lieh Lo) has set his sights on her. He wants her money and she knows it and she won’t have anything to do with him. There is only one way he can get her - through back magic! Luckily a friend of his mentions a black magician he knows of who lives in the countryside. Sha Jianmi (Feng Ku) has been practising black magic profitably for years. He can cast various kinds of spells. His favourite is the death spell but his bread and butter as a black magician is love spells. He agrees to cast a love spell of Luo Yin for Lang Jiajie but his price is high. Lang Jiajie figures that paying the sorcerer will be no problem once he has Luo Yin so he agrees to the price.
Things don’t go off quite as well as expected. The spell works, but only for a day. That’s enough time to get Luo Yin into bed but when she wakes up beside him next morning she is aghast. Luo Yin isn’t stupid however - she suspects that a spell was used and forces her hapless would-be lover to confess. That gives her an idea. All she has to do is to persuade Sha Jianmi to cast a love spell for her and Xu Nuo will be hers.
Her evil plan is set in motion and Xu Nuo spends his wedding night in Luo Yin’s bed instead of his new bride’s. Luo Yin isn’t yet satisfied though - she’d rest a lot easier if Xu Nuo’s bride was out of the way and it isn’t difficult for her to procure a death spell from the evil sorcerer.
There are complications however. Sha Jianmi takes a bit of a shine to Luo Yin and decides he’d like to get her into bed as well, and an even bigger complication is about to arise. Xu Nuo’s friends have called in the help of Sha Jianmi’s old nemesis, Master Furong. Master Furong is an even more powerful sorcerer but although he knows all about black magic he uses it for good. He has foiled Sha Jianmi’s plots before. He has tolerated Sha Jianmi’s existence because he doesn’t like to kill, not even evil sorcerers, but now a final reckoning between the two magicians seems inevitable.
The special effects are silly but fun and there are some fairly major gross-out moments with maggots and worms and men eating centipedes. There’s also a certain amount of sex and nudity - Shaw Brothers were trying to cover all the exploitation bases with this one.
Lung Ti is a good-looking but dull hero who doesn’t really do much expect wander about looking confused and occasionally going to bed with women who’ve cast a spell on him. Luckily the villains are a lot more interesting. Sha Jianmi is delightfully evil and Keng Fu is clearly having a great time with the role. Tanny Ti Nien is suitably lecherous and immoral as the wicked Luo Yin. She’s rich and attractive and could have her pick of men but it’s much more fun stealing other women’s men. Lieh Lo is desperate, sleazy and generally despicable as Lang Jiajie.
Despite the iffy special effects director Meng Hua Ho does a solid enough job. At 95 minutes it could have been a touch too long but there’s always something happening so it never becomes dull.
Image Entertainment’s Region 1 DVD has little in the way of extras but the anamorphic Shaw Scope transfer is pretty decent.
This is not one of Shaw Brothers’ finest moments. It’s not the sort of material they were really comfortable with and it lacks the high production values that most of their movies have. Despite this it’s still enjoyable in a campy sort of way and it’s worth a look. If nothing else it’s an interesting curiosity in their catalogue.