Although Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers Studios is best known for its prolific kung fu output between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s, the production company made movies across a wide range of genres, and in 1970s they began dipping their toes into the horror pool. One their earliest and most influential efforts was 1975's Black Magic, which, while not as crazy as the movies it would inspire, is a fun and grisly slice of bold exploitation.
Black Magic's plot is practically disposable, concerning a series of lovestruck creeps who enlist scurvy sorcerers to manipulate the natural world with love and/or revenge spells. It never turns out well. the actors are all game without being either poor or notable, but there's never any real tension, and even though the story is meandering and eventually incoherent, it is fun to watch — and the real joy of Black Magic is discovering what shocking, gross or reprehensible idea director Ho Meng-Hua will come up with next.
Some of the many dark and perverse curses in Black Magic include a rice meal prepared in an anatomical "oven" usually reserved for fetuses, a potion combining breast milk and snake venom, the placement of human teeth and a "finger" (that's what the subtitles said; it's clearly a different male body part), red worms squirming under a person's translucent skin, and some kind of milky substance that dribbles from the mouth of a burned corpse. It's good clean fun that culminates in a warlock battle featuring spectacularly bad visual effects that look too cheap even for 1970s Saturday morning TV series.
Possibly the strangest part of Black Magic, however, is just how tame it seems compared to later Shaw Brothers horror offerings. Last Octoblur we watched the clinically insane Mo (The Boxers Omen), and having previously seen the creepy Human Lanterns, Hong Kong horror from the 1970s and 1980s is quickly becoming one of my favorite new avenues of weird.