BLACK MAGIC (1949)
Article 2240 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-4-2007
Posting Date: 9-30-2007
Directed by Gregory Ratoff and Orson Welles
Featuring Orson Welles, Nancy Guild, Akim Tamiroff
A gypsy man discovers that he is a natural hypnotist, and decides to make a fortune off of his ability. When he meets the Viscount who had ordered the execution of his parents and his own whipping and blinding (the latter from which he escaped), he uses his abilities to gain vengeance. Of help to him is a woman who has a startling resemblance to Marie Antoinette. Soon, his lust for power and his love for the woman gain control of him.
You can file this one between SVENGALI and RASPUTIN in the mad hypnotist canon. Like Rasputin, he becomes entangled with the royal family in his pursuit of power, and like SVENGALI, he uses his hypnotism to try to force the woman he loves to love him. With his booming presence and piercing eyes, Orson Welles is ideally cast as the Cagliostro. He is also a character who really existed in history, though the story here takes enormous liberties with the true story; in fact, here Cagliostro is considered responsible for the French revolution. The movie is good but not great; occasionally, some of the acting is awkward and certain scenes feel rushed. Fans of fantastic cinema should recognize both Barry Kroeger and Raymond Burr as Alexandre Dumas, father and son respectively; they appear at the beginning of the movie only to set the scene for the story. My favorite scene involves an attempt by the physicians of Paris to embarrass Cagliostro at the court of King Louis, only to have Cagliostro turn the tables on them.