We begin on a tropical island in the height of a sun-kissed afternoon. The native tribe are performing a dance-heavy ritual around the corpse of a friend who�s being slain by a shark.

Visiting anthropologist Paul (Richard Harrison) observes, discussing the nature of the ceremony with one local. He learns that it is customary for the family and friends to tuck in to the remains of the dead man. This they do � slicing him open with a blade and sharing his blood-soaked intestines around the gathering.

Paul, it transpires, has travelled to this remote Caribbean island in the hope of learning more about its primitive race. The most apparent downside of this from the start is that his wife Helen (Nieves Navarro) misses him terribly.

And so, Helen ventures out to the island to pay her husband a visit. Although, when they meet and quickly have sex on what looks like the most uncomfortable mattress in the world, you soon wonder why she bothered: she displays no pleasure whatsoever. Even Paul fucks off halfway through, leaving her to frig herself to climax.

The reason for such consternation transpires as being the couple�s inability to conceive a child.

The following morning, Helen consoles herself by sunbathing alone on the island�s tranquil shores. Native girl Haini (Lucia Ramirez) ingratiates herself with the visiting wife � weird that they both speak the same language, but never mind � and they�re soon splashing each other in slow motion in the nearby sea.

Helen spends the afternoon getting closer to the alluring Haini while Paul busies himself on his typewriter indoors. What Helen doesn�t know, is that we�ve already witnessed Haini chomping on the innards of her dead father in the film�s opening scene.

Things seem okay for a while though. Paul�s relationship with Helen improves, while she enjoys her time with Haini more and more. She even manages to keep her jealousy in check for the most part when the local men ogle her at a dinner dance. Crikey, even the local women can�t keep their hands off her, it seems. Which is weird: although her skin is lovely and she has a pretty face, there is a distinct lack of booby ...

But Helen is not aware of just how precocious her lesbian lover is, and � after embarking on unlikely affairs with local scumbags who keep their denims on while shagging her - is asking for trouble when she invites Haini to return to Western climates with her and Paul.

The scene is set for ... well, not much really. Those who stick around in hope of a shock ending will not get much in return, unfortunately.

Still, the film is good-looking and relatively entertaining. There are some great moments of overacting and the whole premise of a middle-class white couple who gain enlightenment from an uncultured native is fascinatingly racist in these more educated times.

Billed as a mixture of sex and horror, it�s best viewed as the former. Certainly, SEX AND BLACK MAGIC falls short in the horror department. And, there is no black magic even suggested at any point. Following approximately 30 minutes of exposition, the film falls comfortably into a fairly monotonous succession of soft-core sex scenes. The plot virtually disappears at this point, only to return right at the end of the overlong 97-minute running time to deliver an overdue and ineffective �shock� ending.

SEX AND BLACK MAGIC is a D�Amato/Massaccesi film from 1980 that is often rumoured as having origins in a more substantial hardcore variant. While it�s true that hardcore inserts were shot for European markets, these were limited indeed and apparently did not make Massaccesi�s preferred final cut of the film. They exist as an afterthought, and are presented on this disc as extras ... meaning the film is presented here in an effectively uncut version, as any variant containing the hardcore footage in the main feature (as conceded by a previous DVD release in its extras) is nothing more than a composite offering.

Essentially, this is a soft sex film (lots of bush, a bit of gentle rubbing of carefully purse-lipped twats, etc) with attractive locations but rather crude photography and little sense of dramatic pace. The plot is simple and remains undeveloped; the only novel aspect of the tame fuck scenes (most of which are girl-on-girl) is the setting. The saving grace is that Navarro and Ramirez make for an attractive coupling. That, and Stelvio Cipriani�s excellent score (he also worked wonders on the likes of A BAY OF BLOOD, NIGHTMARE CITY, THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW ...).

SEX AND BLACK MAGIC is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The picture quality is generally good. Occasional softness doesn�t detract from the fact that colours and brightness come across well, and flesh-tones look very accurate.

Audio is presented in its original Italian 2.0 rendition. Again, this is a clean and consistent proposition. Optional English subtitles seem proficient throughout.

The disc from One 7 Movies is playable worldwide. It opens with a static main menu page, which in turn leads into an animated scene-selection menu allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.

Extras on this release begin with an alternate scene which is shown back-to-back with the version used in the final cut of the film. A brief text intro explains that the most likely reason for a re-take is the exposed male genitalia in the unused scene.

Speaking of which, just under four minutes of "unused shots" follow. These include minor nudity and less interesting footage, and play out silently.

Next up are 10 minutes of "hardcore inserts". An introductory text disclaimer informs us of how the film was "also converted into a hard movie with the addition of hardcore inserts, a usual practice of the time". Again, these play in silence. They look very well preserved though, image-wise, so � do you really care about the audio? These have a close resemblance to the hardcore footage from EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD and are fairly agreeable, despite the actors looking pretty pained under the heat at times. And, of course, viewers have to contend with Mark Shannon�s unsightly genital warts. No matter that he�s not even in the film elsewhere � is he the worst male porn star ever? Now, there�s a discussion worth having ...

The original end credits are provided and do offer a more stylish (and typical of their time) finale to proceedings. They cut off abruptly though, and this extra feature is resultantly only 49 seconds in length.

Finally, we get a gallery of 9 on-set photographs, all in colour. Interestingly, the clapper boards visible in a couple of stills reveal that the working title was LA SALAMANDER and that Massaccesi was referred to as Joe D�Amato even on the set.

SEX AND BLACK MAGIC is not vintage D�Amato but will no doubt be welcomed by his fans. This release is a good one from One 7 Movies, and comes recommended for those with an interest in the film.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by One 7 Movies
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review