Tragic Ceremony DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Dark Sky Films
Prince of Darkness... Once in Heaven, now ruler in Hell. – Lucifer fan club chant.
Directed by Riccardo Freda
Written by Mario Bianchi, Jose G. Maesso and Leonardo Martin
1972, Region 1 (NTSC), 87 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on January 29th, 2008
Camille Keaton as Jane
Tony Isbert as Bill
Maximo Valverde as Joe
Luigi Pistilli as Lord Alexander
Luciana Paluzzi as Lady Alexander
Jose Calvo as the gas station attendant
Giovanni Petrucci as Fred
Irina Demick as Bill's mother
Paul Muller as the doctor
Any time a movie has to fill its last two minutes with an exposition of the previous 85 minutes, you know it can't be good.
Tragic Ceremony starts out standard horror fare. A group of young hippies (Tony Isbert, Maximo Valverde and Giovanni Petrucci and I Spit on Your Grave's Camille Keaton) spend a fun filled day camping, yachting and carrying on. On their way back home, their dune buggy runs out of gas, but fortunately there just happens to be a gas station. And, as is the horror movie standard, the creepy gas station attendant only gives them enough fuel to make it to the next town… or so he says. In reality, they only have enough juice to make it to the Villa Alexander, where they are taken in from the rain by the home owners.
Of course, Lady Alexander (Luciana Paluzzi) takes a shine to Jane (Keaton), and leads her away from the boys with the promise of a bath to take the chill off (yay for those of us who crush on Keaton). Lady A. has some prior guests she must attend to, but she invites her uninvited ones to make themselves at home. The lights eventually go out (it was only a matter of time) and Jane slips into a trance and heads to the basement where there's a black ceremony going on, and she is the guest of honor. But just as Lady A. is about to plunge a knife into Jane's chest, the boys show up, kill the Lady and escape apparently unharmed. That is when things get weird, because after the friends run out, the devil worshippers turn on each other, and there's a mass slaughter. And all of this happens within the first twenty minutes. Weird, I tell you.
There is a half-ass explanation on why Jane was seemingly chosen to be the sacrificial lamb — it has to do with a pearl necklace Bill (Tony Isbert), who is madly in love with her, gave to her. The necklace has a sordid past that we need not go into. And Lady A. has a pearl bracelet that obviously has a connection to Jane's necklace. We know this because Lady A. gave it a knowing look when she saw it around Jane's neck.
To make an already too long story short, the kids escape only to have death chase after them, and you really don't know why (until, of course, the last two minutes where everything is wrapped up in a nice little package for you).
Boy this movie is a long 87 minutes.
If the convoluted story weren't enough, the pacing is incredibly torturous. By the end of the movie, I was starting to dread whenever the group got separated, as they were obviously hanging out in the biggest houses known to man because it always took forever to find one another. There's a fine line between tension and boredom and Ceremony jumps across that line, gives it the finger and spits on it for good measure.
There is one saving grace to Ceremony, though, and her name is Camille Keaton. Her performance is nowhere near the powerhouse it was in Grave — here she is just doing a lot of screaming and when she's not doing that, she's throwing out blank stares — but that is no fault of hers, as her character didn't have any depth to begin with. However, she is still an absolute joy to watch, as there is a sensuality to her that you just don't see in most of today's actresses. And, as much as the movie dragged, and as many problems as it had, I still wasn't completely let down because of Keaton.
This movie isn't for everyone. Hell, this movie isn't for most. But fans of Keaton may want to at least give it a spin.
One interesting thing to watch out for: As the hippies are watching the news play about the slaughter at Villa Alexander, the news reporter likens it to the Charles Manson murders. This being an Italian film from 1972, it shows the impact those murders had on the rest of the world, even years later.
Video and Audio:
Tragic Ceremony's 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation suffers from minor print damage throughout, the picture is soft and colors could be beefier. Considering Dark Sky Films' history, I can see this being more of a source problem as opposed to lack of work on Dark Sky's side.
The Italian 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack is lacking in bass, and does get tinny at times.
English subtitles are available.
- "Camille's European Adventures" – featurette with Camille Keaton
Camille Keaton's 15-minute interview is even more than I expected, and was way too short. Keaton, who still looks fantastic, talks about many of her roles up to Tragic Ceremony, and beyond, as well as how she got into film. The most interesting of the tidbits she shares is when she discusses a few of the similarities between Ceremony and Grave, and after she points them out, I'm inclined to agree with her.
The only offered trailer is for From the Secret Police Files of a European Capital — also known as Tragic Ceremony. You have to love the literal translations.