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Black Magic (1949)

Passed | | Drama, Mystery, Romance | 19 August 1949 (USA)
Hypnotist uses his powers for revenge against King Louis XV's court.

Directors:

Gregory Ratoff, Orson Welles (uncredited)

Writers:

Alexandre Dumas (novel) (as Alexandre Dumas père), Charles Bennett (adaptation) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Orson Welles ... Joseph Balsamo aka Count Cagliostro
Nancy Guild ... Marie Antoinette / Lorenza
Akim Tamiroff ... Gitano
Frank Latimore ... Gilbert de Rezel
Valentina Cortese ... Zoraida
Margot Grahame ... Mme. du Barry
Stephen Bekassy Stephen Bekassy ... Viscount de Montagne
Berry Kroeger ... Alexandre Dumas, Sr.
Gregory Gaye ... Chambord / Monk (as Gregory Gay)
Raymond Burr ... Alexandre Dumas, Jr.
Charles Goldner Charles Goldner ... Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer
Lee Kresel Lee Kresel ... King Louis XVI / Innkeeper
Robert Atkins Robert Atkins ... King Louis XV
Nicholas Bruce Nicholas Bruce ... De Remy
Franco Corsaro ... Chico
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Storyline

Novelist Alexander Dumas tells his writer-son of Joseph Balsamo, a gypsy boy in southern France who was embittered because his parents were wrongfully hanged and he himself was tortured by the order of Viscount de Montagne. Years later, the man, a carnival charlatan, attracts the attention of Dr. Mesmer, a pioneer in the study of hypnotism. Balsamo rejects Mesmer's plea that he use his power for healing and, instead, decides to use it to seek wealth and fame. He changes his name to Count Cagliostro, and achieves fame throughout Europe by mixing hypnotism with mysticism and showmanship. He is called to cure a girl, Lorenza, held by De Montagne, because she resembles Marie Antoinette, wife of the heir to the throne of France. Cagliostro decides to join De Montagne and Madame du Barry in a plot to seize the power by discrediting the future Queen. Cagliostro achieves his revenge on De Montagne by persuading him to hang himself. He makes Lorenza marry him but can never make her love him. ... Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The biggest picture in ten years! The greatest cavalcade of intrigue, spectacle, adventure and excitement you'll ever see on the screen See more »

Genres:

Drama | Mystery | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | Italy

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 August 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cagliostro See more »

Filming Locations:

Italy

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Initially, the film was to be directed in the USA by Douglas Sirk and was to star George Sanders. See more »

Goofs

In Balsamo's climactic escape attempt, Gitano passes him a pistol, seen very clearly as a small flintlock typical of the period. Balsamo then fires at least four shots from it without any time to reload. Repeating pistols not invented until the nineteenth century, and looked nothing like the gun used by Balsamo. See more »

Connections

Referenced in D.O.A. (1949) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The great mountebank
18 April 2016 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

During his lifetime Orson Welles appeared in many films of other directors to earn money to finance his own projects. Some of those films were horrible, some contained some of his best performances. I always have felt his best performance in a non-Welles film is in Compulsion. Many would hold out for The Third Man. But I think some would say that his portrayal of Cagliostro the great mountebank of the 18th century would get a few votes.

The opening scene and dialog with Berry Kroeger and Raymond Burr as Alessandro Dumas Senior and Junior is an interesting well acted scene. Kroeger has set out to write a novel based on Cagliostro, but he cannot get a handle on the character. A common complaint with authors trying to reach a goal.

The real Cagliostro's character would probably rate a mini-series. This guy was some piece of work. The affair of the diamond necklace as portrayed here was only one chapter in Cagliostro's life. Failing as the senior Dumas said he was doing he wrote a novel with some plot elements from previous work like The Three Musketeers and The Man In The Iron Mask.

As a child Joseph Balsamo aka Cagliostro saw his gypsy mother executed for practicing black arts by Stephen Bekassy the local prefect, a skill which he inherited. His natural abilities as a hypnotist were developed with study under Dr. Mesmer played here by Charles Goldner. But like characters in stories involving superheroes Orson Welles as the grown up Balsamo now stylizing himself as Cagliostro is ready to make a name for himself.

Bekassy has also risen in power and influence and he's got some intrigue going. Welles whom he does not recognize is part of his plan, but Orson has some plans of his own.

Part of those plans involve Nancy Guild who plays the dual role of a girl from out of town and the Queen of France herself Marie Antoinette. Guild does equally well as the girl in love with soldier Frank Latimore the nominal hero of the film. As Marie Antoinette she's not as noble as Norma Shearer in the same part, but no doubt she's royal personage used to royal prerogatives. I do love the scene where Guild gives Madame DuBarry played by Margot Grahame the old fashioned heave ho.

The real Cagliostro died in 1795 surviving the King and Queen of France and he left the mortal coil in Rome. But Black Magic is the kind of film that makes you wish what happens here is true. Orson Welles has so many emotions working at once in the title role, greed, revenge, lust and a spark of a little boy whose mother was taken from him. Note also good performances by Akim Tamiroff and Valentina Cortese as the gypsy confederates of Cagliostro. Cortese is carrying one big old freedom torch for Welles, but he's no time for her, eyes on the prize as it were the prize being the power behind the throne of France.

Quite a few people will see Black Magic as Orson Welles's best performance in a non-Orson Welles film.


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