5.6/10
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12 user 34 critic

Tragic Ceremony (1972)

Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea (original title)
Four young people witness a black mass at a remote English estate, and find themselves terrorized while they attempt to make sense of what they witnessed.

Director:

Riccardo Freda (as Robert Hampton)

Writers:

Mario Bianchi, José Gutiérrez Maesso (as José G. Maesso) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Camille Keaton ... Jane
Tony Isbert ... Bill
Máximo Valverde Máximo Valverde ... Joe
Luigi Pistilli ... Lord Alexander
Luciana Paluzzi ... Lady Alexander
José Calvo José Calvo ... Sam David
Giovanni Petrucci Giovanni Petrucci ... Fred
Irina Demick ... Bill's mother
Paul Muller ... Doctor
Beni Deus ... Ferguson
Milo Quesada ... Cop
Alejandro de Enciso Alejandro de Enciso
Elsa Zabala Elsa Zabala ... Devil worshipper
Pablo García Pablo García
David Thomson David Thomson
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Storyline

Four young people are enjoying the easy life, cruising on a yacht in the sun. Returning to land their car runs out of fuel and they find themselves outside a large manor belonging to Lord and Lady Alexander. Hoping to find fuel they are invited in to stay the night and shelter from a heavy storm. The three men are put up in the servant's quarters while Jane gets a room in the house. Hearing a strange noise she heads down stairs, finding the Alexanders performing a black mass and she is put onto the altar to become the sacrifice.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Horror

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Details

Country:

Italy | Spain

Language:

Italian

Release Date:

20 December 1972 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Tragic Ceremony See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Riccardo Freda always resented directing the movie. The Spanish prints credit him as director though. See more »

Soundtracks

La Vita
Music written and performed by Stelvio Cipriani
Lyrics by Riccardo Freda
Sung by Ernesto Brancucci
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Offbeat and occasionally unsettling
27 March 2017 | by Mr_EctoplasmaSee all my reviews

"Tragic Ceremony" follows a group of hippies (three men, one woman) whose car dies during a rainstorm in the English countryside. They end up at a large estate where the lord and his lady offer them fuel for their car and a place to sleep. Unfortunately, the house guests are subject to a black mass and attempted human sacrifice that goes awry; they escape the event, only to be picked off one by one in the ensuing hours.

This generally weird and largely unknown horror flick was briefly unearthed by Dark Sky Films, who released it on DVD in 2008, but it's still one of the lesser-known oddities of early seventies Italian horror. The film starts out rather orthodox with its young adult characters stumbling into a large mansion, but it doesn't follow the narrative trajectory one would expect. The film's centerpiece is undoubtedly the explosively gory black mass sequence, but rather than occurring at the climax, it instead happens about midway through; this gives the film's narrative arc a remarkably unusual shape that destabilizes the audience's expectations, be it for better or for worse.

While this central scene boasts some creepy imagery and surprising gore, the dreamlike second act of the film is what I found to be most unsettling. After the surreal black mass sequence, the audience follows the four characters in the aftermath of it, which plays out with heady overtones. The heightened black mass scene seems to have the effect of unsettling the audience as much as the flummoxed characters who are trying to piece together what they witnessed, and from there onward the film begins to unravel in the style of a supernatural slasher flick. Their retreat to the country house offers a few chilling scenes, but perhaps most memorable are the one-on-one scenes between Jane and Joe in the penultimate sequence in the woods. There is a quiet, unsettling tone that is rather masterfully achieved in the last half of the film, and this sequence in particular offers some chilling images and atmosphere.

Camille Keaton stars here as the female lead, just after she'd completed her debut work on the giallo "What Have You Done to Solange?" She has an ethereal but disquieting screen presence as always, and the performance is understated but effective. She is surrounded with three Italian/Spanish male actors, each of whom play off of both her and each other fairly well as disaffected hippies. The film has a clever twist at the end that is unfortunately marred by a slipshod imitation of the conclusion from "Psycho," which feels totally unnecessary and tacked on with little forethought.

The silly handling of the conclusion aside, I still found "Tragic Ceremony" to be a weirdly unsettling film. It is certainly not a masterpiece, but the bizarre narrative arc combined with the moody cinematography and Keaton's haunted performance really lend some vitality to the proceedings. The last half of the film plays out like a dream (or a nightmare), and there is an appreciable sense of foreboding that can't be shaken by the audience anymore than it can the characters on screen. 7/10.


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