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Death Rite (1976)

Les magiciens (original title)
While traveling to a resort in Tunisia, the magician and clairvoyant Professor Vestar befriends the idle millionaire Edouard Vangard and he offers a ride in his car. Vestar discloses to ... See full summary »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
... Sadry
... Sylvia
... Edouard
... Vestar
... Martine
Moheddine Mrad ... Doctor
Jalila Baccar ... Sadry's Sister
Madame Ben Chadly ... Sadry's Mother
Habib Chaari ... Balloon Seller
Cecile Labussiere ... Caterina
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Storyline

While traveling to a resort in Tunisia, the magician and clairvoyant Professor Vestar befriends the idle millionaire Edouard Vangard and he offers a ride in his car. Vestar discloses to Edouard that he had had a premonition of a woman being murdered in a desert area. Meanwhile, the Tunisian architect and engineer Sadry Fahres has relationship problems with his spoiled wife Sylvia, who refuses to visit her mother-in-law that is terminal. Sadry meets his former mistress Martine and she travels with him to visit his mother, rekindling their passion. Edouard observers the behavior of the trio of lover and decides to help the vision of Professor Vestar to come true, intriguing each one of them to force the murder. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Drama | Thriller

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12 May 1976 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Death Rite  »

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Trivia

Claude Chabrol is well-known for the very inconsistent quality of his resume, being credited with having directed some of the best movies of French cinema along with some of the worst. His frequent collaborator, writer Paul Gégauff, claims that Chabrol didn't even bother to supervise the final editing of the movies he hadn't cared for in the first place and that he would immediately move on to something else. Having directed some infamous titles actually became a source of pride for Chabrol, although, in the documentary Grand manège: Qu'est-ce qui fait tourner Claude Chabrol? (2006), he stated that, at one point in his life, he became more careful and concerned about the quality of his projects and that he regards Death Rite (1976) and The Twist (1976) as his last movies that qualify as very bad. See more »

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User Reviews

 
DEATH RITE (Claude Chabrol, 1976) ***1/2
17 June 2010 | by See all my reviews

This is yet another fine unsung (because obscure) gem from Chabrol, which shows him once again in rather experimental vein (particularly the elliptical editing) though sticking close in this case to his fortuitous genre i.e. the thriller. That said, I was alerted of its quality beforehand by the analogous rating given it by the "Cult Filmz" website, whereas the same reviewer had awarded the equally superb ALICE OR THE LAST ESCAPADE (1977) a measly **!

DEATH RITE really shows off the director's affinity with the cinema of Fritz Lang: not only are balloons a key motif here a' la M (1931), but he even utilizes for one of the various protagonists in the film an actor (Gert Frobe) from Lang's swan-song – THE THOUSAND EYES OF DR. MABUSE (1960; actually one of a long-running series to which Chabrol himself would contribute an entry in 1990), with which this also shares a narrative concern in parapsychology!

As ever, the French master does very well by his actors – particularly the afore-mentioned Frobe as a magician/clairvoyant (the original French title of this one was in fact LES MAGICIENS) and Jean Rochefort as a self-confessed member of the idle rich who becomes involved with his stage act (which includes a sawing-in-half routine the director would re-use 30 years later in the aptly-named A GIRL CUT IN TWO [2007]) and even 'helps', albeit behind Frobe's back, in the realization of a vision that is obsessing the latter! With this in mind, as indeed it is stated in the brief didactic prologue, the film attempts (via a fiendishly clever script) to rationalize the gift of second sight: could the alleged perception of future events somehow make one predisposed towards their ultimate accomplishment? The role-reversal twist at the end, then, recalls the shocking climax of DON'T LOOK NOW (1973); similarly, the Tunisian setting draws parallels with the work of Alain Robbe-Grillet (though largely eschewing its trademark obliqueness).

Anyway, the rest of the principal cast features a typically intense Franco Nero, married to luscious Stefania Sandrelli (whose character began as atypically ditsy but gradually acquired maturity and scope), as well as Gila von Weitershausen (a former companion of French director Louis Malle here playing an ex-lover of Nero, a relationship that is eventually rekindled – following his estrangement from the belligerent Sandrelli who, in turn, is herself seduced by the Macchiavellian Rochefort!). Incidentally, in what appears to be a deliberate decision on the film-makers' part (though no allusion is ever made to this end), the latter quartet of actors bear strikingly similar physical features – with Nero and Rochefort both sporting a moustache, while Sandrelli and von Weitershausen are each given a frizzy hair-do!

Finally, in view of the lackluster quality of the copy I acquired (marked by unsatisfactory English dubbing, fuzzy picture and hard-coded Greek subtitles), I regret not checking that of the film's recent broadcast on late-night Italian TV.


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