Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tragic Ceremony (1972)

Directed by Riccardo Freda
Starring Camille Keaton, Tony Isbert, Giovanni Petrucci, Maximo Valverde  

"I think a good hot bath will do you good."

If you are curious about this movie because of the name "Camille Keaton", then welcome to the club. Such is the notoriety of "I Spit on Your Grave", that I went ahead and gave gave this film a shot, despite being warned that this is one best avoided. So lets get on with it.

Tragic Ceremony opens with Jane (Camille Keaton), and her friends Bill (Tony Isbert), Joe (Maximo Valverde), and Fred (Giovanni Petrucci), lounging on a sailboat. Eventually they migrate to camp. Bill loses a bet to the other two guys and writes them checks. He is the son of wealthy parents, so this whole trip is on his dime. He offers Jane a check but she declines, so he gives her a pearl necklace (ahem) as a token of his gratitude. We see through a flashback sequence that the necklace has a history of being blamed for Satanic possession. She remains blissfully unaware of this, and accepts it at face value.

Next they pile into Bills bitchin' dune buggy (Scarabo). After a bit it runs low on gas so they stop at a gas station. But Bill left his ID at camp, and the station attendant refuses his travelers checks. Eventually he concedes and gives them some gas. Barely a blink later and it is raining cats and dogs, and the dune buggy shuts down, right in front of a mansion. This is where the movie takes a left turn into "Old Dark House" territory.

They are invited in by the lady of the house, Lady Alexander (Luciana Paluzzi). The three guys are forced to share one room, whereas Judy not only gets her own room. But Lady Alexander also draws her a bath as well. Here, we get lots of shots of Judy sitting upright in the tub fiddling with the pearl necklace, and staring into space. Also, we get to see her boobs.

Meanwhile downstairs, it is clear that something evil is afoot. We have a roomful of middle-aged to geriatric aged people preparing for a Satanic ritual. Someone shuts the power off, and the boys upstairs are alarmed but stay put. Judy meanwhile, puts on her nightgown, grabs a candelabra, and makes her way downstairs, as if compelled subconsciously. Along the way, she rips the pearl necklace off and drops it on the stairs.

The boys eventually decide to check out whats going on downstairs. Along the way, they find the remains of the pearl necklace, and quicken their pace. Once downstairs, they see Judy on an altar, and Lady Alexander standing above her, preparing to plunge a dagger into her heart. It is as if they are in the middle of, some sort of, what could it be, oh yes, a Tragic Ceremony!

Bill saves her life and whisks her to safety, unintentionally killing Lady Alexander in the process. As this happens, the participants begin to massively freak out, and inexplicably kill themselves, and each other in some ridiculously violent ways.

The gang rush back to the dune buggy which helpfully cranks up this time and they zoom away to Bills parents house. But on the way they find themselves back at the gas station they stopped at earlier. However now it is abandoned, and appears to have been closed for years. Weird. Soon enough they get to Bill's parents house.  Here they find themselves in a hostile environment. Bill's dad is away on a hunting trip, and his mom makes it clear that tonight is not a good night. Predictably after they leave, we see that Bills' mom has a male guest upstairs, hiding out of sight.

Eventually the boys start dying in mysterious ways, within hours of each other. Judy is impassive about their deaths, and refuses to help when she could have made a difference. Then there is a jump in time and we see Judy in a mental hospital. Why is she there? What caused all of those deaths? What was the ceremony all about? What was with the pearl necklace? And who cares?

Most of these questions are kind of answered, in one big eye glazing bout of exposition by a doctor at the very end of the movie, Scooby Doo style. Unfortunately, no amount of exposition or doctors advice is enough to save this movie from terminal suckage.

Tragic Ceremony is an Italian cheapy that pretty much goes nowhere, and fails on almost every standard by which films are held. It seems that Tragic Ceremony is just...tragic. Did I mention that you get to see Camille Keaton's boobs?

Availability: Tragic Ceremony is available on DVD from Amazon.


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