A Movie A Day: Quint on TRAGIC CEREMONY (1972)
Prince of Darkness, hallowed be thy name, we elect you to be our God.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we jump away from Bava to another Italian genre movie via actor Luigi Pistilli who was the murderous husband who lives until the last scene in yesterday’s TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE and is a Satanic cult leader in today’s movie, TRAGIC CEREMONY.
Let me get this out of the way up front. This isn’t a particularly good movie. It’s cheap, it’s weird, it’s wildly uneven and it hits just as many wrong notes as it does right ones.
But it’s not something I’d necessarily tell you to avoid. It’s going to take a certain kind of taste in film to dig on a movie like this, though. It’s not a classic, it’s not something that should be revered on any level, but it gets some pretty mad points from me for going so fucking crazy.
Basically you have a group of Italian hippies riding around the countryside in a yellow dunebuggy (by the way, TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE had teenagers riding around the country in a yellow dunebuggy, too… wonder if it was the same one or if that was just the thing to do as an Italian teenager in the early ‘70s). Well, maybe not so much hippies, but close.
The alpha male of the group is a long blonde haired rich kid who seems to be rebelling against an unfaithful mother by taking her money and squandering it on his friends, who pretty much are long hair-ed, bearded sandal-wearing hippies playing guitar.
This dude, who looks surprisingly like James Franco, bought his mother a pearl necklace that apparently had a curse on it. Somehow Satan was believed to have possessed this necklace. I’m unclear if he bought this gift for her because he was hoping the curse was real and she would die or if he just wanted to psych her out.
Either way, she rejects the necklace and he ends up giving it to Jane, the girl of the group, played by Camille Keaton.
At this point, I’m not exactly sure what the fuck happened. I know their little yellow dunebuggy runs out of gas and the creepy gas station attendant gives them just enough to sputter out at the home of an older rich couple.
Of course, these people are the heads of a Satanic cult and put the kids up in their servant’s quarters until after their ritual is complete.
Somehow Jane is drawn to them, following their chanting (the necklace?) and is put under some trance. She’s about to be sacrified before the dudes find them, stop the ceremony and all hell breaks loose.
This is 40 minutes into the movie.
And this scene is primarily why I’d give TRAGIC CEREMONY a recommend for people who are into drive-in exploitation Italian horror. The Satanists are all really, really old people, chanting along and when the lady of the house is killed during a struggle for the sacrificial dagger, they all just seem to go fucking apeshit.
They don’t attack the kids, they start killing each other. They grab guns off the wall, shooting holes in each others’ guts, they grab swords and hack each other to pieces, etc. as the kids make their escape.
The rest of the movie is about Jane being possessed by the spirit of the deceased lady of the house… kinda.
It’s not really clear that’s what’s going on, but at the very, very end of the movie a doctor pops up and somehow knows every fucking thing that happened over the entire runtime of the movie and spends 2 minutes explaining to the audience how the evil spirit did indeed possess Jane’s body and where it is going from here.
Oh, yeah… and apparently the creepy gas station attendant was Satan.
It really is bizarre. Sometimes in a dull, dragging way, but for the most part it keeps your attention because you honestly can’t tell where the movie is going and you have to keep up with it so you can find out how nuts the filmmakers are.
Final Thoughts: A bizarre sidetrack of a flick. If you can see it cheap and dig on weird cult cinema, then absolutely go for it. If you like your horror a little more straightforward and less rough around the edges, then maybe not. It’s a decent flick, but probably not one that anyone should get excited about. There is some good gore, including a head slicing that the filmmakers liked so much they show it at least 10 times in the movie. Here’s what it looks like:
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Monday, September 8th: LISA AND THE DEVIL (1976)
Tuesday, September 9th: BARON BLOOD (1972)
Wednesday, September 10th: A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964)
Thursday, September 11th: THE PINK PANTHER (1963)
Friday, September 12th: THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (1975)
Saturday, September 13th: THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN (1976)
Sunday, September 14th: REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER (1978)
Tomorrow we return to Bava via writer Jose Gutierrez Maesso (who also wrote previous AMAD Ricco, The Mean Machine) who stepped away from the typewriter and produced tomorrow’s LISA & THE DEVIL. See you folks tomorrow for that!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Sept. 7, 2008, 8:04 p.m. CST
he has a splitting headache.
Sept. 7, 2008, 8:05 p.m. CST
I was first and didn't say it. Fuck me.
Sept. 7, 2008, 8:14 p.m. CST
Sept. 7, 2008, 8:17 p.m. CST
I had to watch this flick. It was no Raw Force, but oh well...
Sept. 7, 2008, 8:19 p.m. CST
I've been asking, and asking. Please, give me some Genevieve Bujold. I want to hear your comments about her acting.
Sept. 7, 2008, 8:30 p.m. CST
I know you haven't seen that...I'd be curious to hear your thoughts...
Sept. 7, 2008, 9:48 p.m. CST
by Boba Fat
and it's another one to stick on the list of things to check out from the seemingly bottomless pit of Italian horror. Thanks!
Sept. 7, 2008, 9:52 p.m. CST
Given that AMAD is generally a list of films you haven't seen, I'll be interested to see how looking at the Pink Panther with modern eyes will affect your thoughts on the movie. <p> Have you seen the Steve Martin remake? If so, I'll also be interested to see you compare the films. If you haven't seen the remake, maybe you should revise your schedule and watch the remake after the original to make a full comparison before moving on with the sequels to the original.
Sept. 7, 2008, 10:03 p.m. CST
looking forward to seeing that run. <p> Sellers and Blake together really created a genre/mood/atmosphere that I haven't seen replicated anywhere since.<p> But as vadakinX says, it'll be interesting to hear your thought approaching this as a fully formed adult critic, compared to the 12 year old boy that I was when I my first Pink Panther flick at a driver in for a birthday party, and relished getting a look at something a bit raunchier than PG. <p> Love this column, Quint, and I'm amazed at your staying power. You are single-handedly building a review archive for AICN and you are a main reason I keep coming here.
Sept. 7, 2008, 10:57 p.m. CST
You pretty much rock. I've been following along, trying to watch as many AMAD flicks as I can. So far, I've watched "Harper", "Papillon", "Cool Hand Luke", "Torn Curtain", "Caligula", "The Elephant Man", "Klute", "The Cowboys", "DOA", "The Matchmaker", "Sleuth", "Kingdom of Heaven", "The Devil and Daniel Webster", and "Black Sabbath". Still trying to catch up on a ton of them, but I'm really really enjoying this column. I never would have known some of these movies even existed if it weren't for you. <p> Keep pluggin' away
Sept. 7, 2008, 11:07 p.m. CST
Thanks for all the kind words all around. Terry, what'd you think of Matchmaker? That's one of my favorite discoveries of the column so far and I never in a million years would have guessed I would take to it so much.
Sept. 7, 2008, 11:21 p.m. CST
I loved it. Based on that cover art, I never would have picked it up in a thousand years but it was really charming and genuinely funny. Anthony Perkins was great and I also was sort of flabbergasted at how similar it was to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", especially the direct address to the camera. I think my favorite scene was in the hat shop when the boys had to keep hiding under the table/closet etc.
Sept. 7, 2008, 11:23 p.m. CST
at the end
Sept. 7, 2008, 11:30 p.m. CST
Off topic, but I was just wondering if there was any update on the Star Wars competition. I know I didn't win, my low key, "master trying to save apprentice" approach probably wasn't what you were looking for, but I really want to read some of the other entries. Did any of them meet your expectations as to how you imagined the duel could have been? <p> Back on topic...working for AICN could keep you pretty busy, especially with interviews and set visits and reviews etc. How do you fit these movies into your schedule? Do you watch some a few days in advance of the column when you know you have a busy time ahead? Have you stayed up late into the night watching one of these, just to get it done? How hard is it to actually balance watching these movies and writing about them alongside your normal job?
Sept. 8, 2008, 12:33 a.m. CST
I've only read a couple so far. I'm flying to LA tomorrow and plane on spending my 3 hours on the plane knocking through as many of the 40 entries as I can. I'll probably post my favorite 10. I'd like to say it'll be up this week, but due to a hectic LA schedule if I don't get through the majority of them on the plane, then I won't be able to finish up until this coming weekend/early next week. I won't let this one slip through the cracks, don't you worry.<BR><BR>For the rest of your questions, all of the above. Most of the time I'm on my movie for the day the day I write it up. I'm two movies ahead right now, trying to give me some cushion for the LA trip, but I will be watching them as I travel, stay up late, etc. Thankfully, with Beaks and Merrick covering the day to day updates I can focus on these and my interviews/set visits, etc. The real challenge is going to be keeping this up during the week and a half of Fantastic Fest. We'll see how I fare.
Sept. 8, 2008, 12:47 a.m. CST
How many of them have Jar Jar stepping in front of a rogue lightsaber? <p> Anyways, I'm looking forward to your look at The Pink Panther. I guess it falls into the category of "I can't believe you've never seen it." I think you're in for a treat with that one. I also think you should watch the remake, just for the sake of comparison.
Sept. 8, 2008, 2:20 a.m. CST
or any of the non-Sellers panthers, even that steve martin shitbubble.
Sept. 8, 2008, 3:25 a.m. CST
this article exists. Ive been avoiding it because a movie a day is a big commitment for a person, espesially seeing as i already watch several a day, but i finally gave in... i shall be a regular, i only hope i can keep up, nice work Quint.
Sept. 8, 2008, 8:07 a.m. CST
And people who work at hair salons. Just look at them. Sick fucks.
Sept. 8, 2008, 10:08 a.m. CST
I can't get wait until you get to the Ted Wass one!
Sept. 8, 2008, 10:45 a.m. CST
by Rando Calrisian
You may have touched on this before. <br> <br> Why are you watching A Shot In The Dark before The Pink Panther? Isn't ASITD the sequel?
Sept. 8, 2008, 11:38 a.m. CST
Like Terry, I would have never picked it up on cover art alone, and I'm happy you reviewed it, Quint, b/c otherwise I would have probably missed this gem, with its self-awareness and direct addresses to the camera, as well as Tony Perkins' rather unlikely turn as a romantic lead. I can definitely see in Cornelius hints of the seed for his Norman Bates. But, I must disagree with Terry-- although I liked the hat store scene a lot, for some reason I dug the restaurant scene just a little more. <br> Oh, and lest I forget, keep up the good work, Quint. AMAD is helping me fill in some of my cinematic gaps, and helping me discover flicks I might not usually gravitate to. <br> Thanks.
Sept. 8, 2008, 1:26 p.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
was on AMC today. I caught the last 15 minutes while at the gym. nice.
Sept. 8, 2008, 1:46 p.m. CST
It isn't very good, tho it's a lot better than the later Sellers pictures. I'd consider watching PINK PANTHER first, because then you'll get a better idea of how what started off as a romantic comedy-thriller obviously modelled on the Cary Grant-Sophia Loren type movies got kidnapped wholesale by Sellers in a supporting role to the extent that the series ensued with Clouseau as the centre. A SHOT IN THE DARK is the standout (and if you don't develop an Elke Sommer infatuation after watching that movie there's something seriously askew with your hormones), tho RETURN has some good scenes too. STRIKES BACK has some passable slapstick, but it's all too silly by now, and the last ones are woeful. And to echo what others have said in this talkback, keep this up. AMAD is the main draw to the site for me at the moment - I can get movie news anywhere, but this thread is something interesting and different.
Sept. 8, 2008, 9:56 p.m. CST
Sweet Jesus. I have been as big a fan of this "feature" since it started. I love Quint's "stick-to-itiveness" but this is getting silly! These movies are forgotten and stuck on a double feature $5.00 DVD for a reason. They are a waste of everyones time! Look at the first 50 or so movies on Quints list and then check out the last 20 or so. Paul Newman, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra...and now we get bad head cut in half effects. Shit or get off the pot!
Sept. 8, 2008, 10 p.m. CST
Everyones talking about anything else EXCEPT the stinky ass movie. "Tragic Ceremony?" You have got be kidding me? Go spend some time with your family!
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