Leave it to Dark Sky films to dig up titles that are not only incredibly obscure, but appealing to even the most cynical viewer. Take “Tragic Ceremony” for example, a film that, prior to its re-release, I’ve never actually heard of. Looking at the IMDB credits, the title is rather extensive, so perhaps the American alternate “Tragic Ceremony” is a bit more marketable.
Starring the absolutely beautiful Camille Keaton (whose voice is noticeably dubbed by an Italian speaking actress), headliner of one of my favorite revenge exploitation films “I Spit on your Grave,” Riccardo Freda’s obscure genre entry likens itself after the Manson murders, presuming to compose the story and narrative in the same vein, but in truth there’s really only a passing mention in reference to a slaughter sequence, and that’s where it all ends.
Though many films were intent on tapping on the tragedy during this period, “Tragic Ceremony” bears little resemblance to anything involving Manson. Freda’s film is a curious beast. I sat there in sheer disbelief and awe only to learn that it’s quite possibly one of the most tedious and nonsensical pieces of Italian cinema that I’ve ever seen. And yet I found that I just had to see it through to the end. Why? Perhaps I was hoping that it would all come full circle into some brilliant twist explaining the series of events that had no point, but alas, every time I thought Blanchi and Maesso were going to wow me, they just didn’t.
Nothing comes full circle, everything happens without explanation, and in spite of my best efforts to give it undivided attention and fine tooth combed examination, I couldn’t make heads or tails of the damn thing. Is it a good movie? I can’t completely say in the end, since it makes a nasty of habit of confusion and incoherence with repetitive direction, jarring editing, and an ending so overwrought and over explained that it’s clear not even the writers knew what was happening. So instead we’re given a lazy climax where everything in the movie is explained to us and yet… it still doesn’t make a lick of sense!
One aspect that “Tragic Ceremony” has going for it is the ability to keep us entertained even when the story is horribly disjointed. Freda’s knack for visuals make the film a treat with some incredible images of darkness and Italian landscapes, along with surreal scenes of satanic worship that are quite demented. There’s also Keaton who surely enough retains much of the charisma that’s granted her cult status over the years, along with some of best gore that, while dated, is still gruesome and memorable.
“Tragic Ceremony” has every opportunity to be a brilliant twisted horror film, and sadly the twists I created in my mind when I thought the writers would fool me ended up being much more well-rounded and imaginative, than the ultimate twist in the climax that is not only clunky but inadvertently comical, to boot. I won’t describe it as an awful film, but be prepared to leave the movie baffled and frustrated.
Apart from the fantastic picture clean up and widescreen presentation, which Dark Sky excels at, in the extras, there’s a thirteen minute featurette “Camille Keaton’s European Adventures” which glosses over the actresses career and interviews her. She’s still a rather ravishing woman, even at her age.