Tragic Ceremony

  • 1972
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Thriller

Four hippies cross paths with wealthy Satanists in veteran Italian genre director Riccardo Freda's offbeat mix of Manson-era generational paranoia and old-fashioned supernatural thriller. Wealthy but unhappy Bill (Tony Isbert) invites three friends to join him on leisurely sailing and beachcombing vacation, though truth be told, Joe (Maximo Valverde)...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Four hippies cross paths with wealthy Satanists in veteran Italian genre director Riccardo Freda's offbeat mix of Manson-era generational paranoia and old-fashioned supernatural thriller.

Wealthy but unhappy Bill (Tony Isbert) invites three friends to join him on leisurely sailing and beachcombing vacation, though truth be told, Joe (Maximo Valverde) and Fred (Giovanni Petrucci) aren't so much friends as spongers, always scamming Joe for cash with rigged games and contests. Only Jane (Camille Keaton) seems to genuinely like Bill without ulterior motives, which is why he impulsively gives her an expensive string of pearls he originally bought for his beloved mother (Irina Demick). She refused to wear them after Bill revealed their macabre history of possession, exorcism and mysterious death; shortly after, Bill saw her with a much younger lover and retrieved the necklace from her night table. Jane is naively delighted with the pearls, and Bill prudently refrains from repeating their story.

A series of mishaps strands the young people at the isolated villa of Lord and Lady Alexander (Luigi Pistilli and one-time Bond villainess Luciana Paluzzi), decadent aristocrats who happen to be hosting a Satanic ritual that very stormy night. Bill and the others thwart the Alexanders' efforts to sacrifice Jane and escape as the ceremony degenerates into mass slaughter, though not before Bill is forced to kill Lady Alexander. And then things get strange: Bill and his friends dive back to the family mansion in Chelsea, though along the way they have an odd encounter with the police and pass a long-abandoned gas station they could all swear was open just hours earlier. Bill's mother coldly sends them to a hotel, responds nastily to questions about his father, who's on a hunting trip, and pointedly asks about the missing pearls. Haunted and uneasy, Bill takes his friends to his father's country house rather than a hotel, where things get stranger still.

An odd and not entirely successful genre hybrid, Freda's film is nonetheless of interest to fans of 1970s Euro-horror, and a welcome opportunity to see Camille Keaton play something other than a sexually abused woman-child. The "European Capital" of the original title is presumably London, but the film was clearly shot in Europe: Neither the appearance of "Chief Commissioner Ferguson of Scotland Yard" at the Villa Alexander crime scene nor crediting Freda as "Robert Hampton" makes the putative UK setting more convincing. Special effects artist Carlo Rimbaldi (ALIEN) supplied the gore effects.

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  • Released: 1972
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Four hippies cross paths with wealthy Satanists in veteran Italian genre director Riccardo Freda's offbeat mix of Manson-era generational paranoia and old-fashioned supernatural thriller. Wealthy but unhappy Bill (Tony Isbert) invites three friends to… (more)

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