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Classic Films Soon To Be Released On Blu-ray and DVD...Yesterday, a bit under the radar, Hen's Tooth Video released Black Magic (1949) starring Orson Welles.

Based on a novel by Alexander Dumas, Black Magic stars Orson Welles as the 18th century master hypnotist and charismatic charlatan, Cagliostro.

After his mother is executed for supposedly practicing “witchcraft,” young Joseph Balsamo is raised by gypsies. Under their tutelage, he perfects his skills performing magic tricks and selling snake oil in the gypsy’s traveling caravan show. Eventually Balsamo meets Franz Mesmer, the famous hypnotist, who convinces Joseph he has even greater gifts which could heal the sick. But Joseph chooses a very different path assuming the name Cagliostro and embarking on a vendetta for power over the man who ordered his mother’s death.

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Tags: alexander, black, cagliostro, classic, dumas, guild, magic, nancy, radar, welles

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Comment by Darkness To Light... on March 26, 2014 at 12:55am

Black Magic (also known as Cagliostro) is a 1949 film adaptation of Alexandre Dumas's novel Joseph Balsamo. It was directed by the Russian-born Gregory Ratoff and stars Orson Welles in the lead role as Joseph Balsamo (aka 18th century hypnotist, magician and scam artist Count Cagliostro) and Nancy Guild as Lorenza/Marie Antoinette. Akim Tamiroff has a featured role.

The movie was originally known as Cagliostro. Producer Edward Small went through a number of directors and stars in trying to get this film off the ground, starting in 1943. Charles Boyer was to star with Akim Tamiroff, and Irving Pichel directing, then in early 1944 J. Carrol Naish was reported to play Alexandre Dumas, Sr. Later that year, George Sanders was announced as the star with Douglas Sirk directing. Louis Hayward was also at one stage announced to star.

In 1943 Hedda Hopper suggested Orson Welles should play the lead role. He signed in September 1947.

In 1947, Small was to make the film in Mexico, but dropped those plans when it turned out to be more expensive to shoot there than he expected -- so the location of shooting was changed to Italy, where Small could use blocked lira. Small borrowed Gregory Ratoff and Nancy Guild from Twentieth Century-Fox and took over the Scalera studios in Rome from early October 1947 to late January 1948.

Orson Welles said Small ("no mean master of suggestion, by the way") approached him "very cleverly with the role of Cagliostro. He waited til I had reread the Dumas novels and become so "hypnotised" by the scoundrel that I felt I had to play him. Then Small announced casually, 'Gregory Ratoff is going to direct'. That cinched it. Gregory is a great friend, and more fun to work with than anybody I know."

Welles allegedly directed several scenes in the film, which was released on 18 August 1949.

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