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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

It sounds like they put all their eggs-ploitation elements into one basket with the title VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST (aka "Vudú sangriento"), but this wonderfully awful 1974 Euro-horror potboiler, now available on Blu-ray from The Film Detective, is actually pretty short on exorcism (there isn't any) and black people (two of them are actually white actors in dark body makeup). I guess VOODOO WHITE NON-EXORCIST just didn't have the same ring to it.

They didn't skimp on the voodoo, though--the opening flashback sequence, which is revisited several times throughout the film, was filmed in real Caribbean locations such as Jamaica and Haiti, and there's a frenzied voodoo ceremony during which the beautiful Kenya (Eva León) is beheaded.  After everyone tosses her noggin around like a beach ball at a rock concert, her lover Gatanebo (Sergio Leone regular Aldo Sambrell) is entombed alive as punishment for their illicit love. 

Kenya turns up again centuries later, reincarnated (sans body makeup) as Silvia, assistant and mistress to archeologist Dr. Kessling (Alfred May).  As fate would have it, the newly-unearthed mummy they're traveling with via cruise ship is none other than the undead Gatanebo, who not only stalks the ship killing descendants of those who buried him alive, but discovers his lost love right there on board with a new identity and complexion.

It's pretty much a shipboard retelling of THE MUMMY but with voodoo instead of Egyptian curses.  The buff, bald, and now inexplicably Caucasian Gatanebo passes for normal most of the time but occasionally reverts back to mummy form with a makeup job that resembles crinkled papier-mache', whereupon he either murders people or pokes them with his golden asp-ring to make them his slaves. 

He kills a bartender descended from the man who beheaded Kenya, then leaves the guy's head on Silvia's pillow for her to find, Godfather-style, when she wakes up.  (He's like a cat bringing home a dead mouse to its master as a present.)  Later, he intercepts a visiting professor at the airport in order to assume his identity, squishing the poor sap under a steam roller.

Production values for this low-budget Spanish effort are fair to poor--direction and camerawork are slipshod at best (but with the odd flash of style now and then), the script is half-baked and filled with howlers ("In infinite time, what must happen happens"), and much of the acting and dubbing are below par.  SPFX and makeups are fake-looking but fun, including some man-to-mummy (and vice versa) transformations.

The Caribbean locations are nice, and the cruise ship is actually at sea during the on-deck exteriors, adding much to the film's ambience.  (Is it just me, or does the recurring island musical theme sound just like the first bars of "Ferry Cross the Mersey"?)  Animal lovers will find the killing of an actual chicken during the voodoo ceremony distressing.

The cast of characters can be a real hoot, especially an excitable lady named Mrs. Thorndyke who reads cards and tells the future (her visions about what's happening aboard the ship are totally accurate yet nobody takes her seriously).  Some of the exchanges between her and henpecked husband Alfred are hilarious:

"Alfred! I would like to get a sarcophagus like this to rest in eternally."
"I'll do my best, honey."

There's also an exotic dancer who's the very definition of "overripe" (I mean that in a really good way) constantly being courted by a world-famous hamburger tycoon, and a portly police inspector who makes like he's Hercule Poirot by deducing that since the first murder occurred at sea, then the culprit must be someone on board the ship.  "It's a shame," he opines after the hamburger guy is killed.  "The best hamburgers in the world."

After more mindnumbing mayhem, the finale has the inspector and his dangerously callow assistants tracking the mummy and the kidnapped Silvia to a cave where they manage to cause more chaos than they avert, leading to a startlingly abrupt ending that slams a sarcophagus lid on the whole shebang. 

The Blu-ray from The Film Detective is widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35 and Dolby digital sound.  English captions are available.  No extras.  The film itself is "in HD with a brand new 2K scan from a rare 35mm archival print.”  The picture quality is likely the best this film has seen since the 70s, although there's still a lot of blemishes here and there which I assume couldn't be helped. 

To be fair, many will find this film about as boring as...well, actually being a mummy.  But for those hardy souls who seek out bad movies to willingly subject themselves to, VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST may prove as pleasantly entertaining as it is woefully inept.

Buy it at

Release date: May 23, 2017

(Stills used are not taken from the Blu-ray disc)


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