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Voodoo Black Exorcist (1974)
The Film Detective
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/23/2017
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/22/2017
As a lifelong fan of horror movies, I don't mind if a movie is shocking or disturbing. In fact, I invite that sort of reaction from films. But, it must be in appropriate manner. What do I mean by this? The opening scene of Voodoo Black Exorcist features a woman and I immediately realize that she's in blackface. Well, that's not accurate. Her whole body is in blackface, if that makes any sense. This movie is 43-years old, but that's no excuse. That's really not cool. While this would prove to be the most off-putting moment in the movie, it certainly wasn't the wackiest one.
As Voodoo Black Exorcist opens, Gatanebo (Aldo Sambrell) and his love, Kenya (Eva Lion), are captured...for some reason. (The opening sequence has no dialogue, so we aren't given a lot of information here.) Kenya is beheaded and Gatanebo is placed in a coffin. The story then jumps ahead several hundred years. Dr. Kessling (Alfred May) and his assistant, Sylvia (Eva Lion), load the coffin onto a cruise ship, as they are going to rendezvous with another scientist during the trip. It's not long before Gatanebo comes to life and leaves the sarcophagus in search of nourishment. He soon spots Sylvia and is entranced by the fact that she looks so much like Kenya (sort of). Gatanebo soon places Dr. Kessling under his spell and formulates a plan to take Kenya.
Voodoo Black Exorcist is certainly an interesting hybrid movie. The plot of this Spanish production is lifted directly from the 1932 Boris Karloff version of The Mummy. As in that film, here we have a mummy who at times looks like a healthy person and at other times resembles a walking raisin. Also, as in The Mummy, the villain comes back from the dead only to find the modern-day version of his long-lost love. This notion is then placed on-board a cruise ship. The movie pre-dates The Love Boat by three years, but it still attempts to capture the interest in cruise vacations which was beginning to sweep the world. In addition, we have the voodoo element, which loosely tied into the blaxploitation movement.
This mish-mash of stories and ideas is placed against the backdrop of a movie which is both amateurish and mean-spirited. It’s obvious that Voodoo Black Exorcist was shot on an actual cruise ship (which I swear was called “Star Wars”), but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the movie was lensed while an actual cruise was taking place. Much of the first act is taken up by the characters watching a voodoo-esque dance number. It’s like the performance was already taking place, so Director M. Cano simply set up his camera and shot the whole thing. Gatanebo's transformation scenes are done with the old dissolving effect which was used in the 1940s. These innocent scenes which harken back to an older time, are juxtaposed with one of the harshest and most cold-blooded murders that I've ever seen in a movie and an ending which is decidedly nihilistic.
Voodoo Black Exorcist has a 2.6 rating on IMDB.com, which is just bonkers. No, it's not a good movie, but it's far more entertaining than a lot of other movies which I've seen. Those who like to indulge in Mystery Science Theater 3000-like hijinks will certainly find something to like here, especially during the third act when Gatanebo when suddenly starts running from everyone. But, those who like their Euro-horror weird will like the ending and that crazy murder scene. Also, let's forget the film's title, which was clearly altered for American audience to capitalize on the success of The Exorcist. There is nothing even close to an exorcism here, but we do get to see a mummy in a gold lame jacket.
Voodoo Black Exorcist furthers my belief that cruises don't look like fun on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of The Film Detective. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. This release is labeled as one this company's "Restored Classics". The definition of "restored" is never made clear. This could refer to this being a longer cut of the movie than has been released in the U.S. before. But, for me, when it comes to home video releases, "restored" usually refers to a movie being cleaned up for a new release. If that's the case here, then I would have hated to have seen what the movie looked like before. It's pretty obvious that this transfer was taken from a screened print. The image shows a fine sheen of grain and obvious defects throughout. There scratches and green lines on the film from where it had gone through a projector. On the positive side, the colors do look good, and the image is never dark. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2-channel track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. This is the dubbed version of the film, and it appears to be one of those cases where the sound effects went the way of the original dialogue, so we get effects which dominate the audio, such as the splashing water in the opening scene. The dialogue sounds very hollow and canned.
The Voodoo Black Exorcist Blu-ray Disc contains no extra features.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long