Today’s movie is Voodoo Man (1944) and god is it bad. I mean it is really bad. I wasn’t prepared for how bad it was. Did I mention that it was bad? This movie has a 5.6 rating on iMDB.com and a 0 on Rotten Tomatoes, but to be fair, it has the year listed as 2009 and doesn’t have many reviews.
If you look on the inter-webs, there is a lot of debate over whether this movie is a comedy or classic horror. I am going to treat it as comedy and I think we can all enjoy it a little more.
Why do I think it is a comedy?
- The head Voodoo priest runs a gas station
- They use Batman props to lure single women off the road
- They wear wizard costumes when performing their ceremonies
- John Carradine character is described as walking like he went to the bathroom in his pants. He also looks like a crazy person when playing the bongos and it seems that he may have combed his hair with a fish.
- They reference their own movie in the story and recommend Bela Lugosi for the part.
- The male lead is knocking out during the final scenes
- Ralph addresses his producer as “S.K.” The film’s producer was Sam Katzman. Ralph is a scriptwriter for the Banner Motion Picture Co. Banner Productions is the real name of the production company that made this film for Monogram Pictures, a Poverty Row studio that eventually became Allied Artists Picture Corp.
So, let’s jump into the returning actors and the rather weak cast of supporting actors.
George Zucco played Nicholas, the Voodoo priest. Zucco was first covered in Episode 127 – The Mummy’s Hand (1940).
Wanda McKay played Betty Benton. McKay was born in 1915 and was a beauty queen that turned to acting. She was Miss American Aviation 1938. She is best known for being married Hoagy Carmichael, who was the singer and piano player in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Some of her movies include Bowery at Midnight (1942) with Bela Lugosi, Corregidor (1943), The Black Raven (1943), The Voodoo Man (1944), Leave It to the Irish (1944), Belle of the Yukon (1944), Kilroy was Here (1947), Jungle Goddess (1948), and Because of Eve (1948). McKay died in 1996.
Louise Currie played Stella Saunders. Currie was born in 1913 and was a model turned actress. Some of her movies include Citizen Kane (1941), The Ape Man (1943), The Voodoo Man (1944), Gun Town (1946), Backlash (1947), and The Chinese Ring (1947). She intentionally limited the roles she accepted and left movies in the 1950s to decorate homes that her husband remodeled. She died in 2013.
Tod Andrews played Ralph Dawson. Andrews was born in 1914 and was active as a character actor from 1941 onward. After graduating from Washington State University, he did stage work at the Pasadena Playhouse. He signed a contract with Warner Bros. and played juveniles in films. I remember him from dying very quickly in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). Other movies include They Died with Their Boots On (1941), Action in the North Atlantic (1943), The Voodoo Man (1944), From Hell it Came (1957), In Harm’s Way (1965), and Hang ‘Em High (1968). Andrews died in 1972
Ellen Hall played Mrs. Evelyn Marlowe. Hall was born in 1922. She is an American actress that had only 19 acting credits. Her most famous role was in The Voodoo Man (1944) although she was dead during most of the film. Hall died in 1994.
Henry Hall played the Sheriff and the real hero of this story. He was born in 1876 and is best known for pre-World War II westerns. Hall was in almost 250 movies and shows. His best known are Sagebrush Trail (1933), The Desert Trail (1935), Paradise Canyon (1935) with John Wayne, and The Ape Man (1943). Hall died in 1954.
Dan White played Deputy Elmer. White was born in 1908 and acted in over 300 movies. White was in The Rainmaker (1956) as an uncredited deputy, Touch of Evil (1958) as an uncredited customs officer, Band of Angels (1957), Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) that I have to see, Lonely are the Brave (1962) as an uncredited convict, To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) as a mob leader, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966), and The Cheyenne Social Club (1970) as an uncredited barfly. It continues back like this. White died in 1980.
A woman pulls into a Mobil gas station, the red Pegasus is shown on the pumps. She asks directions from gas station owner, Nicholas (George Zucco). Nicholas has a Batphone that uses to let someone know that the woman is coming there way.
On a dark road, two men, Toby (John Carradine) and Grego (Pat McKee), slide a bush away, again Batman style, and place a detour sign on the road. When the lady arrives, she takes the detour. A hand is shown flipping a switch and electrical things pulse. The lady’s car goes dead. This sure seems like an electro-magnetic-pulse (EMP), but those were widely known until after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan at the end of World War II.
Anyway, Toby and Grego grab her and drag her away. Toby creepily pets her hair. A newspaper shows that she is the third girl to go missing in a month.
At Banner Motion Picture Company, producer SK (John Ince) calls in writer Ralph Dawson (Tod Andrews). SK wants a script based on the kidnapped girls. Ralph says he needs two weeks off to get married.
One-night Ralph pulls into the same Mobil station. He asks the attendant to put 6 gallons of gas in his car. The attendant says it will take two coupons. Since this movie was filmed during World War II, gas was still rationed and you were required to turn in government-issued coupons when making a purchase. The attendant gets busy washing the windshield and checking the oil. Yes, they use to do that as a part of the purchase. He fails to put the gas in and Ralph drives away. Ralph runs out of gas just before the kidnap area.
About that time another solo woman driver, Stella (Louise Curry), pulls in to the gas station. This time Nicholas goes to talk to the female. He sends the attendant out and uses the Batphone to call someone that he calls doctor.
Stella picks up Ralph and they begin talking. They discover that Stella is to be the maid of honor at her cousin’s wedding. The cousin is Betty Benton (Wanda McKay), the woman that is marrying Ralph.
Since they are expecting a lone female, the hedge trap has been set. Dr. Richard Marlowe (Bela Lugosi) is in the house controlling the EMP. The car goes dead. Marlowe can see on his hidden camera system that there are two people. Ralph checks the car while Toby and Grego hide in the bushes. Ralph goes to Marlowe’s house for help and Stella waits in the car. They grab Stella and Toby starts talking about what a pretty one she is. They take her into a Bat cave with an electronic door. Ralph is chased away by the housekeeper, Maria.
They take Stella upstairs to Marlowe. He says for Nicholas to make the preparations. Marlowe uses his Dracula powers to control Stella’s mind. Stella is taken to a room where Maria and Marlowe’s dead wife Evelyn (Ellen Hall) are waiting. Marlowe wants to bring her back to life. Marlowe has to reinforce his hypnotism.
Ralph goes back to where the car should be and finds that it and Stella are gone. He is angry and begins walking towards Betty’s house. Betty welcomes him in but he is mad about Stella leaving him. But Stella has not arrived yet. Toby and Grego have removed the detour and put the bushes back.
Stella is put in a room by Marlowe and she screams. At midnight, Betty, her mother, and Ralph are still waiting for Stella. Betty and Ralph go to talk to the police. Back at Marlowe’s house, they are getting ready for the “voodoo” ceremony. Marlowe and Nicholas put on fake wizard robes complete with stars and symbols. Nicholas says it will work this time and that Ramboona is all powerful. Toby is sent to get the zombies, and there are four women in white robes behind glass doors. Toby leads the group into the ceremony. Marlowe brings Stella to the ceremony but she is still in her street clothes. The dead Evelyn is led in by Maria and sat facing Stella in a chair. Nicholas puts on an African headdress and begins the chanting. Ropes magically tie themselves into a square knot, the joining knot for Boy Scouts, and Marlowe tries to join Stella and Evelyn’s minds. Toby bangs on the bongo drums.
Evelyn pops to life and doesn’t understand. He tells her she is alive again. She says together again and dies. Stella slumps but is not dead. Nicholas tells Marlowe that Stella was not the right subject.
Ralph and Betty talk to the sheriff (Henry Hall) and tell him the story. The sheriff says his job is becoming a pain in the neck which I take for a Lugosi pun. They give him the information and the sheriff takes note when he hears about the detour. The sheriff says there is no detour and he will look into it. The sheriff takes Deputy Elmer (Dan White) with him to visit Marlowe.
Marlowe is treating Evelyn with electronic rays. He mentions that a bright light would destroy Evelyn. Just then the doorbell rings. The sheriff goes inside while Elmer looks around outside. Marlowe tells Maria to take Evelyn to the cellar in case the sheriff wants to search the house. Marlowe gives the sheriff a drink and the phone rings. It is Nicholas saying another woman is coming his way. He lets Nicholas known that the sheriff is there.
Toby goes to check on the zombie girls around the time the sheriff leaves. Toby opens Stella’s glass case and begins petting her hair. When Toby hears Marlowe coming he puts Stella back in her case but does not lock the glass. Stella wanders out of her case and out the secret cave door to the outside. When Toby finds out Stella is gone, he knows he is in deep dodo. Toby and Grego are sent to find her under penalty of death.
The sheriff and Elmer find Stella walking on the road in a trance. They take her to Betty’s house for identification. They talk to her but she is not responsive. Ralph says to call a doctor. Toby reports that he has found out where she is. As the sheriff and Elmer leave Dr. Marlowe shows up. Betty and Ralph are with Stella. Betty says she seems like a zombie. When Marlowe looks at Stella, she starts breathing hard and the young people notice.
Marlowe and Nicholas convene the voodoo gang and begin to summon Stella back to their house. Stella walks cross-country still in her white dress. Toby and Grego go outside and bring her into the Bat cave. When Stella is brought into the room, Nicholas says Ramboona never fails.
Back at the other house, Betty finds Stella is missing. Ralph and Betty head over to Marlowe’s house. Marlowe says she may have wandered off in a daze. He says his wife that died 22 years earlier had the same issue. Marlowe leans in and says Betty reminds him very much of his dead wife. Marlowe calls the sheriff and Evelyn comes walking down the stairs. Maria grabs her at the door and takes her away.
Betty and Ralph head out having seen the dead woman. Marlowe has one of Betty’s gloves that he can now use as a voodoo object. Betty and Ralph stop in a café. Nicholas and Marlowe begin the summoning ceremony. Ralph leaves to call the sheriff and Betty gets in the car and drives to Marlowe’s house. Ralph returns and eventually finds out that Betty has left. Ralph gets some info for a guy in a car and they head after Betty.
Betty takes the detour and parks her car. Toby and Grego wait at the Bat cave to take her inside. They are idiots and leave Betty’s car outside. The two men find Betty’s car and Ralph sends the driver back to get the sheriff. The entrance to the Bat cave has been left open and Ralph goes in.
The transformation ceremony begins and Toby looks crazy on the bongos. Ralph walks into the ceremony and is quickly knocked out by Grego. The sheriff and Elmer arrive at the house and break in. Evelyn comes to life as Betty slumps. The sheriff and Elmer come in guns drawn. Marlowe picks up a machete and the sheriff shoots him. About this time Ralph wakes up. Evelyn calls for Richard and Marlowe replies that soon they will be together. Marlowe and Evelyn die and Stella pops out of her trance.
Two weeks later, Ralph drops the script for his new horror film on SK’s desk. The title is “Voodoo Man.” SK asks Ralph to recommend an actor to play Dr. Marlowe and he suggests Bela Lugosi.
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Beware the moors