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Friday, November 5, 2010

Voodoo Island (1957) review


Boris Karloff (Phillip Knight), Beverly Tyler (Sarah Adams), Elisha Cook Jr. (Martin Shuyler), Rhodes Reason (Mathew Gunn), Murvyn Vye (Barney Finch)

Directed by Reginald Le Borg

The Short Version: Tedious, but occasionally fun shocker barely makes the grade were it not for Karloff and a gaggle of man-eating vegetation on the title island death trap. Mostly forgettable, it does contain a couple good moments although this cheapie will most likely only be appreciated by the most ardent camp cinema devotees.

Phillip Knight is a fast talking and famous television paranormal hoaxster and a non-believer in the supernatural. A wealthy businessman interested in a mysterious South Pacific island hires him to investigate a missing crew and a lone surveyor returning in a zombie-like state. Knight soon becomes a believer after coming face to face with carnivorous plants, zombies and unfriendly natives.

This mediocre jungle nonsense is one of dozens of throwaway horror programmers from the fabulous 50's. The participation of Boris Karloff (THE RAVEN) as well as Elisha Cook (MESSIAH OF EVIL) and Rhodes Reason (KING KONG ESCAPES) make this production with limited appeal bearable. The storyline is an interesting one, but the voodoo plot device is the least curious aspect of this 76 minute quickie.

Once the crew make it to this alleged island of mysticism and death, the group soon learn the place is inhabited by deadly man eating plant life in addition to voodoo practicing natives. These killer plant scenes are plentiful and would have made for a better movie had the whole enterprise been centered around the ferocious fauna. The voodoo angle is ridiculous and firmly plants (haha) this picture in the camp of kitsch. The voodoo dolls don't even look the work of a native tribe, but as if they were picked up at some department store.

I wouldn't say Le Borg's movie was awful, it's just not a very memorable one. However, it does contain some shocking things for a movie of this vintage. One such scene has a little girl gobbled up by one of the fly-trap type monsters. I can't recall any movies this old where children were put in peril, much less shown being consumed by some nasty beasty. The plant creatures enhance the 'B' movie charm that the rest of the movie would probably lack without them. There's also a hint of lesbianism and the script does manage a bit of a societal clash between the proposed superiority of modern man versus the perceived primitive intelligence of the island natives.

Boris Karloff, a favorite actor of many an elder monster kid, takes on an unusual role for this outing, as opposed to his more familiar trappings as a monster, or unethical and quite mad scientist. He's far more kinetic here as the intrepid and well known myth buster, Phillip Knight. He's one of the most revered actors of horror cinemas heritage.

Rhodes Reason was the younger brother to Rex Reason. Both had careers in Hollywood and both flirted with fantasy/horror films. Both had careers predominantly in television. Rhodes Reason is likely most famous for his role as Commander Carl Nelson who fought against the devious and devilish Dr. Who in the Japan-US co-production, KING KONG ESCAPES (1967).

While it's not a great movie, it does have some endearing qualities about it that won't be lost on dedicated creature feature fans. With elements that can be found in movies from VOODOO BLOOD BATH (1964) all the way to Fulci's ZOMBIE (1979), fright fans may find this a mild diversion of schlocky fun.

This review is representative of the MGM double feature DVD


dfordoom said...

will most likely only be appreciated by the most ardent camp cinema devotees.

The most ardent camp cinema devotees. That would be me! I've been tempted by this one. Isn't it paired with The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake on a Midnite Movies DVD?

venoms5 said...

I actually thought about you, D, when I was reading your PHANTOM FROM SPACE write up that VOODOO ISLAND might be right up your alley. Yes, it's paired with FOUR SKULLS. I posted a link to that disc at the bottom. FOUR SKULLS is pretty good, too.

dfordoom said...

I was so close to grabbing that Midnite Movies double-header a few days ago.

venoms5 said...

It's still right cheap. $8.00 new at amazon, D.


thanks! yea that scene with the girl always got me! Love that scene with Cook on the bridge too. Have the disc with J.Drake and Voodoo Island,ty again!

venoms5 said...

You're quite welcome, ROCKER. I may revisit this one again soon, myself.

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