Voodoo Black Exorcist (1974) Blu-ray Review: The Epitome of So Bad, It’s Good

Imagine if an amateur Spanish filmmaker, light years away from honing in on the trade he decided to briefly pick up, suddenly received word he and his friends could join a cruise to the Caribbean for free. “Free,” that is, so long as they agreed to document ‒ and subsequently promote ‒ the company paying for the very generous freebie. Deciding this would be the perfect opportunity to take advantage of their limited financial means and still crank something (emphasis on “something”) out in the process, they wrangled in what little talent they could (emphasis on “little”) and took their small cast and crew aboard their complementary cruise to set sail.

After a night or two spent drinking up all of the free booze they could get, the Spaniards suddenly realized their forthcoming motion picture project would stand a much better chance of coming to fruition if they actually had a story to film. Fortunately for them, the ship’s built-in theater was showing a double feature of classic Universal horror movies that night; most notably, The Mummy and The Wolf Man. Inspired by the excitement their glossed-over orbs witnessed that night, the filmmakers were suddenly struck with a sliver of inspiration. “I got it!” the brains behind this venture exclaimed, excitedly, “Let’s sort of combine these two movies into something far, far worse!”

A round of applause ‒ the likes of which have never been heard since (well, not since after the cruise line went out of business from lack of adequate promotion, that is) ‒ broke out. The Spanish crew had at long last figured out what they were going to film. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, that film turned out to become a sordid little mess best known to English speaking audiences as Voodoo Black Exorcist. And truly, that is the only good explanation I have ever been able to come up with as to how and why director Manuel Caño (The Swamp of the Ravens) and prominent producer José Antonio Pérez Giner summoned their dud into its miserable state of being in the first place.

Written by Santiago Moncada (All the Colors of the Dark) and initially released as Vudú sangriento (Bloody Voodoo), this bizarre 1974 horror-fantasy starring Italian movie regular Aldo Sambrell (in a rare starring role) is ‒ hands down ‒ one of the worst movies ever made. Now, if you have ever seen some of the movies I have reviewed (or at least referenced) in the past, then you probably have a fairly good idea that these aren’t the sort of waters one just kind of treads into lightly. No, siree. These are extremely lawless, godless seas where good men (to say nothing of good ideas) go to die. But of course, as is the case with Voodoo Black Exorcist, its endless faults are what make it enjoyable.

Beginning with ‒ and routinely interrupted by ‒ a cheesy flashback replete with Spanish actors in blackface makeup (although I think the word “makeup” might be too professional-sounding of a noun, as the shit they’re wearing looks more like shoe polish), awkward beach spear fights, and a hilarious black magic ritual, Voodoo Black Exorcist immediately informs its viewers it doesn’t care about things such as political correctness, good taste, or even half-assed creativity. Indeed, it carries on this very message most admirably as the remainder of the 88-minute flick plays out against in front of you, never pausing to make sure it’s doing something it shouldn’t. Which it is.

Following the extremely sensitive opening, the film jumps to some well-lighted caverns, where one of the world’s laziest narrators informs us time repeats itself: everything that has happened before will happen again. And he can’t even muster up enough energy to use different emphases on the same word he keeps using. But that quickly takes a backseat once Aldo Sambrell, now without a face full of shoe polish, appears as a thousand-year-old mummy who is remarkably well preserved, all things considered. He may wear a cheap wrinkled face mask, but the remainder of his physique is quite devoid of any signs of aging from the makeup department.

When he isn’t in search of blood to rejuvenate his mug, terrorizing passengers by creeping into their rooms while they sleep, or converting any of the idiots responsible for discovering and moving his 1000-year-old sarcophagus, Aldo is on the hunt for his lost lady love. As fate would have it, her present-day reincarnation ‒ as played by regular Spanish horror hottie Eva León ‒ is part of this voyage of the damned dumbed, as she is one of the people who have brought his quirky coffin aboard. But before the movie can actually pick up enough steam to cruise at a sufficient pace, the filmmakers must first give us many shots of passengers getting drunk in the lounge.

Fortunately for some viewers, a bulk of the ship’s interior scenes feature the prominent assets of a very busty dancer, who is only too happy to share her bosom with us. In fact, she downright photobombs the characters of one scene as attempt to remind us that there’s supposed to be a movie going on, frolicking directly in front of the people masquerading as a supporting cast and into the lens itself. Said actress (who has since faded into obscurity for some reason) even gets to be in one of the film’s best highlights: as the mummy pushes her into a mirror, you can clearly see the cameraman and a crewmember standing in the reflection.

But unique photography is just one of Voodoo Black Exorcist‘s many unintentionally redeeming qualities. There’s also the wonderfully horrible theme music that cues up every time Aldo has a flashback; a man fighting a mummy with a firehose; the appearance of portly Spanish character actor Fernando Sancho as a slothful, cigar-chewing detective; one of the goofiest severed heads ever caught on film; an ending that truly defies all logic; and a transformation scene that would make the worst Poverty Row Wolf Man clone from the ’40s (and I’m looking directly at you, PRC’s The Mad Monster!) look like seamless visual effects artistry by comparison. What is this sorcery?!

For years, bad movie enthusiasts only had one method of killing off otherwise useful brain cells while watching Voodoo Black Exorcist, and that was via a shoddy, murky, well-worn (and usually bootlegged) full frame video print. And were the fact the film was actually shot in widescreen not amazing enough, you won’t be able to contain your astonishment when you see what The Film Detective has dug up for this, the first Blu-ray release of what is truly one of the greatest bad movies ever assembled. Scanned in 2k from a rare archival 35mm print, this is undoubtedly the best the film has ever looked, and is ‒ pardon the expression ‒ proof you can, in fact, polish a turd.

Said print, complete with all of the imperfections time and wear has bestowed upon it during the last 43 years, is quite a marvel to behold, really. This is the first time the movie has been seen in its intended 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio since 1974, and the aforementioned blemishes visible in this “grindhouse” print only add to the fun. Complete with anglicized credits, this is the original English-language American release of the film, which sports one of the funniest bad dubbing jobs ever recorded. It’s so awful, it really makes you wonder who cared less: the filmmakers, or the international distributors who surely picked this turkey up on the cheap.

Sadly, apart from some Closed Captioning for the feature film, there aren’t any special features for this marvel of advanced filmmaking, which means we still don’t have an explanation as to why Voodoo Black Exorcist exists, but I must confess I’m glad it does. Sure, it’s incompetent. But as far as incompetently-made movies go, this is one true masterpiece of a mess. And besides, this is as close as we ever got to a ’70s blaxploitation version of The Mummy, so there’s that bit of useless information working in its favor too, I s’pose. In short, if you love bad movies, your all-expenses paid trip to the Caribbean with that crazy Voodoo Black Exorcist cat has just sailed in. (I mean, it ain’t The Love Boat, but it’ll do.)

Highly Recommended.

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Luigi Bastardo

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