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  Voodoo Man The Terrible Trio
Year: 1944
Director: William Beaudine
Stars: Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, George Zucco, Wanda MacKay, Louise Currie, Tod Andrews, Ellen Hall, Terry Walker, Mary Currier, Claire James, Henry Hall, Dan White, Pat McKee, Mici Goty
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: A lone woman driver is out in the countryside one night when she finds herself slightly lost, but as luck would have it she sees a gas station up ahead and stops to ask for directions. A middle-aged Englishman appears and offers to help, giving his advice to carry on up to the fork in the road; she thanks him and carries on, little knowing she has been duped for the station owner, Nicholas (George Zucco) has sent her to her potential doom. He gets on the phone to two henchmen up ahead, and they uncover a hidden route, then place a detour sign on the official road, leading the motorist the wrong way, whereupon her car breaks down and the henchmen pounce, dragging her from it and towards a trapdoor in the bushes...

Back in 1944, the world would have to wait thirteen years (unlucky for some) for the Voodoo Woman to show up on their movie screens, but as luck would have it a Voodoo Man was here to pass the time before that eventuality. It's debatable which cast member was the titular fiend for there were at least four options, but for the purposes of this we had to assume Bela Lugosi was that character, since he played Dr Richard Marlowe the head honcho to a bunch of shifty types who get their kicks from kidnapping young women from the quiet road at night. That said, the star wattage for vintage horror fans was not to be sneezed at, for producer Sam Katzman had hired three icons of the genre.

Lugosi here was ending his contract with the notoriously cheap "Poverty Row" outfit Monogram, having made nine films with them of which this was the last, a selection that many buffs like to collect as if they were a matching set, though some are easier to come by than others. Typically, the star would take the part of a mad scientist or practioner of supernatural arts as he did here, though he had a catatonic wife to add pathos since he wishes to revive her by transferring the life force of the kidnapped women into the body of the missus (Ellen Hall), a practice which appears to succeed for a few seconds before leaving the doctor distraught that he has lost her to the whims of fate once more. Or maybe that's what you get when you hire George Zucco to perform the rites.

Yes, those ritual sequences were quite something seeing as how it united the trio of horror stars - Lugosi, Zucco, and John Carradine as a simpleton thug on drums - and had them act out a curious scene, the first two decorated in some striking Aleister Crowley-style decorated robes (Carradine didn't make the effort, sadly). They intone some nonsense about "Ramboona" and Zucco makes a couple of lengths of rope tie themselves together with stunning special effects (they pulled the ropes apart and ran the clip backwards), as the two ladies in question stare off into space (did I mention the doc has the power of hypnosis at his disposal? Well he does). Naturally this absurdity is the perfect tonic for fans of ancient horror movies, though chuckles are more likely than chills nowadays.

In a spot of apparent autobiography on the part of screenwriter Robert Charles, the hero in this case is Ralph Dawson (stage actor Tod Andrews under the pseudonym he used for cheapo efforts), who is a screenwriter ordered to script a film about the disappearances by his boss at Banner pictures, S.K., who sadly was not played by the actual boss at Banner pictures, Sam Katzman, but it was an in-joke they could cheerfully make when working with such a low stakes production - just listen for the final line for the ultimate in cheek in that respect. Ralph loses Stella (Louise Currie, the last member of the Citizen Kane cast to pass away, fact fans) on that darned road, who in a coincidence is the cousin of Betty (Wanda MacKay), the woman he's supposed to be marrying that week - Stella was driving over to attend the wedding. With the cops not much help, Ralph and Betty take it upon themselves to sleuth, bringing together the cast for a denouement to a movie that paradoxically moves briskly under the prolific William Beaudine's functional direction, yet feels oddly leisurely.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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