Voodoo Black Exorcist Blu-ray Review

Can a Mummy Find Love In This Voodoo Thriller?

The year is 1974 and drive-in movie theaters have an insatiable demand for cheap, disposable horror films. The Exorcist became a horror phenomenon earlier in the decade and Blaxploitation was lighting up the exploitation market. Thanks to the tricks of movie marketing cashing in on those fads, Voodoo Black Exorcist has nothing to do with either exorcism or even Blaxploitation. There is some voodoo involved, if you are wondering. This is the English-language dub of a cheap movie made in Spanish, so expect the out-of-sync dialogue common to older kung-fu flicks and somewhat dodgy special effects.

In this Spanish production originally titled Vudú sangriento, the mummy of a voodoo priest stalks the passengers of a cruise ship in this macabre thriller from director Manuel Caño (The Swamp of the Ravens) and producer José Antonio Pérez Giner (Tombs of the Blind Dead). Filmed in such locations as Jamaica and Haiti, this supernatural tale stars Aldo Sambrell (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) and Fernando Sanchez (Return of the Evil Dead). Thanks to the public domain, everyone can now enjoy the mostly forgotten Voodoo Black Exorcist on Blu-ray courtesy of niche label The Film Detective.

Gatanebo (Aldo Sambrell) was a powerful Caribbean voodoo priest. After a confusing opening set in the distant past that may or may involve a love triangle, Gatanebo is turned into a mummy in some kind of native voodoo ritual. 1000 years later, he’s revived on a luxury South Seas ocean liner by accident. Terrorizing passengers on the ship in his horrifying mummy state, Gatanebo occasionally reverts to his human appearance. That enables the voodoo priest to mingle with the passengers and fall in love with the ravishing Sylvia (Eva León), who reminds him of his dead lover Kenya.

Sylvia is the secretary/girlfriend of Dr. Kessling. He’s a so-called expert on primitive cultures and the one responsible for bringing Gatanebo’s mummified corpse onto the ship. Sylvia seems receptive to the mummy’s charms, having become fed up with her relationship to Dr. Kessling. He’s more interested in studying mummies than marrying her.

Let’s make one thing clear. It’s tough to enjoy Voodoo Black Exorcist with its turgid pacing and uninspiring scares. The most interesting thing about the story is that it anticipates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by framing its monster as a man looking for his deceased lover, finding a modern woman that resembles her. Gatanebo is shown killing as a ruthless monster, but we learn he’s seeking revenge on what he believes are the reincarnations of his true love’s killers.

The most interesting thing about the story is that it anticipates Bram Stoker’s Dracula

He’s not a mindless killing machine. His motivation is reuniting with his love. In another parallel with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, he switches from monster to man and then back again. It still doesn’t make Voodoo Black Exorcist anything more than cheap Spanish exploitation, but I would wager the screenwriter of Coppola’s movie was familiar with it. Gatanebo is definitely one of the most romantic mummies seen on the silver screen.

As exploitation fare, it’s hit or miss. Eva León and other actresses go around in skimpy outfits, occasionally flashing skin. A “native” dancer likes strutting her stuff on the cruise ship in one of the more gratuitous sequences from the 1970s. The special effects for the mummy and his voodoo rituals are nothing to write home about, using crude optical effects and filters in place of more realistic techniques. The only really memorable scene is when Sylvia wakes to find a decapitated head in her bed. Gatanebo thought it would make a nice gift. Apparently courtship practices were a little different in his original time.

If you have some mission to see every mummy movie ever made, you might as well include Voodoo Black Exorcist. Others can skip the plodding horror movie without much worry.

Video

The Film Detective has been rescuing several public domain movies and putting them on BD-Rs from actual film elements. Voodoo Black Exorcist was a Techniscope production. Like most European Techniscope films, the movie’s picture quality reflects its low-budget origins. This is a 2K “restoration” of what the label calls 35mm Archival Material. The transfer is certainly not from the negative. This appears to be a 35mm IP or an actual print in serviceable condition. It does present the movie correctly in its preferred 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

The picture is soft with some telecine wobble. The elements are inconsistently clean. Some reels show much more wear and damage, including scratches and debris. Its contrast and colors are stable but hardly exemplary. The rough print shows some fading at times in the Eastmancolor stock.

The good news is that The Film Detective hasn’t filtered their film transfer. Most of its softness and dull resolution can be pinned on the cheap Techniscope production’s cinematography. Definition is rather weak for 1080P video. It lies in that valley between DVD and HD, producing sub-par results.

Audio

The film’s monaural English soundtrack is included in adequate 2.0 DTS-HD MA. There are a number of problems with the dialogue being out of sync with the actors’ lips. A few scenes also have an annoying, boxy echo with overwhelming hiss.

Composer Fernand Morcillo’s score sounds better, recorded with tighter fidelity and clarity. It’s filled with tribal rhythms and pulsing drums. Don’t expect an audiophile experience with this soundtrack. Voodoo Black Exorcist has some audio issues and likely will never sound clean again.

Optional English SDH subtitles are in white, always inside the 2.35:1 presentation.

Extras

No special features are included.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not influenced DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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