Thursday, January 29, 2015


Deep in the African jungle, Carl, a doctor, lives with his young, vivacious wife Tonda (Allison Hayes; she looks about as Caucasian as he is, but she's apparently a native) at the edge of a small village. She doesn't seem terribly content with her lot in life—in the first scene, we see her use a voodoo doll to cause her napping husband to start suffocating, though when Suba (a villager and house servant) arrives to help him, she stops. Soon after this, three filmmakers—Tom, Norman and Joe—arrive, with Joe unconscious and badly injured from a lion mauling. The doctor tends to him but warns them that the case looks hopeless. Tom (Paul Burke) and Tonda hit it off and, while flirting, he asks, "How can a young and beautiful girl be happy living in the jungle?" Her sultry reply: "How do you know I'm happy?" Suba sees her with Tom and calls her a "bad, bad woman" but kisses her up anyway, which naturally bothers Suba's wife Mara. That night, Tom witnesses Tonda leave the house and lead the villagers in a voodoo ritual that involves the tied-up shirtless Suba having a dead chicken thrown on his chest. The next morning, Suba is dead but Joe is miraculously recovering from his wounds. The problem: the ritual has caused a transmigration of souls, and Suba's soul inhabits Joe's body, so needless to say, Tom's a little confused when the recovered Joe goes off with Mara. He's even more confused when Tonda asks Tom to kill her husband so she can go off with Tom.

Allison Hayes was a B-movie "scream queen" in late 50s films like ZOMBIES OF MARA TAU and ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN, but this, though definitely a B-movie, isn't a horror film as much as a mildly exotic melodrama with supernatural overtones. And when the murder plot becomes apparent, it turns into DOUBLE INDEMNITY starring a frustrated voodoo priestess instead of a frustrated California housewife. Hayes was not a particularly good actress, but she had a certain "va-va-va-voom" (as we would have said as kids) element going for her, and that's good enough for this movie, though her voodoo dancing isn't as enthusiastic as male teens of the 50s might have liked. She doesn't even try for a native accent, though her skin does seem to have been darkened a degree or so, maybe with the same kind of make-up Ava Gardner used to "dusky up" in SHOW BOAT. Paul Burke, best known for TV work on Naked City and Dynasty (and as the male lead in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) acquits himself well enough as the moderately hunky hero. Once you realize that the horror/gore quotient here is fairly low—one character's heart is cut out but we don't see it—it's an enjoyable enough trashy melodrama. [Warner Archive Instant]

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