Uninvolving and resoundingly unerotic, Macumba Sexual (1981) is like a half-hour episode of Twilight Zone unbearably stretched to 80 long minutes while taking the form of an Emmanuelle-type Euro sex film. This reviewer had moderately enjoyed Jess Franco's somewhat similar Sadomania, made just prior to this with most of the same cast and crew; that film was quite ridiculous but entertaining. Macumba Sexual, on the other hand, is a nearly plotless bore.
Franco's longtime wife and collaborator, Lina Romay (billed here as Candy Coster and wearing a patently obvious wig), stars as American Alice Brooks, who while vacationing on a sub-tropical paradise island with her novelist boyfriend (Antonio Mayans, billed as Robert Foster) gets a call from her boss, the head of a big real estate company. He asks her to call on mysterious voodoo Princess Tara Obongo (statuesque transsexual Ajita Wilson), who has expressed interest in buying a house back in Atlantic City (!).
A little wider please....I can't see those fillings.
Princess Obongo lives in a Moorish hideaway / Club Med sort of palace with two naked, dog-collared human slaves, Poppy and Tulip (Lorna Green and Jose Lamas?), whom she takes for walks as if they were two black labs. Using Voodoo, she's been pervading Alice's dreams with strange sexual desires, all of which come alive once she's in Princess Obongo's domain.
Macumba Sexual is a real nothing of a movie, though Severin Films' presentation and extras are pleasant enough. One step removed from hard-core porn, the film offers long, dull seduction scenes with mostly unattractive actors inter-cut with even duller footage of these same actors wandering endlessly through sand dunes or riding lazy camels as director Franco unsteadily zooms in and out of the lifeless footage.
Photographed in Techniscope by Juan Soler off the coast of Spain on the island of Gran Canaria, the film is shot more competently than usual for a Franco film, but still has moments of ineptitude, like the first glimpse of Alice's naked body, marred by a pesky fly that lands on her breast, or intended erotica with Ajita Wilson, shot from an extreme angle that accomplishes nothing except offering viewers a surprisingly clear look at the fillings in her upper bicuspids. The film is unintentionally silly in other ways, too: a voodoo idol intended to generate feelings of dread is seriously undermined by the fact that it closely resembles a half-melted rubber chicken.
Nothing about the film is arousing, and since there's no attempt at characterization at all - Princess Obongo, for instance, mostly just stands around laughing maniacally - any interest wanes awfully fast. Franco himself is on hand as a feeble-minded hotel clerk, Meme, but adds nothing to the film.
Video & Audio
Macumba Sexual is presented in its original 'scope format in an excellent 16:9 enhanced transfer derived from the original negative. The image has good color (original lab work by Eastman Color) and is bright and sharp with little signs of wear. The film is in Spanish mono with optional English subtitles.
The only supplement is Voodoo Jess, a 22-minute featurette in 16:9 format with interviews with Franco and Romay. Franco, speaking English but subtitled for the sake of clarity, doesn't have much to say, though his suggestion that in these films Wilson functions as a "female Christopher Lee" is interesting and on the mark. She even wears a Dracula-style cape in this one.
Macumba Sexual is mind-numbing entertainment for Franco completests only. All others will find it excruciatingly dull.
Film historian Stuart Galbraith IV's most recent essays appear in Criterion's new three-disc Seven Samurai DVD and BCI Eclipse's The Quiet Duel.