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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Voodoo Man (Blu-ray)
Voodoo Man (Blu-ray)
Olive Films // Unrated // November 24, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted November 28, 2015 | E-mail the Author
"You know, I've seen people act like that in pictures. What do they call 'em — zombies or something?"
"Now, now, honey. There are no such people. That's only a scenario writer's nightmare. I know: I wrote them once."


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Ripped from the headlines! Three young, beautiful women have been snatched from their cars on some sleepy, hopelessly remote stretch of road. Screenwriter Ralph Dawson (Tod Andrews) is enlisted to hammer out a horror flick from this all-too-real nightmare, but...c'mon, the guy's about to head out the door to get hitched, and he can't bring himself to think about vanishing girls on his honeymoon. Little does Ralph know he's about to find himself in the middle of the story he doesn't wanna write about...

Richard Marlowe (Bela Lugosi) can sympathize. The good doctor is somewhat of a romantic himself, still carrying a torch for his wife even after all these decades. The only thing is that Evelyn (Ellen Hall) passed away twenty-two long years ago. Wholly unable to say goodbye, Marlowe has his late wife in a state of suspended animation -- neither living nor quite dead -- and still looking as young and vibrant as she did the day she was taken from him. Where science has failed him (what do you think this is, The Corpse Vanishes?), the doctor turns instead to voodoo. He drains the will to live from the women that his henchmen (John Carradine and George Zucco chief among them) drag to his hidden lair, imprisoning their spent, zombified shells so they don't shamble away. It's not a total failure; Evelyn is revived, if only for a moment, but Marlowe must find the right girl if there's any hope to bring his wife back permanently. I'm guessing you can figure out where Ralph figures into all of this, what with a bride-to-be (Wanda McKay) and her maid of honor (Louise Currie) making such alluring targets.

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Churned out for milk money in 1944 by Poverty Row outfit Monogram Pictures, Voodoo Man in no way succeeds as a horror flick. Despite clocking in at a lean 62 minutes, the clumsily paced movie feels as if it drags on for at least twice that length. It never manages to generate anything resembling tension or dread. Up until its final moments, the body count hovers at a rocksteady zero. The screenplay is nonsense pretty much from start to finish. Director William "One-Shot" Beaudine makes no real effort to mask how chintzy the production design is and can't be bothered to do much of anything with the camera, although the parade of gorgeous women at least offer up something nice to look at. Heck, even the voodoo rites are a laugh, especially with a dazed John Carradine pounding away at some tribal drum.

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At the same time, there's a spark to Voodoo Man that sets it apart from the rest of this dreck. The dialogue by Robert Charles in particular is awfully meta for a guy who'd never hammered out a produced screenplay before. Ralph works under a studio exec named S.K. at the Banner Motion Picture Company, which might look kinda familiar if you spot Sam Katzman and his Banner Productions in the opening credits. He snarks about dreadful zombie pictures, and there's a quip at the very end about how Banner should cast Bela Lugosi in the screenplay this whole ordeal inspires. The comic banter between the ineffective sheriff (Henry Hall) and his double-digit IQ deputy (Dan White) is one swing-and-a-miss after another, but Voodoo Man's sense of humor is otherwise sharp enough to deliberately coax some laughs outta me. The cast seems to be having a blast, especially the stoned-out-of-his-gourd Carradine, and Tod Andrews -- credited here under his B-movie pseudoynm Michael Ames -- makes for a pretty compelling lead. ...and, again, there's that other kind of production value:

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Voodoo Man isn't good in the sense of...well, anything, really, but part of me kind of loves it anyway. If nothing else, maybe you'll get a few solid riffs out of it. (RiffTrax and the earliest incarnation of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have both skewered it over the years.) If you've somehow managed to make it this far into the review, chances are that you'll find Voodoo Man well-worth seeking out on Blu-ray. Recommended as long as you know what you're getting into here.


Video
Olive Films and the folks at Paramount have done a hell of a job resurrecting Voodoo Man. I found myself immediately struck by the level of definition and detail on display here. I mean, even just a few seconds in, it's unmistakably clear that this is a proper high definition presentation. Especially with as nicely resolved as its sheen of grain is, I get the sense that every micron of detail in the source elements has found its way onto this Blu-ray disc. Voodoo Man has been cleaned up nicely, with impressively little in the way of speckling or wear, and it's all been handled skillfully enough that the image always comes across as filmic. Voodoo Man looks far better splashed across my display than the screenshots scattered throughout this review might suggest. While this isn't the most dazzlingly crisp presentation I've ever come across, this Blu-ray disc far, far exceeds what I waltzed in expecting to see, and I'm thrilled with the end result.

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If you're chomping at the bit for some more technical notes...? BD-25 disc. AVC encode. Theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1.


Audio
Delivered in 24-bit, two-channel mono, this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack doesn't leave a whole lot of room for complaint either. A few scattered stretches of dialogue sound kind of boxy, but otherwise, I'm floored by how clean and clear the lossless audio is. The hiss lurking in the background is so mild that it took me twenty minutes or so to even notice it, and there's no clipping, strain, drop-outs, pops, clicks, noise reduction artifacts, or...well, much of anything to grouse or groan about at all. Some may frown at the lack of subtitles or any other audio options, but when the primary track is this impressive, I've still gotta give it a couple of thumbs up.


Extras
None. I don't want to leave this section completely empty, though, so I'll throw in a screenshot as filler:

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The Final Word
 I'm a King Kong man.
 I'm a voodoo man.
 Oh, I'm an ape man.

Ramboona never fails, and neither does Olive Films. If you first stumbled upon Voodoo Man by flipping around the UHF dial as a kid, this Blu-ray release ought to be a revelation, boasting a presentation that completely eclipses anything I could ever have hoped to see or hear. For those who have not yet been initiated into the dark magicks of voodoo, though, this one might be a bit of a tough sell. Glacially paced and woefully uninvolving, Voodoo Man may not make for much of a horror flick, but its snarky, self-aware sense of humor, low-rent charm, and the by-Monogram-standards-anyway marquee draw of George Zucco, John Carradine, and Bela Lugosi go a long way towards making up for that. Recommended for anyone who can rattle off all of the Monogram Nine without cheating; more of a rental -- if that -- for the rest of you sad lot.
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