Thursday, October 16, 2014


Voodoo Island is best known (if at all) as one of many programmers made by Boris Karloff in the 1950s. It's not one of King Karloff's best moments.

Howard Carlton (Owen Cunningham) is a very wealthy man who has finally decided to look into developing a Pacific island he purchased some time ago. Supposedly uninhabited, the island has a bad reputation with the natives in the area and it is said that no one who goes there ever returns. Unconcerned about superstition plus seeing potential gold on them thar shores, Carlton recently sent a team of land surveyors to look over the place with an eye to building a hotel and resort in this tropical paradise. But the only member of the group to return was Mitchell (Glenn Dixon) who washed up on another island in a small boat. Alive but in a catatonic, zombie-like state Mitchell can offer no information on what happened. Carlton calls in Phillip Knight (Karloff), a professional skeptic and debunker of supernatural claims, asking him to visit the island to discover what happened to the surveyors. Knight openly doubts Carlton's tale with not even Mitchell’s odd state convincing him this isn't an elaborate Voodoo publicity stunt. He agrees to go but insists on complete autonomy and the right to publish his findings his own way. Carlton agrees and allows Knight to take a small group with him sending his right hand man Finch (Murvyn Vye) along to smooth any money problems. Also making the journey is Carlton's head architect Clair Winter (Jean Engstrom), Knight’s assistant Sarah Adams (Beverly Tyler) and Mitchell is taken along just because Knight wants him to go. 

En route by plane the group begins to experience strange things such as malfunctioning radios and odd disappearing storms. These phenomenon are topped by the strange death of Mitchell just as they are about to board a boat to the dreaded isle. Once on the island the intrepid crew slashes their way into the jungle looking for the previous team's trail but find only tree markers and abandoned surveying equipment. The group fight off pesky insects and pad out the film with some grade C romance between the very attractive Miss Adams and the macho boozehound boat captain Mr. Gunn (Rhodes Reason). Luckily for those of us who know the argue/fight/bond/kiss routine of such subplots we finally get to business when the fetching Miss Winter goes skinny-dipping alone in a lake. Craning our necks for a glimpse of skin instead we're given a carnivorous (and apparently inflatable) plant that attacks and kills the lady, depositing her corpse on the shore. Soon after this, another type of plant resembling a creepy, pulsing suction cup lampreys itself onto Adams' right breast! The men quickly free her (and just as I began to think all the plant life had a taste for human females) the island's natives take everyone prisoner. The native chief explains they have lived in this taboo place for years and wish to be left alone. After witnessing another of his companions die unexplainably after seeing his likeness on a voodoo doll Knight agrees, and the rest of the party are allowed to go home. The End.

Voodoo Island is a bore, pure and simple. A dull story, pedestrian acting, silly dialog and a complete lack of explanation for anything that occurs puts this on the list of the worst Karloff movies I've ever seen. I can't blame poor Boris too much — he tries hard to sell his lines, but he's asked to spout some very stupid things. Humorously, some of his most memorable lines are when he is trying to convince the group not to return to their boat and leave. His incredible argument for staying in the obviously deadly jungle is hysterical and actually had me laughing out loud. If the film had maintained this level of nuttiness I think we'd have had a cheese classic. But unfortunately this scene, the inflatable plant monster attacks and the silly romance are the only things that inject any life into this thing. I thought things were going to improve when character actor Elisha Cook Jr. showed up as the money-hungry owner of a nearby island, but even his efforts can't raise much interest. The bad script just can't be overcome.

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