Director: Manuel Caño
The Film Detective

PD-eyesore VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST gets an HD upgrade with The Film Detective's manufactured-on-demand BD-R.

On the island of Haiti, forbidden lovers Guedé Nibo (Aldo Sambrell, TENDER FLESH) and Kenya (Eva León, HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN) are discovered by her father who is accidentally killed in the ensuing struggle. Kenya is ceremonially decapitated while Guedé Nibo is entombed alive in a wooden sarcophagus hidden in a ceremonial cave. One thousand years later, the sarcophagus is being returned from an Egyptian museum to Port au Prince aboard a luxury liner. The sarcophagus and its well-preserved mummy are being studied by Professor Kessling (Alfredo Mayo, A BELL FROM HELL) and his mistress/research assistant Sylvia (Léon again). A floorshow by a voodoo priest and priestess awakens Guedé Nibo who turns into a white guy. He spots Sylvia and recognizes her as the reincarnation of Kenya but only makes his presence known when he recognizes one of the boat's stewards as the reincarnation of Kenya's executioner and leaves the man's head as an offering in Sylvia's bed. Guedé Nibo murders and takes over the identity of Kessling's colleague Dr. Craig in order to romance Sylvia. Guedé Nibo reveals his true identity to the Kessling and offers specialized knowledge in return for his secrecy and obedience. Local police inspector Dominguez (Fernando Sancho, RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD) is on the case as Guedé Nibo is unable to retain his youthful appearance and driven to commit more murders.

VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST is not a Blaxploitation version of THE EXORCIST – the actual export title was probably something like BLOODTHIRSTY VOODOO – owing far more to the Universal and Hammer versions of THE MUMMY than even Paul Naschy's contemporaneous THE MUMMY'S REVENGE; indeed producer José Antonio Pérez Giner (VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES) may have been trying to turn Sambrell into another Paul Naschy, and the Spaghetti Western character actor does try to invest his character with some pathos but everything else is just too absurd, from the English dubbing (further hampered by affecting Caribbean accents) and the blackface make-up that washes off in the surf, to the gore which extends to severed heads that look like papier mache pasted over mannequin heads to the silly voodoo rights and action set-pieces that culminate in the abrupt ending. It is certainly the lesser of the back-to-back productions for director Manuel Caño – who had previously directed a pair of Tarzan films starring Steve Hawkes in the same locations (one of which resulted in an on-set accident that badly burned Hawkes and his co-star) – scripted by the usually brilliant Santiago Moncada (HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON), the other being THE SWAMP OF THE RAVENS (currently available on DVD from VCI in a double bill with the uncut version of Del Tenney's I EAT YOUR SKIN). Everything about the production is bottom-of-the-barrel, from the grainer-than-usual Techniscope photography of Roberto Ochoa – which incorporates the same stock footage of the Earth viewed from space that closed HORROR EXPRESS – to the uninteresting score from the usually inspired Fernando García Morcillo (NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS, THE WITCHES MOUNTAIN). While the film is not improved in widescreen, it is still nice to see it on something close to its intended form.

Until this release, the horridly panned-and-scanned Duravision VHS transfer has persisted on unauthorized DVD releases from companies like Videoasia and Mill Creek. Two Blu-ray releases of the film have been announced, and The Film Detective's manufactured-on-demand BD-R is the first out of the gate. The 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen release comes from an American 35mm print – the title card still appears on a freeze frame – that restores the scope framing, and the extra picture information and enhanced resolution calling to attention even more of the film's shortcomings. The collage of pasted photographs under the opening titles is just that rather than another optical pass while the glare during the flashbacks is revealed to be a filter rather than projector jitter. The scope frame occasionally sports an inventive composition or two but finally seeing the widescreen version reveals that this was never a good-looking production even before the ravages of time on the print (occasional scratches, some green dings, density fluctuation, and fading). Since this is the American version, the end credits are blacked out but the music continues for over a minute; and it is likely that there were end credits since the music is accompanied by a reprise of the voiceover from the opening promising that the mummy will be back to search for his mate in another thousand years. The only audio option is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track of the English dub that is more consistently clean than the picture elements, although it is not particularly vibrant even as a lossless track. Optional English SHD subtitles are also provided. Sadly, there are no extras. (Eric Cotenas)