Got your snacks? Alright then, spin the reel up and head back to 1957 with this month’s double bill: Voodoo Island & Pharaoh’s Curse!
Voodoo Island (1957)
Directed by Reginald Le Borg, no stranger to the horror genre having worked on films like The Black Sleep and The Mummy’s Ghost, this film largely takes place in the South Pacific region. Looking to expand their business empire, Carlton Hotels has sent a scouting mission to an unexplored island in the area that turned up unsuccessful. In fact, only one survived and is in a comatose state upon being discovered.
On a side note I couldn’t help but wonder how these “zombies” go to the bathroom. Anyone else or is it just me?
Having invested millions already, Howard Carlton enlists the help of Phillip Knight (played by Boris Karloff) to head a team back to the island to deduce just what has happened. A famed hoax debunker, Knight is hired to clear the matter up so Carlton can continue his development and presumably raze significant portions of the wildlife for his extravagant resort.
“I shudder to think how this film would seem without being carried by Boris Karloff. Replace him and the film would be quite forgettable.”
Though it’s more than likely unintentional, there’s a theme here on the unethical practice of despoiling the natural world in favor of modernization for a wealthy portion of society. It’s not quite as graphic here as opposed to other films that have tackled the issue like The Green Inferno (2015) or Cannibal Holocaust (1980) before it, but it’s there nonetheless.
What follows is a pretty lackluster “voodoo” story which, aside from the title, is a tad light on the material. There’s some neat visuals with voodoo dolls at the beginning, but they don’t play that large of a part in the movie.
Getting to the island isn’t so easy, and the cast don’t actually land on it until around the 40 minute mark, mostly due to unseen forces. A radio signal triggers their “zombie,” Mitchell, and communications issues with a nearby landing field adjacent to the island causes some trouble. During this time, the movie features a young Adam West (Batman) in his first ever feature film.
Most of the horror comes from the island being littered with killer fauna. Man-eating plants are lurking everywhere and are probably the reason that this island has been avoided for so long. There’s also some comically awful, large Coconut Crab puppets. In the end, the crew finds that there are some indigenous inhabitants to the island as well as some who first came to the island some 50 years ago. They’ve used the killer plants and voodoo to ensure they are left alone and Knight promises to give them just that in exchange for their lives.
I shudder to think how this film would seem without being carried by Boris Karloff. Replace him and the film would be quite forgettable. That’s not even to say that his acting was of particular note, but he’s iconic enough that it really doesn’t matter much. Just his presence on-screen lends some credibility to the finished product.
Pharaoh’s Curse (1957)
A mummy movie is a mummy movie, for the most part, but this one has a few noticeable differences that stand out among some of the other traditional mummy fare.
The movie kicks off in Cairo, Egypt, in the year 1902. Mobs raid the British soldiers responsible for expeditions into the tombs of long-dead Pharaohs. The film describes the violence in the street, with one man having his tongue forcibly removed. The chaos prompts a retrieval expedition to bring back a previous group tasked with finding the lost tomb of Rahateb.
Along for the mission is Captain Storm, Gromley, Smolet a few guides and soldiers, and one Sylvia Quentin. Sylvia is the wife of Robert Quentin who heads up the expedition. While making the perilous trek in the desert, the crew comes across a mysterious woman named Simira who is searching for her brother, Numar, also with the hunted expedition.
“Animals and people turn up drained of blood, attacked by a lumbering Numar who is the most “grandpa” mummy I’ve ever seen…”
After an unfortunate run-in with a scorpion, the group reluctantly takes Simira’s shortcut in order to get Sylvia some much needed medical attention. Locating the missing expedition and the tomb of Rahateb, it’s soon revealed that the sarcophagus contains the mummified remains of Rahateb’s High Preist. Immediately following its opening, Numar collapses.
Numar begins to rapidly age and decompose, and the murdering begins! Animals and people turn up drained of blood, attacked by a lumbering Numar who is the most “grandpa” mummy I’ve ever seen. All the while, a cat’s shadow has been seen roaming around leaving tiny cat paw prints that do spooky things like dead-end at solid walls.
It turns out that Rahateb’s High Priest killed himself in some form of ritual to guard the tomb of his master. He accomplishes this by inhabiting the bodies of intruders and killing off the remaining members. Before escaping, the crew discovers that the body now residing in the opened sarcophagus is Numar’s and that his sister, Simira, is the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet in human form. The Twist!
Not a bad film by any stretch, and in my opinion, much better than Voodoo Island.