Friday, October 31, 2008

Voodoo Swamp (1962)

Directed by:
Arthur Jones (?)

Contained as a surprise extra on Media Blasters' BLOOD OF THE ZOMBIE (originally titled THE DEAD ONE) DVD, this amateurish feature-length (70-minute) effort is a real chore to sit through. As far as I know, the film had not previously been released theatrically, nor did it ever see the light of day on a home viewing format until the recent 2003 DVD release. There are no credits, so the production history is pretty much unknown. There's also no music score. Much of the dialogue seems to be post sync; check how many shots are of the back of someone's head when they speak, with some of the most annoying voices ever used used for the dubbing. Sometimes there aren't even sound effects when people are splashing around in water or doing other things that would normally make sound. And that's only the beginning of the technical ineptitude. The worst part could possibly be the strange overlapping effect used for scene transitions in editing. I have no clue what was used to put the scenes together, but it's incredibly annoying throughout. There's also a completely pointless silent clip montage at the very beginning; a woman tied to a pole moaning for about 30 seconds, a rattlesnake, a crocodile, fire, a guy diving underwater, a guy hunched over on a bar, and other stuff that really doesn't seem to have much to do with anything until we later learn these are actual shots from the film thrown together at the begin to pad it out.

Around New Orleans, Marie Ryan shows up looking for her missing twin sister Vicky. She enlists the aid of detective Jack Craig to find her. Unfortunately, Jack is made out to be an obnoxious dick in the dub, so it's impossible to care much as you follow him around the swamps looking for the missing girl. The two learn that Vicky had moved in with a strange woman named Olivia and disappeared soon after that. Olivia turns out to be a voodoo priestess with a bodybuilder-sized "zombie" sidekick (in no makeup) who runs some slave camp deep within "Voodoo Swamp." Marie and Jack hop in a canoe and decide to see if they can find her, and run across all kinds of horrors, such as deadly animals (rattlesnakes, a tarantula, a crocodile) that never cross into the frame with the actors, a skull on a stick and (gasp!) some guy standing in a field picking cotton, which requires a couple of long shots. It's every bit as exciting as it sounds.

The action, horror and excitement quotient is almost nil, and you'd be hard pressed to find a movie with this much filler. At the beginning there's a brief scene at a titty bar with two brief shots of a stripper wearing silver pasties. And there's a flashback where some woman at a party unenthusiastically dances for a couple of minutes next to a table with two candles and some beer bottles. And there's an underwater wrestling match between Jack and the zombie bodybuilder that ends in Jack - still alive - being picked up and hurtled toward the shore. Marie (who looks an awful lot like BLOOD OF THE ZOMBIE star Linda Ormond, and might actually be her) gets wet and has to change clothes, so there's one muddy shot of her in her bra and one from behind as she puts on a new bra (nope, no nudity... hey, this is 1960 something). The last couple of minutes finds time for a decapitation and our "hero" crashing a voodoo ceremony with a machine gun, but it's too little, too late and too badly done. And despite the constant incompetence, there are just a few choice bad movie cheap laughs; my favorites being the dubbed over kid's voice (obviously an adult imitating a child) and during the climactic voodoo ceremony when they apparently couldn't find a drum so they just had one of the black extras beat against the side of a boat.

In short, this is certainly some kind of discovery. How many unreleased, unheard of regional horror films from the 1960s do you see cropping up on DVD these days? Still, it's very easy to see why this never really saw the light of the day until 40 years later. It's ineptly made, obviously no one even bothered to finish it and worse of all, it's incredibly boring from start to finish. I've read on some websites that this was made by the same people behind BLOOD OF THE ZOMBIE/THE DEAD ONE (Mardi Gras Productions Inc. and director Barry Mahon), but have been unable to verify that. Another source (which I'm more apt to believe) states that the film was directed and produced by former strongman, and the founder of Nautilus, Arthur Jones. The guy playing the big zombie henchman is Bill Pearl, a five-time Mr. Universe.



Anonymous said...

I'm a freelance writer who just interviewed the great Bill Pearl, who played the "bodybuilder-type" zombie in this film. Arthur Jones, who directed and wrote Voodoo Swamp, was a pioneer in fitness equipment. He created the line of Nautilus machines so popular in gyms for decades. Arthur convinced Bill to act in the movie as a favor, and Bill didn't have a clue. If you look closely during one of the flashbacks (I think it's a scene where someone is either dancing or playing an instrument), you'll see partygoers sitting at tables, watching. One of them is Bill is a suit and tie. He was a rugged Bodybuilder, certainly one of the biggest of his era and a multiple Mr. Universe winner. Today, he's 81 and still hale and hardy. I gotta say, watching him flail about at the end of this film and actually decapitate someone was hilarious! But the absolute worst part was the shots of animals actually being killed by the annoying "actor" who played the detective. Pure trash and totally forgettable, but Bill was an impressive specimen!

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Thanks so much for the post. There is next to no information anywhere online about this very obscure movie so the more the merrier! Glad to also get a verification that Jones was indeed the director. Thanks again!

Unknown said...

Stumbled across your post after reading some old correspondence written by my father, at the time and employee of Arthur Jones. Dated 10/20/1960 in relevant part it reads; "Arthur has spent the summer shooting and directing a feature length, theater release movie. Its title: "Voodoo Swamp" - a thriller, chiller with blood, guts and sex. Should make some money but will not be nominated for an academy award. We all had small parts in it."

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Thanks for the info Denys! There is next to no information available about this title anywhere. Nice to know WHEN it was filmed. I'm still not so sure if this played theatrically or not or when / where it played. Must have been a short-lived release if it was. I have also never been able to find a theatrical poster for this one!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...