Based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story “The Oblong Box,” the script for this movie by Lawrence Huntington and Christopher Wicking also brings in plenty of other Poe themes like masked men, premature burial and, well, voodoo. Which has nothing to do with Poe, but hey — this is the first time Christopher Lee and Vincent Price were in a movie together, so let’s just ignore that.
While in Africa, Sir Edward Markham (Alister Williamson, who usually is in a supporting role) has his face ruined in a voodoo ceremony — shades of how The Great Kabuki (Japanese version) got his facepaint — and is kept locked up by his brother Julian (Vincent Price). The secret is that the crime that he was punished for — killing a child — was really the fault of his brother. Now, he wears the scars for the crime he did not commit.
He soon gets the family lawyer and a witchdoctor (Harry Baird, Cool It Carol) to help him fake his death, but his brother buries him — but first, a proxy as nobody wants to see what Sir Edward has become — before going off to marry his true love Elizabeth (Hilary Dwyer, which means that Matthew Hopkins finally got to have his way with Sara).
Meanwhile, Sir Edward is dug up — still alive — and given to Dr. Newhartt (Lee) to use as an experimental autopsy. The facially deformed madman blackmails the doctor and starts murdering nearly everyone he meets. By the end of this movie, numerous people have been horribly killed and both brothers are sentenced for their crimes, if not by the law, then by karma.
Sadly, this movie was to reteam Witchfinder General director Michael Reeves with Price. That film led to a renaissance of Poe films from AIP. However, Reeves fell ill while working on the film — he was also going to make an adaption of H.G. Welles’ When the Sleeper Wakes with AIP. He’d die a few months later of an accidental drug overdose. Instead, this was directed by Gordon Hessler, who also made Pray for Death and Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.
The pro-black scene of the slaves rising up against Sir Edward was enough to get this movie banned in Texas, which happened within several of our lifetimes. The world changes eventually, right?