Mill Creek Drive-In Classics: Voodoo Black Exorcist (1974)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lint Hatcher publishers the absolutely, well, wonderful Wonder Magazine. We’re excited to feature him on this site and his take on this pretty strange movie.

Directed by Manuel Caño (The Swamp of the Ravens), Voodoo Black Exorcist is one of those films that sends me hunting through half a dozen film guides — just to see if there was something I missed. It was filmed in Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic. Surely, authentic locales rendered this voodoo film at least slightly worthwhile. And with a name like Voodoo Black Exorcist… something interesting must have slipped past me. Right?

Of the several guides I have, only two bother to mention this 1974 Miami/Madrid co-production. In The Psychotronic Video Guide (follow-up to The Psychotronic Film Guide), Micheal Weldon makes the usual staccato observations as though the movie was projected onto a disco ball (which is, of course, why I read him). Weldon concludes, “This movie has lots of talk and flashbacks and a fire-eating belly dancer. In my favorite scene, the mummy man is seen in a mirror, slapping a dancer around. The cameraman is clearly seen in the mirror, too.” In Creature Features, John Stanley notes, “Rock-bottom editing, acting, writing by S. Monkada and dubbing will curse this mummy monster flick for another thousand years.”

Did you catch that detail? The careful reader might well declare. “A ‘mummy monster flick’? I thought this movie involved three things: Voodoo, Black, and Exorcist. Nothing in that title suggests sarcophagi.” 

Friend, that’s not the half of it. Although this film was originally titled Vudú sangriento, then alternately Black Exorcist, Black Voodoo Exorcist, Bloody Voodoo, The Vengeance of the Zombie, and Voodoo Black Exorcist, I can safely assert that in its entire one hour and twenty-eight minutes: (1) not a single exorcist appears, (2) none of the actors are black, and (3) there ain’t no zombie.

There is, however, a thousand year old mummy. And he exacts vengeance on his ancient persecutors. On a luxury cruise ship. While an extremely annoying socialite reads Tarot cards. Once the ship arrives in Port-au-Prince, an archeologist hopes to display the mummy on TV while he delivers a lecture about Haitian voodoo — which doesn’t involve mummies.

It gets confusing from there. 

On the shores of “ancient Nigeria,” a young woman, Kenya (Eva Leon in black body paint), swims to the dugout canoe of her lover, local high priest Gatanebo (sort of Egyptian seeming Aldo Sambrel). When they head ashore, Kenya’s irate husband challenges Gatanebo with a spear. Gatenebo refuses to fight, but ends up accidentally killing the guy anyhow. The lovers are subsequently executed by a jury of frenzied, topless voodoo dancers — who lop off Kenya’s head and use a gold ring to poison Gatenebo. (So, yes, there is some voodoo.)

The ancient Nigerians entomb Gatanebo, mummy style. Then, quite suddenly, stock footage of NASA’s space program informs us we have shifted to modern times. European archeologist Dr. Robert Kessling (Alfredo Mayo) tucks the sarcophagus in the cargo hold of a cruise ship headed for the Caribbean. A green-eyed black cat observes all this. Later, in the ship’s bar, Kessling and his secretary/lover Silvia (the reincarnated Kenya) hobnob with the Tarot-reading socialite and her husband as a fire-eating dancer performs to the beat of native drums. Kessling excitedly interprets the dance’s deeper meaning for his companions, verbalizing an incantation that revives thousand-year-old Gatanebo. The mummy smashes the green-eyed cat. (Message: this is not a “good” mummy.)

A side note: I’m with the anonymous writer at the The Bloody Pit of Horror blog who notes, “There’s lots of misinformation about this one on the web, particularly in regards to the cast. The Anglicized credits are at least partially to blame for that. Second-billed ‘star’ Tanyeka Stadler is usually listed as playing Kenya, but that’s not actually the case. Kenya is also played by León (in blackface!), the real female star here despite being billed sixth. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say Stadler (probably a fake name to begin with) is the large-breasted, drag-queen-looking fire dancer whose routines they keep showing over and over again.”

Once Gatanebo is revived, he begins noting physical similarities between several of the people on board and the ancient Nigerians who put him to death. Within the context of the narrative itself, it seems entirely possible Gatenebo is mistaken. Granted, Silvia keeps having flashbacks of Kenya embracing Gatanebo while a “Bali Hai” vocal wails. And, granted, the film brackets everything with an ominous voice-over insisting Gatanebo and Kenya are fated to connect, disconnect, and reconnect throughout eternity. However, this mystical reality doesn’t particularly affect the feel and drive of the film as a whole. In scene after scene, people simply go about their business with zero memory of their past lives — when suddenly they are attacked by a mummy.  

Along the way, a police inspector gets involved who is meant, I think, to exude false incompetence — a la Columbo — while actually reasoning his way to the killer. Perhaps the most interesting scene is when a security guard defends himself from the mummy with a high-power water hose. 

If you are interested in seeing Voodoo Black Exorcist, I suggest avoiding Mill Creek’s full screen presentation. As it is simply locked center screen, protagonists frequently disappear as they face one another. Both the Fawesome streaming channel and FilmDetective.TV have a widescreen version that is in remarkably good shape. 

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