Now if you were wondering how these kidnappings are worked, it’s something like this: Nicholas keeps an eye out for suitable candidates — pretty and alone — and then notifies the doctor via his not-very-secret telephone system. At this point, Marlowe’s henchman set up a detour — using a “road closed” sign and some portable shrubbery — and kidnap the latest candidate. (What they do with the cars is never addressed.) Thereupon, we are treated to the absolute jaw-dropping voodoo ceremonies. Let’s put it this way, Zucco’s facial expressions alone make it worthwhile, but then there’s also his tobacco-auctioneer mumbo jumbo — not to mention that hat.
To make all this just that much more bizarre — yes, it is possible — the hero, Ralph Dawson (an incredibly obnoxious Michael Ames), is a “scenario writer” for — wait for it — Banner Pictures. Better yet, he enters the film by getting a writing assignment for this very story from Sam Katzman himself. Well, sort of, since the Great Man is only called “S.K.” and is played by character actor John Ince. That he winds up stuck in the very story he’s supposed to be writing is only the tip of the iceberg — as the movie’s final scene illustrates. No, it doesn’t make any sense, but that’s the beauty of it. The real surprise is that — dumb as all this is — it’s actually reasonably well made by the notorious William Beaudine, a man noted not so much for getting his shots in one take, but for being cool with whatever take he got. (Legend has it that he was once castigated being behind schedule and responded in shock at the idea that someone was actually waiting to see the film.) Since this was the final film in the series, I like to think that someone in authority wandered onto the set one day during one of the voodoo ceremonies and said, “Stop this immediately!” Not likely, but the idea appeals to me.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Voodoo Man Thursday, Dec. 31, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville, hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Scott Douglas.