Voodoo Man

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(2/10) In a nutshell: Horror icons George Zucco and John Carradine join Bela Lugosi in his last film at Poverty Row studio Monogram, for a tongue-in-cheek rendering of one of the most bizarrely funny so-bad-it’s-good sci-fi horror films of the forties. Unfortunately giggles aren’t enough to lift this film out of the ruts, although it is a must-watch for the wonderful Voodoo seances with Carradine and Zucco immensely enjoying the insanity of it all. 

Voodoo Man (1944). Directed by William Beaudine. Written by Robert Charles. Starring: Bela Lugosi, George Zucco, John Carradine, Tod Andrews, Wanda McKay, Louise Currie, Ellen Hall. Produced by Jack Dietz and Sam Katzman for Banner Productions and Monogram Pictures. IMDb score: 5.2

Bela Lugosi, Louise Currie and Wanda McKay in a publicity image for Voodoo Man.

Bela Lugosi, Louise Currie and Wanda McKay in a publicity image for Voodoo Man.

There are, in my opinion, strictly speaking two ways to grade a movie. The first one is to grade it on its entertainment value, i.e. ”how much did I enjoy watching this film?” The problem with this approach, of course, is that it ultimately comes down to personal taste. The other way is to do it the way I do it on this blog: to try and grade the film according to some pre-set criteria, such as originality, production values, artistic merit, impact, acting, directorial and editorial style, writing merits, and so forth. This approach does have the drawback that it is difficult for a low-budget movie to reach really high marks, whereas a film with a lavish production might score slightly higher points than it would actually deserve based on sheer viewing enjoyability or originality. But this is a trade-off that I feel is worth making – a really good low-budget film is able to overcome its low production resources and turn the lack of money into an asset rather than a burden, and makes it easier for a reviewer to have oversight with certain production flaws. And a film with a lavish budget doesn’t get away with a bad script or obvious production blemishes quite as easily as a cheap film with lots of heart. Continue reading

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The Ape Man

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(1/10) In a nutshell: Notorious B-quickie director William ”One-Shot” Beaudine and Poverty Row studio Monogram bring us Bela Lugosi in one of his worst roles ever in this 1943 ape man film, much more interesting for its director and actors than for the film itself.

The Ape Man. 1943, USA. Directed by William Beaudine. Written by Karl Brown, Barney A. Sarecky. Starring: Bela Lugosi, Louise Currie, Wallace Ford, Henry Hall, Minerva Urecal, Emil Van Horn. Produced by Jack Dietz & Sam Katzman for Monogram. IMDb score: 4.5

Loiuse Currie and Bela Lugosi in the 1943 cheapo The Ape Man.

Loiuse Currie and Bela Lugosi in the 1943 cheapo The Ape Man.

So finally Bela Lugosi makes it to my list of terrible movies. I guess it was just a matter of time, as he already dodged a bullet with The PRC cheapo The Devil Bat (1941, review). This here is another Poverty Row cheapo churned out in a matter of days, and this time there aren’t many redeeming qualities to the movie. The Monogram movie The Ape Man, telling the story of a scientist who turns himself into an ape and must murder to turn himself back into a human, has few positive notes. Continue reading