Our Rating: ★★☆☆☆
L Factor: Minor lesbian content
Short Take: A team sets out to prove that an island is safe for development, despite the fact that most members of an early survey team disappeared, and the one returning member was turned into a zombie.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 1957
Duration: 76 min
Language: USA/English
MPAA: Not Rated
Director: Reginald Le Borg
Writer: Richard H. Landau
Starring: Boris Karloff, Beverly Tyler, Murvyn Vye, Elisha Cook Jr., Rhodes Reason, Jean Engstrom, Friedrich von Ledebur, Glenn Dixon, Owen Cunningham, Herbert Patterson, Jerry Frank

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Voodoo IslandWith its quirky ensemble and the not-sure-what-is-happening weirdness, Voodoo Island is kind of a cross between Gilligan’s Island and Lost. However instead of a smart, dark plot like Lost, confusion stems from bad writing, direction and acting, and choppy edits. Even mega creep star Boris Karloff, playing a good guy, can’t save the film.

Developer Howard Carton (Owen Cunningham) wants to turn a South Pacific island into a hotel and resort. When members of his survey team disappear and one returns as a zombie, Carlton hires myth-buster Phillip Knight (Boris Karloff) to return with him to the island to investigate.

Knight brings along his assistant, Sarah Adams (Beverly Tyler), and Carlton brings his right-hand man, Barney Finch (Murvyn Vye), and his designer, the aptly named, Claire Winter (Jean Engstrom). Also on the seven-hour cruise are local resort manager, Martin Schuyler (Elisha Cook) and his tough-guy assistant, Matthew Gunn (Rhodes Reason). Mitchell (Glenn Dixon), from the first survey team, also comes along. Really, what’s a trip without a zombie?

Here’s the plot: Even before the group returns to the island, weird things happen. Birds going wild, bleeding plants, a child sewing a voodoo doll and spooky theremin music, all make it clear that the trip is a bad idea. Mitchell drops dead (more dead?). Still, the group presses on. More weird things happen but de-bunker Knight always has an explanation. (The boat motor dies? Aw, just a bug in the fuel line). Oblivious to island natives spying on them, and avoiding giant coconut crabs, the crew bushwhacks into the jungle interior. Designer Winter goes skinny dipping and gets eaten by a plant. Finch gets turned into a zombie.

SPOILER– Since the landing party still won’t leave (doh!), natives capture the group and the tribal chief tells them in plain English to get off the island. Knight says they will and promises not tell anyone about the island. The chief smells a rat and, presumably, uses his voodoo magic to cause Schuyler to fall to his death. Knight and the remaining members of the group now ‘get it’ and skedaddle from the island. –END SPOILER

Yeah, our frosty lesbian, Winter dies off early, but not before she hits hard on Adams. She touches her face and says ‘You know Adams, I could do a lot for you if you let me… I could make you come alive, dear.’

Rumors abound that somewhere there is a version of the film with a more developed lesbian subplot, but in most versions, you’ll have to use your imagination. Adams and Winter are left alone on the island while the men hike back to the boat for supplies. A little lesbian action might make this irrelevant scene make sense.

PS: If you look closely, you’ll see an uncredited Adam West (Batman) playing a radioman; his first film appearance.  (CJ)