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* This is the fifth installment in the series “Karloff’s Bizarre and Final Six Pack.”

Snake People (AKA Isle Of The Snake People) feels like pure ; that is, Jack Hill the exploitation guru to whom Quentin Tarantino has built an altar. The opening narration is a duller variant of Criswell’s repetitive but puerile Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) monologue: “During Many centuries in Various parts of the world, Various diabolical rites and ceremonies have been practiced in homage to Various sinister gods who are believed to have Many supernatural powers. These rites are generally known as voodoo!”

Cue nightly voodoo ceremony. , dressed as the priest Damballah (dark goggles, black mask, top hat and cee-gar) carries a skull walking stick. Since voodoo god “Baron Samedi” shares a name with a minor Bond villain, you almost expect Live and Let Die‘s Geoffrey Holder to make an appearance. Captain Labesch (Rafael Bertrand), who does appear, is no Roger Moore. He’s what the narrator describes as an “unscrupulous adventurer taking advantage of the superstition to put a docile native girl under his power, transforming her into a zombie so she will submit to her primitive instinct.” Well, maybe he is Roger Moore in his uncanny ability to make his amorous traits look sluggish. Mexican dwarf character actor  carries a squirming rooster. He laughs maniacally. He inexplicably cries. PETA runs for cover as he decapitates the fowl. He squirts the chick’s blood over a grave site. Rise of the dead docile native girl! Captain Labesch hops into her coffin and, well, all you need to know is that he’s a necrophiliac. Now comes the 70ish pop credits with stylish jazzy font, voodoo drum music, Karloff as a demonic Col. Sanders, and the revelation that this film guest stars Tongolele (i.e., Mexican exotic dancer Yolanda Montes)!

Still from Isle of the Snake People (1971)The ubiquitous , as Anabella, is on hand as niece to Uncle Boris. She’s a bit of a missionary, wanting to rid the world of the evils of alcohol. Lt. Wilhelm (Carlos East) wants to rid the island of voodoo. Such high faultin’ proselytizing is, naturally, due for comeuppance. Tongolele is just the one to give it, too. As a buxom Elsa Lanchester, she belly dances with big snakes, spikes banana milk with venom, and intones “offer your dreams to Damballah!” as she puts the voodoo hex on Anabella. In a freakish dream sequence Anabella sucks on a snake’s head, but Lt. Wilhelm has it worse. He’s hounded by visions of serpents and his men are cannibalized by island babes.

Tongolele takes her voodoo seriously enough to cut off Captain Labesch’s supply of zombie tail, and he foolishly retaliates by playing informant. More cannibalism, more human sacrifices, and Annabella kidnapped by the voodoo snake cult!

Snake People is pure trash cinema that is helped little by Karloff’s presence. Unfortunately, his considerable health issues took even a deeper dive in this film. According to his biographers, the actor spent most of his set time reaching for the oxygen. His performance is rendered numb and he is clearly lost as he struggles to react to his co-stars. His voice is horribly dubbed in the final voodoo rite ceremony, and the film limps towards a non-finale.

Many reviewers have commented that the film is dull and incoherent. With this disparate mix of wacky plot ingredients, it would be difficult to produce an entirely dull affair, but the producers come very close to doing just that. It is minimally aided by its plot’s capricious writhing, Tongolele’s garish, cartoonish personification, and by the morbid fascination of witnessing a horror icon lethargically breathing his last. But these are mere random images, and the opening credits do a better job of conveying that.


* This is the second installment in the series “Karloff’s Bizarre and Final Six Pack.”

‘s series of Mexican films is anything but routine.  Of the entire ill-reputed group, House of Evil (1968) has something that most resembles a traditional plot.  It is orthodox only in that it is a retread of the old dark house scenario.  However, that genre is filtered through such bizarre ineptness that it would be an incredulous stretch to claim House of Evil is a film bordering on coherency.  The movie is available via that valuable distributor, Sinister Cinema.  Their brief assessment of House of Evil is telling: they describe it as simply “not bad.”

As with Fear Chamber, House was co-directed by and  and co-stars south of the border sexpot . A murdered girl has been found by local villagers and, just like another recent victim, her eyes have been torn out.  Upon hearing the news, Matthias Morteval (Karloff) is mightily upset.  His friend and doctor, Emery (Angel Espinoza), tries to simultaneously caution and calm Matthias.  Dr. Emery reminds Matthias of similar murders in Vienna, involving Matthias’ brother Hugo.  Before a painting of his late father, Matthias pulls himself together and vows to rid their garden of the evil weed that has sprung up.  As the camera pans, we see that the eyes have been cut out of the fatherly figure in the painting.

Still from House of Evil (1968)With the aid of Dr. Emery, Matthias calls all of his relatives to spend the weekend at Morhenge Mansion.  Most of the greedy relatives believe the aged Matthias is going to include them in his will.  Lucy Durant (Julissa) is Matthias’ niece and, although she is not given to avarice, she  too arrives for the weekend with her fiancee, the bland Charles (Andres Garcia), who also happens to be an inspector investigating the recent murders of young girls.

Given Karloff’s health, his portrayal of Matthias is surprisingly sprightly, and he imbues the Continue reading HOUSE OF EVIL (1968)


*This is the first part of “Karloff’s Bizarre and Final Six Pack,” a series examining Karloff’s final films.

A lot of people have expressed the wish that horror icon  could have ended his career with Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets (1968).  But Karloff, on his last leg, pushed himself through six more movies, four of which were the Mexican films for producer  and director Juan Ibinez.  This last six pack of films is, by consensus, godawful.  Why did Karloff do it?  According to his biographers, the actor said that he wanted to “die with his boots on.”  And he nearly did just that.

This series is not going to be a revisionist look at those six films.  They are awful within the accepted meaning of the word.  Several of them, however, are downright bizarre products of their time, which now might be looked at as examples of .  The films are: House of Evil (1968), Fear Chamber (1968), Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968), Cauldron of Blood (1970), Isle of the Snake People (1971), and Alien Terror (1971).

Still from Fear Chamber (1968)Fear Chamber ranks as one of the weirdest of the lot, and that is saying much.  It begins with pseudo-torture of scantily clad women.  The scene is soaked in garish sixties colors and a “bleepy” soundtrack.  The various female victims are tormented by a goateed chap, wearing turban, sunglasses (in an underground cavern), white gloves, and black turtleneck.  With “all the macabre horror of  Edgar Allan Poe” these poor sixties chicks are subjected to hot coals and boiling cauldrons.

The scene shifts to the crevice of a volcano where two scientists are “worried about strange Continue reading FEAR CHAMBER (1968)