Voodoo Passion [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Full Moon
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (23rd February 2024).
The Film

Susan (The Horrible Sexy Vampire's Ada Tauler) arrives in Haiti to join her new husband Jack House (Eugenie, the Story of Her Journey into Perversion's Jack Taylor) who works for the British Embassy. She receives a frosty welcome from half-British/half-Haitian housekeeper Ines (Vicky Adams) and her husband's secretary Aida (Swedish Nympho Slaves' Aida Gouveia), but is far more disturbed by Jack's nymphomaniac sister Olga (Caged Women's Karine Gambier) who lounges around the marital bed (and bath) naked and cooing about how close she and her brother have always been. Fascinated by the voodoo religion, Susan starts having dreams in which Ines initiates her in secret sexual rites. When Susan discovers a voodoo doll with pins stuck in it, Ines tells her that the man in whose likeness the doll has been fashioned is marked for death. When Susan dreams that seduces the man and murders him with a ceremonial dagger, Jack insists that it is all in her head and is backed up by the mysterious psychiatrist Dr. Barré (Virgin Report's Vítor Mendes). Ines tells Susan that her sensitivity to the power of voodoo may be dangerous and suggests that she leaves the island. Olga turns out to be the sole source of comfort with some sexual healing that puts Susan at ease… that is, until another doll shows up and she meets the potential victim in the flesh.

One of over a dozen Jess Franco projects funded by Swiss producer Erwin C. Dietrich between 1975 and 1978 – and one of the roughly half-dozen not to showcase Franco's definitive muse Lina Romay (Female Vampire) – Voodoo Passion is another variation on Franco's recurring scenario of a woman programmed to seduce and kill going back to a stripper used as the instrument of a revenge in The Diabolical Dr. Z but crystalizing with the likes of Succubus and Nightmares Come at Night in which the means of mind control and the line between dream and reality are more nebulous. The cast is attractive – particularly the pseudonymous "Vicky Adams" who is not Muriel Montossé who headlined Franco's The Inconfessable Orgies of Emmanuelle under the same moniker – and Tauler (wife of actor and notorious "Vampire of the Highway" serial murder suspect Waldemar Wohlfahrt who appeared with her in Franco's Love Camp) is somewhat engaging in the lead, and cinematographer Andreas Demmer (Rolls Royce Baby) gives a fresh visual sheen to the familiar Portuguese locations Franco already utilized in the likes of A Virgin Among the Living Dead and The Demons.

In spite of the visuals and copious nudity – as well as an interesting score by Walter Baumgartner (Mad Foxes) in which the omnipresent "native" drums are "colonized" by saxophone and electric keyboard and also features a number of musical stings which are unusual in Franco films even for shots that demand such emphasis – the film does not quite achieve the same level of dreamlike delirium in the best of Franco's works. While potentially interesting suspects and red herrings are introduced, they are undertilizied in a film that affords more screen time to close-ups of bouncing breasts and gyrating crotches of the voodoo dancers than either the expository passages or even the actual sex scenes which are more dispassionately-photographed than Gambier's more frenzied solo romps with a champagne bottle. The plot is exposed in a pair of rather flat dialogue scenes and most of the resolution occurs off-camera, with the only truly spellbinding bit being a seeming affirmation of the supernatural in a scene that recalls the climax of Franco's earlier Female Vampire. Franco would revisit the scenario again in the eighties with the superior The Night Has a Thousand Desires.


One of the Dietrich/Franco films that did not make its way stateside via the Private Screenings video label, Voodoo Passion first became available in English-friendly form when Dietrich remastered the Franco films circa 2003 for the Swiss-produced "The Official Jess Franco Collection" of export-ready NTSC, region 0 DVDs with a 2005 release before subsequently making the transfers available for licensing with a U.K. edition adding English subtitles to the English and German audio options. A decade later, Dietrich remastered the film for Blu-ray and this is the master that Full Moon first utilized for their 2015 DVD (available separately or as part of the ten-disc The Jess Franco Collection) and this 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray. The image is bright and the saturated colors of the wardrobe and décor are rich and blacks are inky. Grain and sharpness are more uneven, however, with some shots looking deliberately soft-focused while others seem poorly-focused in low light, and a few shots are so soft as to seem inserted from an inferior source (although they are surely not since those same shots often contain some gyrating body part that pops into focus in the foreground). Although the opening credits are in German as they were in the earlier SD master, this presentation concludes with an English "The End" card that appears film-sourced rather than digitally-added.


While the Swiss and German Blu-ray import versions included lossless, umpixed English and German 5.1 tracks and a French mono track, Full Moon's DVD featured only the English dub. Full Moon's Blu-ray features lossy English and German Dolby Digital 5.1 upmix tracks. Dialogue is always clear – the German track is better cast and performed while the English track is sometimes sillier, particularly with Gambier's dubbing – as is the music track; however, there is nothing particularly "surround" about it. On the other hand, there are no gimmicky added effects or distracting echo. The English track is the default but the German track can be selected via remote. Optional English SDH subtitles are also only selectable via remote, allowing viewers to sort of watch the film in German with English subtitles despite the music and effects notations and the transcription of some contextual narration about voodoo that was added to the English dub.


Extras start off with "Franco Bloody Franco" (40:24), an audio interview with director Franco recorded in Zurich in 1976 in French. Rather than English subtitles, an English transcript of the interview is provided onscreen over a background of stills and adverts from Franco's and Dietrich's Jack the Ripper which is primary focus of the interview. Franco discusses the then-current theories about the identity of the killer, his lack of interest in the political theories in favor of a more obscure one about an Argentinian physician practicing in London at the time who was subsequently deported, and the parallels between this conception of Jack the Ripper and his recurring Dr. Orloff character – introduced in The Awful Dr. Orlof – the opportunity to work with Klaus Kinski in a lead role after his trio of cameo supporting roles in Venus in Furs, Justine, and Count Dracula, and using Zurich locations to stand in for London. In discussing language difficulties and working with a different crew, he reveals that he actually had known cinematographer Peter Baumgartner since the fifties when both were jazz musicians in different bands in Paris. He also discusses his favorite works among his films and gives his opinions on the Spanish horror industry of the period as "dreadful" apart from Amando de Ossorio and his Tombs of the Blind Dead with less than charitable remarks about Paul Naschy.

The disc also includes a photo slideshow (1:51), the film's German theatrical trailer (3:47) – with no translation – the same vintage Jess Franco VHS trailer reel (6:44) seen on Full Moon's Blu-ray of Blue Rita, as well as a selection of Eurocult trailers that includes an English-language, newly-created one for the film.


The disc is packaged with a slipcover that conceals a more explicit cover image (the same one that graces the cover of Franco scholar Stephen Thrower's "Flowers of Perversion: The Delirious Cinema of Jesús Franco - Volume 2") from general view.


While not quite as spellbinding as some of director Jess Franco's other treatments of one of his recurring scenarios, Voodoo Passion is still a visually-striking diversion.


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