Monday, 5 May 2008

Jess Franco’s Voodoo Passion (1977)

Voodoo Passion (Der Ruf der blonden Göttin) isn’t exactly one of Jess Franco’s most admired films, and even his staunchest fans are unlikely to name this 1977 offering as one of their favourites. I actually found it to be much better than I expected. It’s a blend of sexploitation, horror and murder mystery, with the emphasis on the sexploitation factor.

Susan is a woman who has just arrived in Haiti to join her diplomat husband, and she soon finds herself enmeshed in a heavy atmosphere of, well voodoo and passion basically. Her husband is having an affair with a woman who claims to be his sister, and there’s also a beautiful Haitian housekeeper. Susan starts having disturbing dreams, and starts to become fascinated by voodoo and by the sensual abandon that accompanies it (well the sensual abandon that accompanies it in a Jess Franco film anyway). It transpires that the situation in Susan’s new home is not at all as it appears to be, and that there is foul play afoot.

As usual in a Franco movie (and especially in his best movies) dream and reality start bleeding into one another. And also as usual in a Franco movie there’s a frenetic and mesmerising jazz-influenced sound-track, with the blending of jazz and vaguely Haitian music working surprisingly well. And of course there’s sex, lots of it, and nudity, lots of that too. In some of Franco’s movies 1970s movies there was a slightly disturbing trend towards excessive sexualised violence and overtones of sadism, but that’s not evident in this film. You can’t even really say that the sex and nudity is gratuitous, Susan’s response to the air of sexual freedom she finds on the island being a central part of the plot (and yes, there is a plot).

It’s also refreshing to find a movie that treats voodoo in such a sympathetic way, not at all in the demonising manner so familiar in horror movies. It’s a movie about voodoo and sexual passion, and the movie is very much on the side of both of those things. As an erotic movie it works well, and it also works as a reasonably effective horror/mystery thriller.

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