Sun 11 Dec 2011
BLACK MOON. Columbia Pictures, 1934. Jack Holt, Fay Wray, Dorothy Burgess, Cora Sue Collins, Arnold Korff, Clarence Muse, Eleanor Wesselhoeft, Madame Sul-Te-Wan. Director: Roy William Neill.
This early voodoo movie is a little old-fashioned in its presentation — and you could even say out-and-out clunky and get away with it — but there some very some effective moments in Black Moon. Especially weird and strange are the scenes of native sacrifices, filmed against a backdrop of drums constantly beating on a fictional (though very Haiti-like) island in the Caribbean.
It’s easy to call Black Moon old-fashioned today, but when you think about it, how ready would audiences have been for a movie like this in 1934?
Isolated on the island is a small outpost of whites: a man; his young daughter; his secretary (secretly in love with him); his wife, who has been caught under the voodoo spell since she was child, even back in New York City; and her uncle, who owns a plantation on the island. (The young girl’s nanny barely counts, as she dies very early on.)
By old-fashioned, though, I mean (for example) the story moves only in fits and starts, and one can easily wonder why everyone stays so calm (relatively speaking) when the deaths and the other strange and eerie events begin. (Some things have never changed in movies like this, not since day one.)
Of the actors, Jack Holt does stolid well. Fay Wray as his secretary and the exotic Dorothy Burgess as his wife provide the beauty, and this they do very well, maybe even better.