CHLOE, LOVE IS CALLING YOU. Pinnacle, 1934. Olive Borden, Red Howes. Georgette Harvey, Philip Ober, Francis Joyner, and The Shreveport Home Wreckers. Written and directed by Marshall Neilan.

   An intriguing little B-movie from 1934, with no one you ever heard of, perfunctory screenplay (the characters enter, explicate and move on to the next scene) and rudimentary direction. Needless to say, I found something worthwhile and memorable in it.

   The story is something about old black Mandy (Georgette Hervey) returning to her former home in the swamps with her grown-up light-skinned daughter Chloe (played by the lovely and tragic Olive Borden) and Jim Strong, another light-skinned black man, who loves Chloe in vain. Jim is played by Philp Ober, who will always be remembered for his short scene as Lester Townsend in North by Northwest, and who looks about as black as a Vanilla Wafer.

   It seems old Mandy has returned to take Voodoo Vengeance for the lynching of her husband, some fifteen years ago, and the opening scenes, as the roving camera tracks her skiff through the bayou are really rather effective. Likewise the notion of retribution for racial injustice is surprisingly daring for films of this era.

   Then, alas, we get into the plot, as Ol’ Colonel Watsisfuss sips mint juleps with handsome young Wade Carson and they tell us that Carson has been hired to look into thefts at the Colonel’s Turpentine Plantation or some such.

   They also tell us that old Colonel Whatisfuss, had an infant granddaughter who supposedly drowned in the swamp maybe fifteen year back or so.

   It takes about five minutes for Wade to meet Chloe while sleuthing in the swamp, and less time than that for them to fall in love, but Chloe knows their love can never be, because she be black.

   You have guessed the ending? So did I, but director Marshall Neilan (a rather interesting personality in his own right) walks us through it at his own pace, which could be charitably described as Lame. The acting is hard to judge fairly, given the spartan script fed to the unhappy thespians, but I have to say they handle themselves with a sincerity I found pleasantly disarming, with Chloe and her two suitors at odds while the Turpentine Rustlers and Voodoo Hoodoos hatch their fiendish plans between musical interludes by the Shreveport Home Wreckers, until we reach the ending, when poor distraught Chloe runs off through the swamp and is promptly grabbed by the local Voodooers for their weekly fish fry and human sacrifice.

   At which point the movie actually gets pretty good; the scenes of the Voodoo ritual are hauntingly evocative, with, big old Oak trees dripping Spanish Moss behind a huge bonfire, while black silhouettes writhe and dance in the foreground like souls out of Hell. And the images of poor Chloe tied to the sacrificial altar as Wade Carson and Jim Strong battle to her rescue recall the very best pulp-cover art, providing a lurid finish to a distinctly uneven but somehow memorable film.