Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Disembodied

Wow. Fans of Allison Hayes, who steamed up drive-in screens in ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN and ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU, shouldn’t miss this junky jungle thriller.

A specialist in “bad girl” roles, Hayes plays native woman Tonda in THE DISEMBODIED, an irresistible seductress who uses voodoo to torture her older husband, Dr. Metz (John E. Wengraf), and performs a hip-shaking dancing scene in a fetching two-piece sarong. “I can get any man I want,” she tells Metz’s loyal assistant Suba (Dean Fredericks, star of THE PHANTOM PLANET), right before she kisses him and then slaps his face.

Tonda’s timing is lousy, as every attempt to murder her hubby is implausibly interrupted. Well, plausibility is not THE DISEMBODIED’s strong suit, courtesy of the fumbling screenplay by Jack Townley, whose credits include CRASHING LAS VEGAS, Leo Gorcey’s last film with the Bowery Boys. The Metzes are unexpectedly visited by filmmakers Tom (top-billed Paul Burke) and Norman (Joel Marston), who arrive with the ailing body of their friend Joe (Robert Christopher), the victim of a lion attack.

Dr. Metz works his scientific magic on Joe, but Tonda’s magic is more powerful, using her power as a genuine voodoo queen to put Suba’s soul inside Joe’s body. As if she hasn’t caused enough trouble, Tonda also seduces Tom (it’s very difficult to say no to her) to convince him to take her away from the jungle. Her behavior is frustratingly erratic, though it seems to be the product of poor screenwriting, rather than an element of her character.

The film is only 66 minutes, so it isn’t a rough sit, just unmemorable. Director Walter Grauman’s style is of the point-and-shoot variety, which favors placing characters in the middle of the 1.85:1 frame and having them stand there. Every frame was shot indoors on a passable jungle soundstage, so don’t look to THE DISEMBODIED for any visual flair. With a silly script to work from, the hard work is left to the actors, who do the best they can, except for Hayes, who does even more.

Grauman (LADY IN A CAGE) made his directorial debut on THE DISEMBODIED. He directed just a handful of features, as he moved quickly into television after THE DISEMBODIED, helming more than one hundred Quinn Martin productions, in addition to many other episodes and TV-movies. He worked again with star Paul Burke, who was just coming off one television series (NOAH’S ARK) before immediately jumping into another (HARBORMASTER). Later starring roles in NAKED CITY and Quinn Martin’s TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH (as a replacement for Robert Lansing) made him a shortlived household name.


Grant said...

I don't ALWAYS make fun of this practice the way you're expected to, but the idea of Dean Fredericks, with his great "WASP" look, playing a jungle native is a little comical. (I've never seen it, though, so for all I know he's made up pretty convincingly!)

Marty McKee said...

It's as convincing as these things ever get. He and especially Allison Hayes are wearing a lot of dark body makeup that makes them look more like they have a good tan than anything else.