Film Review: CULT OF THE DEAD (a.k.a. Isle Of The Snake People) (1971)

CULT OF THE DEAD (a.k.a. Isle Of The Snake People) ** Mexico / U.S.A. 1971 Dir: Jack Hill, Juan Ibáñez 71 mins

This version on the Boris Karloff Collection DVD I watched is the heavily edited home video release from 1987. The original film ran for nearly 90 minutes so my review is solely based on the version I seen on this DVD collection. On a small remote island the locals worship a priest known as Damballah. Through his religious rites involving voodoo he has control of the locals through fear of him. Belly dancing is provided by Yolanda Montes a.k.a. Tongolele, adding a bit of eroticism to the ceremony scenes. The island also has a bit of a problem with zombies but you won’t see them eating brains.
Captain Pierre Labesch (Ralph Bertrand) comes to the island to restore order but faces an uphill battle against the locals, a police force who are very laid-back and Carl van Molder (Boris Karloff) who owns most of the island. Van Molder warns Labesch not to interfere with the island’s ancient ways but he won’t listen and is determined to rid the island of its superstitious ways. Throw in Van Molder’s niece Anabella who is visiting her uncle, a rum drinking love interest in Lt. Andrew Wilhelm its no wonder the plot is all over the place. This is more watchable then say TORTURE ZONE (a.k.a. Fear Chamber) that also featured Karloff but that isn’t saying much. If it wasn’t for the sultry looking Yolanda Montes and Karloff this film would have been long forgotten. The horrible dubbing of Karloff features in this film, much like ALIEN TERROR the dubber doesn’t sound at all like Karloff. This is definitely a film that would show up on late night showings on television and it is easy to see why it would be lost in that time slot. CULT OF THE DEAD as mentioned features zombies and had it came out prior to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, who knows it may have been more successful but now it remains a minor footnote in Karloff’s career.

Review by Peter ‘Witchfinder‘ Hopkins

CULT OF THE DEAD is available on the Boris Karloff Collection DVD at https://mvdshop.com/

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