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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Naked Evil (1966) Horror Voodoo

Naked Evil (1966) -In a compelling opening scene we open on a man hurrying through the streets of London. (at least I think it is London). The music is up tempo jazz beats as this man Mr. O'Neil we learn when his land lady tries to stop him when he enters the apartment building. She chases him up the stairs all the while shouting for him to stop. He ignores her trying to get in his apartment on the fourth floor and into his apartment before she catches him. She is not what he is worried about though, he seems scared. When he gets his door locked he is in for a start, as on his table is a bottle full of dirt with feathers stuck into the top. It is an Obeah jar, a jar filled with the dirt from a grave and a hex on the person who receives it. As his landlady bangs on the door it shakes the bottle on the table. O'Neil backs against the window the tension high as the jar gets closer and closer to the tables edge. He is terrified, as the jar falls and he appears to be launched out the window. Some nice editing shows him go out the window, then a point of view as he sees the ground coming, then cut to a woman who is hanging clothes only to see the line ripped away and her reaction to seeing the man fall. Then finally the reaction of two boys when they here the body hit the ground. O'Neil is shown dead on the ground before the opening credits roll. As good establishing sequence, even without the plot we know that Obeah magic is involved and that it can be dangerous.
  Now this film has some very questionable racial views by some of the characters. It can be a bit off putting as you watch and I suppose the time period has something to do with that but then there is writer director Stanley Goulder's decision to have a black club owner name the place "Spady's" after himself mind you. That kind of writing decision is so not cool. The story centers around Spady and his gang receiving Obeah jars from a rival gang lead by Lloyd (Dan Jackson), and how it has wreaked havoc with his business. He wants it to stop and soon discovers that the delivery boy Danny (John Ashley Hamilton), is a student at  a local boys school. This school provides the majority of characters and racial attitudes the film shows. Dean Benson (Basil Dignam) has traveled to Jamaica extensively and has come back and administered this school for international minorities. He has some interesting things to say about some of the students. The Sikhs aare nothing but trouble according to him and the Jamaican boys are "As happy as the day is long." He also brought back the old Obeahman Amizan (Brylo Forde) as his maintenance man, but has wearied of him saying "That filthy old wretch has to go. I'm sick of trying to help him."
  The racial attitudes aside the story is not a bad one. Amizan is making the Obeah jars and selling them to Lloyd, and sending Danny out to deliver them. As there has been a death Inspector Hollis (Richard Coleman) makes inquiries at the school where he meets Benson, his assistants Dick (Anthony Ainley who played the master on Doctor Who 1981-89) and Janet (Suzanne Neve) and we learn that Benson too has been receiving the jars. He drowns his sorrows in alcohol on a nightly basis and there are some great scenes where although people do not confront him on his drinking the do make reference to him being under the weather. One part of the story focuses on Benson and he and his group as they deal with the ever increasing Obeah and we eventually get more on that but it takes awhile. The second storyline is that of Danny and the troubles that befall him because of his decision to deliver the jars. Spady is after him and he is a bit of a fall guy. Innocent and naive he just wants to have his girlfriend and make good grade but by the end of the film is framed for murder.
The balance between believing in the supernatural and that's effect on the character and actual magic is explored through out the film. Can a Obeah curse harm someone if the person has no belief in the magic. Or does there have to be a belief to bring about the bad? When the story towards its clmax takes a strong turn into the realm of magic I was a bit disappointed since I like the question of is it real or not more than the answer. The film's conclusion was stated by Father Goodman (Olaf Pooley who also played in Doctor Who in 1970 as Prof. Stahlman)) when he said "Those who do the Devils work forfeit there souls to the Devil and his torments."
  There are a couple versions of this film, Naked Evil, a fully black and white version and a later colorized version called Exorcism at Midnight. In the latter we have added scenes in color of a group of doctors hearing this story from a survivor of the story who as he talks we actually see the black and white film. They do a trick by coloring some of the scenes in a solid color like green or red depending on the emotion the scene is supposed to be projecting. Jumping out of the story a couple times and book ending it to complete the conversion it really is a repackaging of the exact same movie. Overall the film had some obvious flaws but I found it interesting enough to watch and so the rating is just barely a recommend. Viewers who don't like to racial insensitivity should note that there are some minor affronts.
Rating (5.1) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

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