Saturday, November 11, 2023



THE DISEMBODIED (1957) is another film in which its characters are referenced in my friend Frank Dello Stritto's latest book PATRON SAINTS OF THE LIVING DEAD. There's only one real reason to watch THE DISEMBODIED, and that's Allison Hayes, the sultry femme fatale of 1950s low budget sci-fi/horror films. 

Somewhere in the jungles of Africa (I think), lives a middle-aged European scientist named Dr. Metz (John Wengraf). Metz is (improbably) married to a gorgeous younger woman named Tonda (Allison Hayes). Tonda happens to be the local voodoo queen. Three American men--Tom (Paul Burke), Norm (Joel Marston), and Joe (Robert Christopher) show up at Metz's compound seeking help. Joe has been mauled by a lion, but Tonda uses her voodoo powers to heal and revive him. Joe is now in the thrall of Tonda, but the conniving woman has her devious sights set on Tom, hoping to force him to kill her husband and take her back to civilization. The voodoo queen winds up getting her just desserts. 

THE DISEMBODIED is a very cheap black & white jungle tale filmed entirely on indoor sets. It comes off as a trashy soap opera instead of a voodoo-influenced thriller. The film's best special effect is Allison Hayes, a woman who was built like the Great Wall of China. Despite living in a remote jungle location, her Tonda manages to have perfect hair and makeup at all times, and she also has a different outfit for nearly every scene she's in. Hayes' acting here is about as subtle as a slap to the face--Tonda goes out of her way to seduce every male within her vicinity--but she's fun to watch, and there's nothing wrong with a generous serving of eye candy. (Hayes also gets to do some bumping & grinding during a couple of voodoo ceremonies.) 

There isn't much to say about the rest of the cast. For whatever reason, in her films Allison Hayes was usually paired with men who were as boring as dry toast. What makes THE DISEMBODIED worthy of discussion is the numerous plot points that are not explained. What, exactly, is Dr. Metz doing in the middle of the jungle? How did he wind up meeting--and marrying--the younger and statuesque Tonda? The three American men who stumble upon Metz's camp say they were shooting film footage in the jungle--but why do they not have any camera equipment? Why do the "natives" appear to be a mixture of several different nationalities? 

The very character of Tonda deserves some kind of backstory. Despite her exotic name, she's obviously a white American. How in the heck did she become a voodoo queen, and with her looks, why couldn't she have found a better situation for herself?? Trying to come up with answers to all these dangling plot threads may be a waste of time, but it's something film geeks like me love to do. Frank Dello Stritto's PATRON SAINTS OF THE LIVING DEAD gives a much better background on the characters of THE DISEMBODIED than the actual movie does. 

THE DISEMBODIED was made by Allied Artists, and it was directed by Walter Grauman. It was Grauman's directorial debut, and it shows--even at only 66 minutes, the movie drags and lacks style. Grauman did later on direct the fine WWII film 633 SQUADRON. 

Fans of Allison Hayes will love THE DISEMBODIED, but there isn't much else to it. 

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