The Devil's Daughter (1939)


Sister against sister IN A BURNING DRAMA OF TROPICAL LOVE AND HATE!



Year of Release: 1939
Genre: Drama/Romance
Rated: Approved
Running Time: 52 minutes
Director: Arthur H. Leonard


Cast:

Ida James ... Sylvia Walton
Nina Mae McKinney ... Isabelle Walton
Emmett 'Babe' Wallace ... John Lowden
Jack Carter ... Philip Ramsay
Hamtree Harrington ... Percy Jackson
Willa Mae Lang ... Elvira



Summary:

A young woman inherits a Jamaican plantation and moves from Harlem to Jamaica in order to take control of the operation. Her half-sister, who was running the plantation, has disappeared thus leaving the woman to manage things on her own. Unbeknownst to the woman, her half-sister plots to use the local legends and superstitions to her advantage, in order to scare the woman off and take control of the plantation.


Review:

The Devil's Daughter... also known as exhibit 7,843 in the case against "separate but equal" segregation. Seriously, can you imagine bein' alive in 1939 knowin' that the white theaters were showin' The Wizard of Oz while you were stuck with this ball bustingly boring bastion of bastardized bulldink? An people really believed that "separate but equal" BS? These days you'd be (rightfully) thrown in jail for tryin' to make somebody watch this kinda thing. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is what the CIA was usin' over in Poland to try makin' the terrorists spill their secret jihadi recipes for camel spider enchiladas. This flick right here is a perfect illustration of why we've still got a long way to go yet towards civil rights equality, cause there're still people alive who can remember havin' to watch this garbage while the white folks were enjoyin' Gone with the Wind over at the Caucasian Station Theatre for citizens of ideal skin pigmentation. I was actually so disgusted about the whole situation that I sat through this thing for a second round of Pepto Abysmol theater with Billy Hilliard (since he's one of only seven black folks in town) to try an get the black perspective on it, an when it was finally over all he said was "it thucks the thit otta the porda polly behine Tijuana Tom's Methican Cuithine an Cuthtom Pinata Palath." For those of you that may not know Billy, he's been talkin' like Tor Johnson ever since his 3rd ex-wife caught 'im flirtin' with one of the waitresses at Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks a few years ago an bit off half his tongue in a blindin' rage, but once you spend enough time with 'im you hardly notice it. So then I told Billy that if we could get more people to actually watch this abomination, maybe they'd understand what kinda torment the black community was subjected to back in the day an maybe we could finally come together an make a legitimate attempt at startin' the healin' process. Billy said "that soun' nith, but I ain't wathin' 'at thit again."

So I got the turd rollin' by donatin' my own copy to the Prime Creek theater an was surprised at how quickly the manager got on board once I explained that it was a public domain flick an he wouldn't have to pay anybody anything to show it, though I think what really sold it was the fact that they knew they could gouge people to death on the cost of popcorn since the place was about to be inundated with hipsters. But anyway, I gotta say that openin' (an closin' as I'd soon discover) night was nothin' short of amazin', cause the whole place was packed with members of the silent generation who were so taken in by the nostalgia factor that they didn't bother to read anything else on the poster. An as expected, within the first five minutes you could see everyone's face frozen in horror at the bad actin', cumbersome dialog, an pacin' slower'n the audience members writin' a check over at the Grocery Outlet. Halfway through, the ones that hadn't passed out from the shock of its crap factor were trippin' over each other in the aisles an gettin' stuck in the doorways tryin' to escape the badness. Three people died in their sleep, an eight others hadda be rushed to the hospital with lockjaw after overdosin' on cinematic sewage that was so hypnotic they didn't realize their mouths were agape for the entire 52 minute runnin' time. But once the credits rolled, the most amazin' thing of all happened... the survivors all stood up, faced the back of the theater (where five of our seven black folks were sittin') an gave 'em a standin' ovation. It was the most touchin' thing I think I've ever seen, folks had tears streamin' down their faces an everyone wanted to shake the hands of these good hearted souls whose ancestors'd been subjected to flicks like this for years with callous cruelty. We really came together that evenin' cause we finally understood in some small way, what it was like to be second class citizens, even if it was just for that 52 minutes. I don't think I've ever been prouder to be a citizen of this great city as I was at that moment, an when it was all over we grabbed that film canister an burned it in effigy as one united people. Cause even though it helped us all understand each other as never before, ain't nobody watchin' this rump dump ever again.

I'ma try to compose myself here, cause even though this's one of the most rotten chunks 'o funk to which I've bore witness, an despite the fact that I had the IMDB lie right to my face by claimin' this was in *any* way a horror flick, I still take this job seriously. Sides, even sun-baked roadkill like this has stuff to teach us, an ain't nobody poor 'cept he who lacks knowledge. An maybe he who lacks money. First of all, when you've got a manager at work that you really appreciate an respect, you'll do just about anything to ensure they maintain their position. Includin' druggin' their prospective replacement an makin' 'em think you're sacrificin' 'em to voodoo Jesus. Second, if someone tells you they want what you've got an won't rest until you've been run outta town on an inner tube, maybe it's not such a hot idea to drink anything they offer you after makin' that declaration. An third, if you throw a fake voodoo ceremony into a Drama, that apparently makes it a Horror movie. But the thing that most concerned me about this one was Hamtree Harrington's complete lack of a plan for reacquirin' his soul outta the piglet once he was certain whatever danger he was concerned about had passed. I mean this isn't some kinda game, havin' your soul floatin' around in a pig an all, cause the last time anybody tried somethin' like this Jesus ran the pigs off a cliff. An unless you feel like hoppin' off after it with a butterfly net in hand, you could very well lose your soul forever. The proper procedure for capturin' your soul was actually detailed in reverse by a flick called The Asphyx, where you can learn to try an capture your soul inside a Tupperware container or reasonable facsimile at the moment of death. But even then, Hamtree never asks Nina Mae McKinney how he's supposed to draw his soul back outta the pig, what to look for to make sure you don't miss any escape attempts, or even whether you need air holes in whatever you're usin' to contain your soul. These're pretty critical bits of information, an as a result of Hamtree's half-assed information gatherin', I'm now completely unwillin' to ever risk housin' my soul inside a barnyard animal of any kind, cause I'll simply never have all the information necessary to make sure I'm doin' it safely. This was really disappointin', cause now I don't have the ability to properly instruct anyone else who may need to stuff their own soul inside an Alpaca on the fly, nor will I ever definitively know the proper protocols in the event of a crisis involvin' the soul of someone who's gone out on their own against my warnings. Flick dropped more balls than Pamela Anderson an the Indianapolis Colts' receivin' core combined, an this might very well be the most egregious fumble of all.

The movie begins with these Jamaicans wearin' five gallon wicker fruit baskets on their heads singin' voodoo hymns til their church service ends an they all head over to the sacred cock-fightin' arena so they can simultaneously gamble an appease Papa Damballa with an official sacrifice. Then this huckster from Harlem (Percy) shows up an tries gettin' the entrepreneur runnin' the fight to roll the bones with 'im for possession of his avian gladiators an the boss tells 'im he's seen enough fixed Globetrotter games to be taken in by this kinda BS, before runnin' Percy off like a yuppie stuck in coach. So Percy hides in the trunk of a tree big enough to house the entire population of Lothlorien til this babe in a one piece dashiki (Elvira) catches up to 'im an he explains that he's come down here to help his benefactor (Sylvia) run the banana plantation an overact on all cylinders to keep people from walkin' outta the movie theater. Elvira works for Isabelle, who used to run the plantation til 'er Dad kicked the bucket an willed the place to Sylvia, an Isabelle's been real P.O.'d about it ever since. So Elvira tells Percy the voodoo spirits don't like that creepy eye-bulge thing he does an they're gonna swipe his soul like Joe Estavez if they can't get Isabelle to do dat voodoo dat she do to protect 'im. Elsewhere, Sylvia an 'er BFF (John) are drivin' towards the plantation an John's whinin' about how ever since she went to America an got all stuck up he's hadda face up to the reality that he's never gonna get his hands on 'er Chiquitas. He's also worried about Philip, who's the dink she's boffin' an who's runnin' the plantation for 'er, an when they get to the plantation Philip asks John if anybody over in his neck of the cane fields is havin' trouble with superstitious employees freakin' out or wearin' neck chains made outta owl pellets to ward off evil spirits an John tells 'im his guys've been fine ever since they sacrificed Bill Pullman last week. Meanwhile, Elvira takes Percy to see Mama Shango who tells Percy to go get 'er a pig outta the pen an she'll stash his soul inside the pig for safe keepin', an once Percy's gone she an Elvira giggle an conspire about how they're gonna use Percy to sucker Sylvia into thinkin' Isabelle's a Big Bad Voodoo Mommy. While that's goin' on, Sylvia an John're back in the car headin' for Sylvia's place an en route she starts whinin' about how she don't fit in no more even though she's still just Jenny From the Block an how bummed she is that Isabelle left all P.O.'d before showin' 'er how to run the banana bundler, specially since Sylvia wanted to share the place with Isabelle even though she's got cripplin' bitchface. Once they make it home, Percy shows up with Arnold Ziffle an Sylvia starts eyeballin' Arnold like he's nothin' more'n an unprocessed pork chop an Percy gets this look on his face like he's on the block at a bachelor's auction an Mae West just bid on 'im. So Percy hasta stash Arnold for safe keepin' til he can find a replacement, only the cook finds his secret hidin' spot an commits pignappin' an proceeds to turn 'im into a Jamaican hamstack.

Elsewhere, Isabelle's meetin' all secret-like with Philip an explainin' 'er plan to scare Sylvia straight to the first Greyhound bound for Miami an tellin' 'im to quit mackin' on Sylvia or she's gonna tell the cops about his sticky fingers an political ambitions of gettin' the primary nomination on the Banana Republican ticket. The next day, Sylvia an Philip head over to Montego Downs where Philip goes full Mack Daddy an tries talkin' 'er into marryin' 'im, an when she asks for a day to think about it he tells 'er that'll be too late an... oh hey forget I said that, look, horsies! Then Philip surprises 'er with a trip to visit Isabelle where she promises to split the banana with 'er if she'll only come back home so they can do eachother's hair like old times an Isabelle tells 'er she ain't settlin' for less than the whole Magilla before rememberin' she's supposed to slip 'er the roofies *before* makin' the demands an offers 'er a spiked banana daiquiri. About that time, Philip takes off like Scooby Doo when somebody steps on a chunka bubble wrap, an Isabelle starts rantin' at Sylvia for stealin' 'er livelihood an whinin' 'bout how she can't get John to put the banana in 'er split cause he's too hung up on Sylvia to notice she's alive so she's gonna hafta turn 'er into a zombie an force 'er to work as a Wal-Mart door greeter. Back at the plantation, Philip calls the cops on Isabelle an makes plans to get back to the states cause he's tired of dealin' with all these women who don't seem to realize this's a man's world, til John shows up an overhears the phone calls an the two of 'em have the sissiest slap fight since a buncha hair stylists on Hollywood Boulevard found out what eachother were makin'. Eventually, Philip hits the dirt after he's sent reelin' by a thunderous pinkie swat to the left dimple an hasta tell John what's goin' on, til he runs off through the jungle like Miles O' Keeffe after three days of listenin' to Bo Derek. Unfortunately by now Isabelle's got Sylvia hauled out to Loa's Lane where these guys dressed like Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid're spinnin' in circles like figure skaters an squawkin' like magpies. Fortunately, the chances of Isabelle's private ceremony stayin' private're somewhere between a narrowin' of the income inequality gap an a Led Zeppelin reunion tour, cause John's headed her way from one direction while Percy an Elvira close in from the other upon Percy's realization that some fat tourist slurped down his soul like a bowl of Ital stew. Gonna cut it here cause that's what I do, an cause I can't fathom anyone gives a damn. But if for whatever reason you've just gotta know how it ends, it's in the public domain an available for viewin' right here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v17AOoaJxx0

Alrighty, well, once again I've been had. After a while you come to realize that just because these Mill Creek 50 packs claim to have 50 "horror" titles in them, they aren't all necessarily horror, or even hybrid horror. But this snoozefest here is alleged to be at least hybrid horror even on the IMDB (I got burned by The Creature from the Haunted Sea too, but that was to be expected since it's at least listed as "Comedy/Horror"), and I'm here to tell you it is absolutely not. This is Drama/Romance at best, not that there's anything the least bit dramatic about it. Seriously, when the only aspect of the movie that's even remotely "horror" in nature is spelled out as a hoax long before it even happens on screen, how can you possibly suggest this is in whole or in part a horror flick? I'm gonna do my best to let that slide, but anybody reading this knows by now that I don't care much for movies that aren't at least partially horror or science fiction and that I also don't particularly care for older titles either. So this movie's gonna get skewered on its rating, though I suppose it's possible that people who enjoy classic cinema and aren't particularly concerned with having any action up on the screen might somehow manage to enjoy this. The only thing even remotely interesting about it is the fact that it's one of those moldy oldies produced back when we were all "separate but equal", and at that time you didn't see many movies with an all black cast. It was released by a company called Sack Amusement Enterprises which specialized in producing movies with all black casts for the segregated black theaters of the time. Interestingly, the IMDB lists what looks to be their last normal title as being The Vanishing Outpost in 1951, with a subsequent 11 year gap that comes to an end with the release of a movie called The Wild and the Naked, which, as you might have guessed from the title, was a nudie cutie. The titles continued in this fashion as both nudity and sex became more acceptable and by the time the studio went kaput, their offerings had evolved into full blown X rated Adult films. Though that's about as close to "interesting" as you'll get in reference to this insomnia cure. It's also plagued with the usual problems that hamstring a movie, terrible pacing, stiff dialog, piss poor direction, but because of the kind of movie it is, we've also got the "comic relief" black man whose character is written as a complete farce and portrayed in the manner that whites wanted to think blacks behaved. Or thought they should have behaved, I dunno which. This generally plays out with the guy (seems like it's always a guy, an that there's generally just one) being some combination of stupid, cowardly, and subservient. Don't get me wrong, the guy (Hamtree Harrington) did a good job at playing the role he was given, it's just disheartening to watch, particularly since he's probably the best actor in the flick and I can't imagine it was easy to play that type of a character when *nobody* really behaved that way in real life.

Okay then, everybody put on your nose plugs and grab your plunger cause we're goin' gold minin' in spite of the fact that logic dictates the only thing we're gonna find is corn. The basic premise is okay, although it must be mentioned that it's near impossible to give a damn about anything that's happening due to the monotonous nature of it. Really, we've got a series of conflicts between the various characters that can easily be (and eventually are) ironed out by simply getting everyone together and having a goddamned discussion like rational adults. It's like a 50s sitcom where everybody bullshits around for 90% of the show til somebody finally knocks everybody's heads together and gets things sorted out. So it's okay I guess, but it's boring as all get out and avoids the obvious solutions until the last two minutes of the film. The acting is difficult to judge because the writing is so awkward, I mean, I don't know that *anybody* can look like an accomplished actor delivering lines like: "I still think you're lying, Ramsey, but I'll go out there for fear something is wrong" and "A surprise? You intrigue me, but I'm glad we're going, it'll help me forget all this." Lou Gossett Jr. couldn't make that crap sound good, but most of the cast does seem have an air of inexperience about them. The most talented one of the bunch has to be Hamtree Harrington, though Nina Mae McKinney isn't bad as Isabelle either. The less said about that fight scene between Emmett Wallace and Jack Carter the better, though some of that needs to be pinned on the director because there's no way those guys were given any real direction and *that* was the end result. Not too surprisingly, no credits to show for this one because they were all black actors, and the idea of an all black horror flick in the 30s was pretty much unheard of. The special effects... yeah, there aren't any. Shooting locations are definitely the high point, as the flick was shot on location in Jamaica and features a lot of atmospheric scenery. The trouble comes when we're supposed to be up in the hills near the climax durin' the big voodoo ritual and you can see power poles in the background and hear car horns honking. Kinda undermines the feel they were going for just a smidge, although to be fair there wasn't much to ruin anyway cause that was probably the cheeriest voodoo ritual you'll ever see. The soundtrack is very much a product of its time, although for a movie of this age it's actually got more of a soundtrack than you'll see in many other low budget titles of the era. Fairly authentic stuff too, mostly song and dance from legit Jamaicans, though it's also got its share of goofy tracks you'd normally only hear in a Walt Disney cartoon from 1942 where all the characters were having a dance party. Bottom line, this thing bores with the intensity of a church sermon read by Stephen Hawking's voice synthesizer. Do not even consider putting this thing into your DVD player without first understanding there will be exactly squat in the way of horror on your screen. If you understand that and still wanna watch it, well, I ain't your Daddy.


Rating: 7%