Voodoo Man (1944) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Dr. Richard Marlowe uses a combination of voodoo rite and hypnotic suggestion, attempting to revive his beautiful, but long-dead, wife, by transferring the life essences of several hapless young girls he has kidnapped and imprisoned in the dungeon beneath his mansion.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • VOODOO MAN-synopsis

    A woman pulls into a gas station and asks if she is on the road to Twin Falls. Nicholas (George Zucco) comes out and tells her to drive four miles and turn right at the fork in the road. He informs her that she may encounter a detour sign since there has been road work being done. She drives on. He tells the attendant Sam (Ralph Littlefield) to close up. Then he calls on a phone set up inside a wall box to the nearby house, telling them a young girl is on the way. He leaves to go to the house.

    At the roadblock a false set of bushes is removed by Toby (John Carradine) and Grego (Pat McKee), who place a detour sign in the road. The car approaches and takes the detour onto the dirt road. At this point a switch is thrown at the house which disables the car engine. Coming out from the underbrush, Toby and Grego kidnap the girl and take her to the house. Newspaper headlines show another missing girl.

    Ralph Dawson (Tod Andrews as Michael Ames) is summoned into the office of Banner Motion Picture Company by S.K.-the Producer (John Ince) who puts him onto the missing girl story seen in the papers. Reminding his boss that he is off the next two weeks for his marriage and honeymoon, Ralph asks if he can tackle it when he gets back. S.K. tells him someone else will do it, but to think about it. He stops at the door and remarks how he doesnt want to think about a horror story on his honeymoon.

    Stopping at the same gas station, Ralph asks for six gallons of gas. Sam begins cleaning his windshield and doesnt notice Ralph exiting the car. When he asks to check under the hood, Sam notices the driver is missing and goes to check anyway. Ralph returns to the car and asks what he owes. He pays the man and leaves without any gas having been put in. A few miles down the road, Ralph runs out of gas.

    Stella (Louise Curry) stops at the gas station for directions and is told the same thing by Nicholas. He tells Sam to check the meters while he calls the house. Meanwhile Ralph flags down the car driven by Stella, who agrees to take him to the next gas station. On the way he finds out Stella is the maid of honor in the wedding (and the brides cousin) and she learns that Ralph is the groom.

    Taking the detour, Stellas car dies after the switch is thrown by Dr. Richard Marlowe (Bela Lugosi) who watches them on closed circuit camera. He complains when he observes that she is not alone. Ralph gets out to inspect the motor and finds nothing. He does notice the house and heads toward it for help. Marlowe signals for the girl to be brought in. They bring the struggling Stella to a secret door leading to an underground tunnel to the house.

    Ralph rings the doorbell and is greeted icily by Marie the housekeeper (Mici Goty) who tries to get him to leave. She slams the door on him, telling him that the doctor sees no one and that the phone is out of order.

    Stella is taken upstairs into the house where she meets Marlowe, who dismisses the others. Mesmerizing her with his eyes, Marlowe leads her into the room of his wife Evelyn (Ellen Hall), who stares blindly ahead. He introduces her, telling his wife that maybe she can help her. Stella asks if Evelyn is ill, to which Marlowe replies she is dead. He persuades her to accompany him, again using his eyes.

    Meanwhile Ralph, having returned where the car was, notices it is gone. He begins walking back toward the gas station. Stella is told to go into a room and wait. She screams inside and Marlowe closes the door. Toby and Grego remove the detour and replace the fake bushes.

    Having walked back to get a gallon of gas for his car, Ralph arrives and is greeted by his fiancée Betty (Wanda McKay). He is surprised to learn that Stella has not arrived. Bettys mother Mrs. Benton (Mary Currier) comes in and is filled in on the story.

    At midnight Mrs. Benton suggests they call the police but is told to wait by Ralph. After a few minutes the mother says she will call the sheriff because the same thing may have happened to Stella as happened to the other three missing girls. Ralph realizes he is in the middle of the story and they leave.

    Back at the Marlowe house they prepare for a voodoo ceremony. Nicholas reassures Marlowe that this time it will work, saying that Ramboona is all powerful. Marlowe tells Toby and Grego to bring in the zombies and for Marie to bring in Evelyn. Toby returns with four girls who have been held in separate compartments under the house. Marlowe brings in Stella, keeping his gaze fixed on her. Evelyn is brought in and seated across from Stella. Marlowe, having placed his hands on their hands, commands proceed. As Toby bangs on the drum, Nicholas begins voodoo incantations with a piece of rope stretched out between two skulls. Marlowe, gazing at each woman, begins intoning: mind to mind, soul from body to body, emotion to emotion, life to death. The rope is seen tying itself into a knot, which is finally cut by a saber wielded by Nicholas. Stella is seen weakening and slouching back in her chair. Evelyn rises from her chair and asks Marlowe how she got there. He tells her he brought her back so they can be together. All at once she weakens and collapses. Marlowe is seen weeping over her. He is comforted by Nicholas, who tells him that they have the wrong person.

    Ralph tells the sheriff (Henry Hall) about the strange disappearance of Stella. The sheriff remains unconvinced of Ralphs story but remarks that it is similar to the four other missing girls. He complains that his job is hard because of this. He begins to write down about the disappearance and asks where it took place. Ralph tells him the location, saying that it was after the detour sign. The sheriff insists there is no detour sign because no one is working on the road. Ralph remembers that when he drove back that way the sign was gone. The sheriff tells them to go home and that he and Deputy Elmer (Dan White) will go out to the house to investigate. Driving along the way, Elmer and the sheriff discuss what they might find at the doctors house.

    Marlowe adjusts a device projecting rays on his wife when the doorbell rings. The sheriff tells Elmer to search the grounds for the girl and the car. Marlowe answers the door and invites the sheriff inside. Telling the sheriff he uses very little light in the house because of his eyes, Marlowe offers a drink of sherry to him. Marie listens at the door. The sheriff begins looking around the room. Marlowe comes out into the hall and signals for Marie to come. He tells her to take Evelyn down to the cellar because the sheriff may want to search the house. Returning with the sherry, they drink a toast. Marlowe asks what the sheriff wants and is asked if there was a detour sign in the area. Marlowe asks if the road is being repaired and is told no. He says he is confused to which the sheriff agrees. Marie and Toby take Mrs. Marlowe downstairs. As Marlowe and the sheriff talk more about the detour, the phone rings and Marlowe goes to answer it. It is Nicholas calling from the station to report another girl. Marlowe tells him that he is busy talking with the sheriff and hangs up.

    After the sheriff leaves we see Toby checking on the girls. He opens the door of Stella and she comes out. He tells her the master would beat him if he knew she was out of her cage. He leaves but forgets to secure the door. Meanwhile Marlowe tells the others the sheriff asked about the girls but suspects nothing. Stella goes through the underground tunnel and out through the trap door. Marlowe calls for the last subject to be brought in again. Returning for Stella, Toby finds her gone and begs Grego not to tell Marlowe. They run into the room and Toby confesses the girl is gone. He is told to find her on threat of death.

    Elmer and the sheriff see Stella walking in the road and the sheriff exclaims gosh all fishhooks. They stop and put Stella in the car, heading for the Benton house.

    When Stella is brought to the Bentons she is identified as the missing girl. The sheriff says she was either sleepwalking or hypnotized. Ralph says to call a doctor. They are unable to arouse her from her trance state. Marlowe is told by Toby he knows where the girl is. As the sheriff and Elmer are leaving, Dr. Marlowe shows up at the Benton house, asking about the girl. He is introduced to Mrs. Benton by the sheriff, who suggests the doctor might be able to help Stella. Marlowe is shown in to see Stella, who becomes somewhat excited in her breathing as she sees him. This is noted by Betty and Ralph. Marlowe tells them to give her rest and seclusion and offers to return tomorrow. He leaves and Betty and Ralph discuss Stellas strange reaction to Marlowe.

    Calling Nicholas, Marlowe gets him to use voodoo to summon Stella back. Nicholas chants over one of Stellas earrings until she walks back to the house. When the girl is brought into the room, Nicholas is congratulated by Marlowe. Ramboona never fails, Nicholas replies.

    Betty comes in to find Stella gone. Next we see Betty and Ralph driving back to Marlowes house. He invites them in to discuss what happened. It is suggested that maybe Stella wandered off in a hypnotic state. Marlowe tells them that his wife Evelyn used to be subject to those kinds of spells. They observe a picture of her on the wall and Ralph asks if Evelyn still has those kinds of spells. Marlowe tells him that his wife has been dead for 22 years and goes to phone the sheriff for any news. While he is on the phone, Evelyn is seen walking trance-like by Ralph and Betty. Marie pulls her back out of the way as Marlowe concludes his phone call. Betty rises, visibly upset but Ralph prevents her from saying anything. They leave but Marlowe tells them to notify him when she is found. Outside, they go away from the door where they can talk without being heard. Inside we see Marlowe clutching one of Bettys gloves, having commented on her beauty earlier.

    Nicholas is summoned again to chant over the glove. Meanwhile, Betty and Ralph discuss seeing Evelyn at a café. Betty begins to feel odd but insists she will be all right. Ralph phones the sheriff, telling him they saw Marlowes dead wife alive and wearing the same clothes Stella had. He leaves to go to investigate and Ralph says they will join him.

    Ralph returns to the table to find Betty gone. He waits a few minutes to see if she returns, then asks the waitress who tells him Betty left. Betty is seen driving to the doctors house. Ralph finds out from a man outside who saw Betty drive away in a daze. He catches a ride to follow her.

    After turning at the detour, they find Bettys car but no sign of her. Ralph tells the man to contact the sheriff and tell him to come to Marlowes house. Finding the trap door open, Ralph enters. When he finds the ceremony, he calls out for Betty. He is knocked out by Grego and the chanting continues. The sheriff and Elmer arrive and break in to enter. Coming into the room, they draw guns and ask what is going on. Marlowe goes to get a weapon from the table and is shot by the sheriff. As he falls, Evelyn speaks and calls his name. He tells her that soon he will be with her and dies. Evelyn collapses and Betty and Stella return to normal.

    Ralph hands in a treatment to his boss entitled: The Voodoo Man and suggests that Bela Lugosi play the part.

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