Reviews
La Muerte Viviente (1971) half brain
(Mexico)

Alternate Titles:

Isle of the Living Dead
Isle of the Snake People
Snake People


This was one of a series of Mexican films where the filmmakers took unused footage of Boris Karloff (some of his last) and wrapped a budget horror film around it. Known in the US as Snake People, it's about a young woman, Annabella (credited as Julissa), that comes to her Uncle Carl's (Karloff's) Caribbean estate (back when the French controlled the islands) to preach the evils of alcohol to the islanders. She arrives at the same time as a police captain (Rafael Bertrand) intent on stamping out the local voodoo religion. Needless to say, the islanders take to none of this very well, and it seems that even Uncle Carl is siding with the natives. Uncle Carl has a buxom maid, Kalea (Yolanda Montes, stage name Tongolele), who also happens to be the head voodoo priestess. The main ceremony that seems to be performed is watching Kalea dance in a skimpy outfit with a snake.

The movie is agonizingly slow. Even when we aren't watching Kalea dance (which gets old quickly, as hard as that may be to believe), we're often watcing some other kind of ritual, almost all without dialog. One exception is when Kalea comes to Annabella while she's asleep and chants "Give your dreams to Damballah" over and over. This seems to be something about Kalea unleashing Annabella's repressed sexuality, because in the dream sequence we see next, Annabella confronts a sexy version of herself (dancing with a snake). But why does Kalea want to liberate Annabella, other than to give a reason for us to see a sexy Annabella? (I use the term "sexy" loosely here; it's not erotic in the least, except for the obvious sexual symbolism with the snake.) But even the scenes with dialog are drawn out and uninteresting, except for a few with Karloff.

There are various other subplots, none of which are very interesting. There's a man with some unclear connection to Uncle Carl who has a zombie maid, and there's a police lieutenant (Carlos East) who keeps warning the captain not to mess with the natives (to no avail), but nothing ever really grabs your interest. Since this is set in the Carribean, the police are supposed to be French, and it's mildly amusing to see Mexican actors trying to speak English with a French accent, but I'm sure that wasn't the filmmakers' intent. Basically, if you want to see Boris Karloff and tepid exotic dancing, there's a slight chance this film will entertain you, but otherwise, don't bother.