Macumba Sexual (1983)
By: Mr Intolerance on December 19, 2009  | 
Severin (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Spanish DD 2.0 mono. English Subtitles. 80 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Jess Franco
Starring: Candy Coster, Robert Foster, Ajita Wilson, Jess Franco
Screenplay: Jess Franco
Country: Spain
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Let's face facts, most folks don't know what macumba actually is. Even in that iconic moment in Dawn of the Dead, Peter has to explain to Fran, Steven and Roger that it's "voodoo" – so when maverick Spanish director Jess Franco turns up to his producers with a film called "Macumba", as part of a back-to-back filming schedule with Mansion of the Living Dead, using primarily the same cast and crew, they decide the target audience with the addition of one word, and hence Macumba Sexual is born.

In 1981 Franco returned to his native Spain, having been working in France, Italy, Germany and the UK for many years, hoping to re-invent himself as a director, or probably more accurately, revitalize himself. Having realized the benefits both financial and artistic (in terms of working with a cast and crew) of the back-to-back filming schedule, two films were made in the Canary Islands, with little to no intrusion (other than that which I've mentioned above) from his backers. Shot on miniscule budgets on the tightest of schedules, you wouldn't say that either were defining moments in Franco's career, but if his inclination was indeed to change the way he made films, I think you'd have to say "mission accomplished", because the 80s did indeed mark a stylistic change in Franco's oeuvre.

Lina Romay, in her alter ego as "Candy Coster" (basically consisting of wearing a wig that makes her look like the female half of 70s schmaltz-poppers, The Captain and Tenille) plays Alice, a real estate agent and the young wife of a novelist, who has some serious sexual issues to work out, most notably to do with some bizarre lesbian psycho-sexual dreams featuring the mysterious and dusky Princess Obongo (ahem), played by transsexual Ajita Wilson. As if the sexual element of the film hadn't already been addressed in the title, we get plenty of close-up shots of Romay's big ol' hairy Earth mother muff as she writhes about on the bed panting and groaning. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, I'm just saying that I think it was maybe not quite so necessary as Jess may have found it to be. If he was trying to reinvigorate his approach to cinema, he probably should have left the crash zoom at home.

Now, it's pretty apparent early on that Princess Obongo (why does that name make me cringe so much?) is invading Alice's dreams via her use of macumba (I'm not too sure it can work in such a way, but nevertheless…), and getting her all hot and sweaty, but she's also about to invade her real life, too. In her dreams, Alice is dominated by the woman, in one instance ravished by the nekkid man and woman Obongo keeps on leads like dogs, leaving her feeling hornier than a ten-peckered owl. Worse still, the hallucinations seem to be catching – Alice and her porno-moustached husband are having a cheeky fuck and each of them perceives the other to be Obongo, and gets even more into it because of it. Weird.

Can I just point out at this moment that Ajita Wilson's performance is rather… ummm… flamboyant, to say the least? She doesn't so much chew the scenery as try to absorb it via full body osmosis. There's much tossing of the head and diabolical laughter, let me tell you. Seeing as the acting is equally diabolical, that's probably appropriate, if somewhat grating.

If you're Australian and of a certain age, you may remember that every year there'd be a series of compilation LPs that would come out, things like "Ripper '76", which would feature on the front cover, the taut buttocks of a young woman, clad in highly abbreviated Daisy Dukes. This is the outfit Alice wears to see a mysterious high-paying client, unlike most real estate agents I've had dealings with (thankfully). It's also about this point where Franco himself turns up in the film as Meme, the local mental who likes to play with his stuffed animals. Strangely, Franco often puts himself into his own films, usually as a deeply flawed character in one way or another, here as a retard. By his own admission he used to work in theatre and made a success of playing such characters – you'd think he'd try to break the stereotype, but apparently not. At least here he serves a purpose, as a warning to Alice about the Princess, but some people simply cannot be told, huh? The lure of the booty is too strong.

When the two finally do meet, I was fully expecting Lina Romay to ask for her costume from Female Vampire back. Seriously, Wilson is wearing a cape, some high stemmed leather boots and not much else. Personally, I've never gone to see a real estate agent dressed in such a fashion, but there you go. Anyway, Alice gets to Obongo's house, where she's understandably a little freaked out, more so when Obongo's slaves, Poppy (the naked chained woman from her dreams), and Tulip (the least aptly named character ever – this dude has a face like a knee) turn up – are her dreams going to become reality? Well, it would seem that Obongo is trying to use her supernatural powers to move things in her favour, as while Alice is in the bath erasing camel stink, Obongo has fucked off with Poppy and Tulip to the desert to do some shady macumba magic (*insert spooky noise here*). Why she couldn't do that at home is anyone's guess, but it might have something to do with the incredible overacting that Ajita Wilson is about to display as she goes into some kind of macumba sex trance. I can only imagine what Jess Franco must have said to her for motivation at this point… Especially when she's fellating the rather phallic image of her macumba god. I think I'm saying "macumba" too much. But seriously, the dude has a nob for a head, and she licks it and sucks it like she means it, let me tell you, before the macumba god travels south, if you take my meaning, and I think you do.

But of course, when religion and magic don't work, you can always rely on drink-spiking, which Obongo does, before setting to on Alice, with Poppy and Tulip's help. Now, there's a big leap in continuity here, as the very next scene we get is Alice and her husband on the beach, talking about Alice's misadventure on Obongo's island, obviously some time after coming her brains out being licked and suckled by three other people (I can't quite decide if this rather graphic scene constitutes hard-core or soft-core sex; regardless, it's not something you'd show the kids – and that's been the tenor of the film throughout, re: the is it hard or soft core; when you see it, you'll know what I mean). Problem for Alice is that as mentioned before, her husband also has a bit of an Obongo fetish, so that escape from the island is not necessarily escape from Obongo's clutches. Now I'm saying Obongo too much. He wants some of that dark strange, too. And even the thought of it sends Alice into panting, groaning sweaty throes of sexual ecstasy. How will this all end up? Watch it and learn folks – I've brought you up to the last act, if your curiosity is strong enough given what's been written, I think you'll be more than adequately rewarded by some of the surprises left in store; believe me, it's a wild and crazy ride!
The picture quality is everything you've come to expect from Severin: the absolute best that they can manage. I have not been let down by Severin once in this regard, and I own a fair amount of their output. Anamorphic? Check. Original cinemascope aspect ratio? Check. Totally pristine razor-sharp image? Big check on that one. An excellent picture all round.
Adequate to the task at hand, you get a dual track mono sound, which is really all you need, this not being an action-soundfest. Oh, and Pablo Villa's haunting and atmospheric score deserves some props right here – a nice bit of work indeed.
Extra Features
Well, the only one you get is "Voodoo Jess", a 22 minute interview with Franco and Romay discussing the production of the film, Franco's work in a slightly more holistic way, Ajita Wilson (answering the question of whether or not she was ever a he – Franco doesn't care, stating that if she was a transsexual, "Bravo for the doctors", but Romay is quite emphatic that Wilson was indeed once a fella – given some of the scenes in this film, she's better placed than most to judge!), about whom both are quite complimentary, Franco referring to her as a female Christopher Lee! Don't quite know what Big Chris would have to say about that. They also go on to discuss how their relationship (both in terms of their personal and working lives) began, and Franco also addresses something that's plagued me for a long time in his movies. Quite often Franco cameos in his own movies, but usually as a character who is of no use to man or beast – his reasoning is that he likes to play a fool, or as he more evocatively states, "I like to play mental retards". Okay… Basically, it's a Jess Franco interview, you know he's going to be a straight-shooter and call a spade a fuckin' shovel, which he certainly does here. An eminently watchable interview – y'know, I'd love to see a DVD just of Franco's interviews. There's no bullshit about the guy, and he tells a good story – a natural raconteur.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I can't really say that Macumba Sexual has all that much of a plot, but then again, what Jess Franco film does? It's an entertaining sex-fuelled romp with enough of a "what the fuck" vibe to satisfy the sleaze-hound set (i.e.: me), and is one of Franco's last real hurrahs, in terms of his golden era of craziness. Sure, he's made better films, but then again, he's also made a hell of a lot worse, too. It achieves a certain kind of atmosphere, is a rather lush and vivid spectacle and hey, it's worth watching if for no other reason than seeing Lina Romay nekkid for almost the entire duration of the film. I liked it a lot, but then, I'm a weird guy. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're interested by what's written above, you may very well enjoy it, but it's by no means essential.

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