VOODOO HEARTBEAT (1972)
Ray Molina, Jr.
MPAA rating: R
Released by TWI National
First announced in August of 1970 as a Sack Amusement Enterprises production entitled SEX SERUM OF DR. BLAKE. That title was later used for the film's 1976 re-release, as well as the overseas release.
In a Chinese torture chamber in the United States, the commander informs his captured victim that "we have ways of making you talk." And they do! Top secret information has leaked to these Oriental butchers that the U.S. is in possession of a "serum of youth" -- and no torture is too grim to get it for Red China, where it is needed to keep leader Mao in top condition. American scientists carrying the serum are killed by Chinese "commandos." Alone comes Dr. Blake (Ray Molina), a black sheep of his profession, and the serum falls into his hands and his arm. But the serum eats up his blood supply faster than his body can produce it and he craves fresh blood to stay alive. A Dracula-type mad man, Molina is tracked down by police in a wild speedboat chase and killed. And as he dies, his skin shrivels into an ancient human being.
Pass out bottles of sugared water. Call it "youth serum." Hire a young man to carry a sign that he is 162 years old, but has kept his looks because of "youth serum." Arrange a tape interview and play it at the theatre prior to the engagement of "Voodoo Heartbeat."
Filmed entirely in Las Vegas' ATF Studios and surrounding area, "Voodoo Heartbeat" attempts a new approach to the old story of searching for a fountain (or serum) of youth. In this case it's Red China that needs the elixir to keep its leader Mao Tse Tung in power forever. And the only way to obtain it is to steal it from U.S. scientists who have just brought it to America from the jungles of Africa. Adding to this basic storyline a torture chamber, a man turned animal, a speedboat trackdown scene and a lot of blood, and you have a fairly well-made exploitation picture that could appeal to both the horror fans as well as "cult enthusiasts." Torture scenes are fairly realistic and depict the butchering of arms, ears and what have you. Ray Molina's starring role as the doctor turned madman is handled well. Molina also produced the picture. For nudity there is a brief ritual scene shot in semi-darkness, but quite unrevealing. Charles Nizet's direction is only passable as he follows his own screenplay. "Voodoo Heartbeat" should do well in exploitation hardtops, but will find its best returns in drive-ins when hard sell is applied.
[Boxoffice BookinGuide, June 12, 1972, 4496]
Zapata Descendant to Star in 'Voodoo Heartbeat'
HOLLYWOOD -- Mike Zapata, a direct descendant of the famous Mexican Zapata, makes his screen debut in the Ray Molina production, "Voodoo Heartbeat," distributed by TWI National. Robert Saxton, president of TWI National, stated, "Mike Zapata will be one of the top stars of the motion picture and television mediums during the next few years, as he has all the attributes of a James Cagney."
At a recent screening of "Voodoo Heartbeat," the response was so great, says Saxton, that he already has entered into negotiations with Ray Molina Productions to make a sequel entitled "Dr. Blake's Revenge."
[Boxoffice, May 15, 1972, p. 9]
Stan Mason, who played Inspector Brady in "Voodoo Heartbeat" and who works at Douglas Aircraft in El Segundo, proves the old Russian idea of naturalistic casting. Ray Molina, who produced for TWI National release, selected Mason. Molina stopped him on the street, knowing him slightly, and asked if he would play in the film. "I don't know anything about acting," was the reply -- but he took the role. Now, two studios have called Mason asking him to take a part in Box Saxton's TWI film "The Long Highway."
[Boxoffice, June 5, 1972, p. W-3]
TWI 'Voodoo Heartbeat' A Campy Horror Film
"Voodoo Heartbeat" (TWI National), starring Ray Molina, Philip Ahn and Ern Dugo, is a very funny horror film. Actually, it's campy enough to get real laughs from the teenagers and college crowd. They seemed to love it. Why the film is rated R is beyond me; it's just another example of the inconsistency of the rating system. Everyone was asking the same thing.
NOLAN L. MOLE
[Boxoffice Showmandiser, August 28, 1972, p. 121]
Thanks to Mike MacCollum for additional research