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Dagmawi Abebe, Victor Alonso-Berbel, Roy Arwas, Hannah Bang, Christopher Beaton, Agazi Desta, Tiffany Kontoyiannis Guillen, Zoe Salnave, Ernesto Sandoval, Sabina Vajraca
Inger Tudor, Jewell Wilson Bridges, Daniel Kuhlman
Writing Credits:
Agazi Desta, Jennifer Frazin, Morgan Milender, Molly Miller, Amri Rigby, Joel David Santner, Erica Sutherlin, Chris Tarricone

In 1936 Harlem, the first all-Black cast production of 'Macbeth' struggles to make it to opening night amid the downward spiral of their young and untested director: Orson Welles.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio 2.00:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English PCM Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $24.95
Release Date: 1/17/2023

• Audio Commentary with Director Zoe Salnave, Producers Miles Alva and Jason Phillips, Writer Erica Sutherlin and Actors Inger Tudor and Jewell Wilson Bridges
• 1936 Footage


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Voodoo Macbeth [Blu-Ray] (2021)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 10, 2023)

In the mass public eye, Orson Welles achieved notoriety with his infamous 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. A few years earlier, though, Welles became involved in an ambitious stage project depicted in 2021’s Voodoo Macbeth.

In 1936, the New Deal “Federal Theatre Project” provides funding for a variety of stage productions. Stage actor Rose McClendon (Inger Tudor) and producer John Houseman (Daniel Kuhlman) run the Harlem Negro Theater Unit and decide to use this money to put on an all-Black version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

To help achieve this production, they hire 20-year-old Orson Welles (Jewell Wilson Bridges) as director. Controversy and complications follow.

Voodoo credits 10 directors and eight writers. As I compose this review, I’ve not yet listened to the disc’s audio commentary, which I expect will discuss how the movie involved so many participants in those roles.

I do know this: that sounds like an awful lot of chefs in the kitchen. If I’ve ever seen a non-anthology film with that many directors, I can’t think of it, and I also can’t figure out why a fairly simply story like Voodoo would need – or benefit from – so many folks in that role.

I can say that despite all those participants, Voodoo never feels disjointed. However those 10 directors worked together, they created a final product that hangs together seamlessly.

However, that doesn’t mean Voodoo actually works as a film. Despite an inherently compelling narrative, the final product seems tepid and superficial.

Voodoo wants to give us a look at young Welles along with the cast of the stage production. It fails to depict any of these roles in a strong manner and makes them all come across like soap opera characters.

Expect a thoroughly sudsy vibe throughout Voodoo, as it brings heavy melodrama to much of the tale. We get issues connected to Welles’ problems with wife Virginia (June Schreiner), a couple gay characters who deal with the era’s taboos, a lead actor with a serious illness, and various outside threats.

Of course, I understand that the movie needs various tensions to create an actual workable plot, and I’m sure many of these threads come from history. For instance, McClendon died in 1936, so her malady stems from real life.

However, as depicted in Voodoo, all these elements feel contrived. Even when the plot points emanate from history, the film paints them in a way that means they come across as artificial.

Voodoo also suffers from an amateurish vibe, which perhaps shouldn’t surprise as it exists essentially as a product from film students. Not that the acting or production values seem bad, but the whole thing gives off the aura of a TV movie more than a real feature film.

The script sticks the actors with clumsy dialogue, and the performers tend to overdo their roles. This adds to the amateurish vibe, as none of the onscreen talent can add believability or depth to their parts.

Voodoo seems well-meaning and I do like the story at its core. Unfortunately, the end product lacks bite and seems like a cheesy melodrama more than a compelling narrative.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

Voodoo Macbeth appears in an aspect ratio of 2.00:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie consistently looked good.

For the most part, sharpness appeared positive. Some softness affected occasional wide shots or interiors, but the majority seemed distinctive and concise.

I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and I witnessed no edge haloes. As expected, no source flaws popped up during the clean presentation.

Also as expected of a period piece, Voodoo opted for a subdued palette. Amber/teal became the dominant tones, with splashes of other hues as well. Given those restrictions, the colors seemed appropriate.

Blacks were fairly deep, and shadows satisfied. All of this added up to a solid “B” image.

I felt reasonably pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Voodoo. Given the movie’s semi-chatty nature, the soundscape didn’t come across as consistently involving.

Still, street scenes, clubs, and aspects of the stage prodiction managed to add activity to the proceedings. While these didn’t dazzle, they suited the material.

Audio quality was positive. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other issues.

Effects appeared accurate and dynamic, while music was rich and clear. Nothing here created a killer soundtrack, but the audio made sense for the story.

A few extras appear, and we get an audio commentary from director Zoe Salnave, producers Miles Alva and Jason Phillips, writer Erica Sutherlin and actors Inger Tudor and Jewell Wilson Bridges. All six sit together for this running, screen-specific look at coordinating the multiple directors, sets and locations, cast and performances, screenplay topics, period details and costumes, and music.

Remember in the body of the review when I implied I hoped the commentary would tell us how the multiple directors worked together? Alas, little such content appears here.

Really, we get few insights connected to the unusual nature of this project. Led by Phillips, we get a decent overview of the usual domains, but nothing especially enlightening occurs.

In addition, the participants devote an awful lot of the track to the standard happy talk. We find occasional worthwhile notes here, but as a whole, this seems like a lackluster piece.

We also get original 1936 footage. This four-minute, two-second newsreel gives us a brief but useful look at the production at the heart of Voodoo.

I looked forward to Voodoo Macbeth, as I hoped it would offer a compelling docudrama. Unfortunately, the final product lacks real depth and becomes little more than thin melodrama. The Blu-ray boasts pretty good picture and audio along with a couple bonus features. As much as I appreciate the core tale here, the movie doesn’t work.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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