(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

VOODOO MACBETH is a Narrative film (i.e., not a documentary) about the Federal Theater Project production of MACBETH in 1935 in its Negro Theater Unit, headed by Rose McClendon and John Houseman. They got Orson Welles to direct, and this was Welles's directorial debut. The production became famous, perhaps the more so for having no record of it other than still photographs, so a film about it is quite welcome.

Unfortunately, the film VOODOO MACBETH sacrifices historical accuracy for dramatic effect. It adds a gay subplot, a corrupt anti-Communist Congressman, a stabbing, and other flights of fancy. (Then again, this is not unlike Welles's falsifying of reality in his radio production of "The War of the Worlds". In fact, he had a lifelong fascination with magic and other forms of deception.)

This means, though, that the viewer cannot know if there really was an initial problem that the crew was too white, or whether Virginia (Nicolson) Welles's role in the production is accurate. She is portrayed as quite liberal about African Americans in the film, and the idea for the Haitian setting to be hers. Yet in real life she ended up living in apartheid South Africa and being quite comfortable with that (according to her daughter). But given Orson Welles's ego, it is certainly possible that he took credit for ideas that were not quite his. I am also somewhat skeptical of the extent of the casting difficulties--is it really true that all Welles could find were totally inexperienced actors: a boxer, a singer, an elevator operator, and so on?

There are also a lot of theater superstitions thrown in (no mention of the "M" word outside of the script, no whistling in the theater, etc.).

Released theatrically 21 October 2022. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9748424/reference

What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/voodoo_macbeth

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2022 Mark R. Leeper