It’s time for a fun retro film with Lon Chaney. I have to admit that he is to the 40’s-50’s what Tom Cruise is to the 2000s. He’s easily the best retro actors and his films have definitely been pretty fun. This one is no exception and while everything about the film from the posters to the premise is misleading, it makes for a nice ride. The film is only about an hour so it has to make haste, but it develops soundly. There is time for some nice monologues and nothing ever feels too rushed.
Norman is a respected professor who’s been doing rather well for himself. He visits a tribe in order to gather some intel for his book about Facts vs Myths and Superstition. There he meets a girl named Paula who knows English because her father was a professor. Norman is a little too eager to finally meet someone who can understand him and goes past the sacred line of no return. Paula saves him along with her guardian with the voodoo practices. The two heroes head home and are immediately married, much to the scorn of Ilona. She had previously been with Norman and wasn’t really given a heads up on this. Norman lets her know that they never loved each other though so that makes it okay. She decides to get revenge by getting everyone to dislike Norman so they can all murder each other, but this may not be as easy as it sounds. Paula has a lot of protective magics from her tribe to block all such attempts, but Norman destroys them so that she can put the superstitions away. Has he just doomed them all?
It’s a pretty fun film from start to finish. Norman does a lot of inner monologue about what is happening. While he may over analyze everything and ultimately confuse himself, it’s fun to see the step by step logic to what he is doing. Eventually, he begins to think so much that he starts to lose confidence in facts and believes in myths a little more. This begins to be his undoing, but Norman won’t lose so easily. He’s a solid main character and he even takes care of the gun wielding student who ambushes him at the gym. His one character flaw is from the intro of the film and it’ll depend on how you interpret it. Based on how Ilona was talking to him, it sounded like they were still together when he returned before letting them all know that he was actually married. If so, then that does make Norman pretty inconsiderate, but there is the chance that they had already broken up and Ilona was just making life hard on him. It’s hard to say one way or the other since Ilona is pretty desperate and crazy by the end.
Paula is a nice enough person. She never actively curses people and just puts in clauses. If someone tries to hurt Norman, then the person will die, but she sets it up in a way where the mystical trap won’t activate unless someone does act with malicious intent. That’s awfully considerate of her right? Lying to Norman about this was a little iffy though. She does begin to crack once she loses her protective armaments though. I would have liked for her to have been a little more confident and aggressive. Perhaps that will be the case if the film ever got a remake or a reboot.
Ilona is the main villain and at the very least, you have to admit that she planned things out rather well. She blackmails one of the professors, encourages a young student to work for Norman so her boyfriend would get jealous, eggs on that very student, spreads a lot of rumors about Norman, and finally terrorizes Paula by playing a death chant over the phone. Ilona really covers all of the bases and because she very subtlety eggs everyone on, nobody ever thinks to blame her. Only one of the Deans seems to know that something is going on, but she can’t even begin to suspect the complete depth of the plan. It’s simply too ingenious and radical for someone to guess at a moment’s notice. Ilona’s motives may have been rather petty, but she was a nice villain.
The supporting characters were a little less charismatic. The female student (Who seems just like Simmons from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the point where I think the latter got inspiration) is pretty over dramatic and too extreme about trying to get Norman to betray his wife. Her boyfriend was just as drastic as he quickly grabs his gun (Doesn’t everyone have one?) and immediately goes to destroy Norman. This doesn’t go too well though since Norman is surprisingly tough. You rarely get to see him fight so that was certainly pretty fun. There’s also the wife of the professor who was being black mailed and she certainly gets pretty heated about the whole thing. Her rage is probably the most justified even if it is reaching a little to blame Norman for what happened. Even with the false intel that was being supplied to her, you can’t really blame someone else when the guy just decided to take the easy way out. You can’t just give up on life and leave everyone else to pick up the pieces.
The misleading part is really about how the Weird Woman was portrayed as some very powerful mystical person with malicious intent. Sure, Paula may have had some special powers, but she was never mysterious in the slightest apart from the very beginning of the film. The film actually had a large chunk of time where Paula didn’t even appear. There’s not a lot of suspense and danger like you would assume from the poster although there is a decent level of tension. While there aren’t many supernatural elements here, the stakes are still real since the body count starts to rise. I’ll take this over a classic horror film any day.
The final plan that the heroes put into place is thought out reasonably well although it does ride on the assumption that someone would take the threat seriously. I think most villains wouldn’t take a threat too seriously after they’ve been the ones dishing it out and Ilona just seemed to be too confident to actually buy into any of this. At least she didn’t escape though and attempted to make a break for it in the end. I won’t say how it goes, but you do have to admire her can do attitude and refusal to give up.
Overall, Weird Woman was a fun film. As someone noted, the tribal dance and chant even seemed to be inspired from the Mothra films. The main characters are all either likable or make for good villains. The cast can easily hold this film up and keep it interesting. The writing is very solid and there’s really no big negatives to speak of. The short length helps to keep it from getting a really high score like an 8, but considering this isn’t an action film, a 7 is certainly solid. It’s just a fun way to pass the time by and ultimately you just want a film to be fun. It’s hard to say if this one beats Calling Doctor Death since they are really close, but I might give this one the slight edge. It also certainly beats the Frozen Ghost even if there wasn’t a Dog here. That film was a lot more emotional. This one never tried to be too sad and it’s just popcorn fun. It also reminds you to choose your friends carefully as just about everyone in this film is (not so) secretly a gossip so word travels fast. Norman’s good reputation did help him out quite a lot in the end though as it bought him some time to get to the truth. I definitely recommend it so you can see how well written films like this one are just a lot of fun. I wish we still got films like this, but unfortunately, they are all but extinct from Hollywood now.