Weird Woman (1944)

Misfortune befalls a newlywed professor and his bride when he demands she stop practicing her native island magic.

While on a research trip to the South Seas, sociology professor Norman Reed meets Paula, the daughter of his mentor who had settled on the island and married a native woman. The professor unwittingly commits a faux pas during a ritual and is attacked by the native men. Paula and her godmother, the high priestess, intervene and tend to his injuries. Norman and Paula fall in love and marry, then return to the college where Norman teaches.

A welcome home party becomes awkward for campus librarian Ilona Carr, who’s carrying a torch for Norman, when Paula is introduced as Mrs. Norman Reed. Some time later, Reed has published a successful book expounding on logic versus superstition, and is on the short list to become the new head of the sociology department. Paula, however, is looked at askance by some of the faculty, including her husband, especially when he follows her during one of her regular nightly trips out of the house. Turns out, Paula still practices her native island’s voodoo magic, in a cemetery, appropriately enough. Norman catches her out and scoops up her amulets, talismans, and other accoutrements. Back home, the skeptical Norman demands Paula destroy all her paraphernalia, including the good luck necklace she’s never without. Reluctantly, she obliges, then all hell seems to break loose.

WW4

A female student assisting Norman in his office has a crush, which doesn’t sit well with her jealous boyfriend. A career damaging secret is revealed of another professor, who takes drastic actions as a result. Paula is tormented by phones calls in which she hears her island’s death chant. Was her positive protective magic really working?

WW5

The second Inner Sanctum movie, Weird Woman, though catchy for a title, promises to be something it isn’t. That said, it’s still a pretty good little flick. Based on a novel by Fritz Lieber and directed by Reginald Le Borg, it’s kind of a Peyton Place meets academia that just grazes the supernatural. Lon Chaney Jr. plays Norman Reed, with Anne Gwynne as his voodoo practicing wife, Paula. Evelyn Ankers gets to play against type as the scheming bitch Ilona and does an excellent job. As the Dean of women, Elisabeth Risdon provides some incisive dark humor. Elizabeth Russell, Ralph Morgan, and Lois Collier do well in their supporting roles.

Although it focuses more on college faculty jealousy, politicking, and backstabbing rather than the supernatural, Weird Woman is still enjoyable, another of Universal’s well-made and entertaining B-movies. I couldn’t help but laugh when at one point, Norman tells Ilona not to be melodramatic, then she melodramatically storms out of his office, and I can’t help but laugh at the preposterous idea that Norman Reed was every woman’s dream man; not only did he marry Paula, but Ilona and co-ed Margaret want that man, too! (Learn to accept it, it’s a thing in every movie, see my review of The Frozen Ghost).

Just over sixty minutes, Weird Woman is a little slower paced, but worth a watch for all the backbiting shenanigans of the intellectuals within the hallowed halls of ivy. ***1/2 out of 5 (or 6.5 out of 10)

 

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