AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Black Moon
Director: Roy William Neill (Dir)
Release Date:   15 Jun 1934
Production Date:   10 Apr--3 May 1934
Duration (in mins):   68-69
Duration (in feet):   6,336
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast:   Jack Holt (Stephen Lane)  
    Fay Wray (Gail)  
    Dorothy Burgess (Juanita Lane)  
    Cora Sue Collins (Nancy Lane)  
    Arnold Korff (Dr. Perez)  
    Clarence Muse (Lunch)  
    Eleanor Wesselhoeft (Anna)  
    Madame Sul-Te-Wan (Riva)  
    Lawrence Criner (Kala)  
    Lumsden Hare (Macklin)  
    Henry Kolker (Doctor)  
    Theresa Harris (Sacrificed girl)  
    Fred Walton (Butler)  
    Billy McClain (House servant)  
    Charles Moore (House servant)  
    Robert Frazier (House servant)  
    Ada Penn (House servant)  
    Anna Lee Johnson (House servant)  
    Lillian West (Maid)  
    Lillian Smith (Nurse)  
    Grace Chapman (Welfare worker)  
    Edna Franklin (Girl sacrificed by mother)  
    William H. Dunn (Langa)  
    Pierre Lutere    

Summary: Stephen Lane is mystified by his wife Juanita's coldness toward himself and their daughter Nancy. Juanita, who was born and reared on the island of St. Christopher, located near Haiti, is obsessed with the drum beats of her native land, and so Stephen sends her to a psychiatrist. Juanita is diagnosed as having a neurosis, and when she demands to return to her home, Stephen acquiesces, although he insists that she take along her secretary Gail to care for Nancy. Macklin, the overseer of Juanita's uncle's estate, visits her and begs her not to return to the island, for he knows that as a child she was initiated into voodoo rituals and was elevated to a prominent position within the cult. Juanita refuses to listen, and when Macklin threatens to go to Stephen and expose her, he is killed by the native who accompanied him. Juanita is happy to be back in St. Christopher, but gradually becomes more cruel toward Nancy. Juanita's uncle, Dr. Perez, warns her to avoid becoming involved with voodoo again, but she arrogantly ignores him. Worried about Nancy, Gail sends for Stephen, and after her message is sent, the radio operator is murdered. By the time Stephen arrives, Nancy's nurse has been killed and Juanita has begun behaving even more strangely. While the drums beat one night, Juanita disappears, and Lunch, a kindly black, leads Stephen to a voodoo amphitheater in the jungle. There Stephen is horrified to see that Juanita is high priestess in a cult of human sacrifice, and he shoots a priest in order to prevent the murder of a girl. He also learns that all of the whites on the island are to be murdered except Juanita. Perez, Nancy and Lunch flee to Perez's home, a portion of which is fortified. Juanita leads an attack, but Perez, Gail and Stephen escape to Perez's yacht. Nancy, however, is taken to be sacrificed by her mother. Stephen follows her into the jungle and kills Juanita, then flees the island, engulfed in slaughter, with his daughter. As she follows on another sailboat, Gail realizes that Stephen loves her and that she will be able to take the place of Juanita in his heart. 

Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corp.  
Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures Corp.  
Director: Roy William Neill (Dir)
  Robert Margolis (Asst dir)
Producer: Everett Riskin (Assoc prod)
Writer: Wells Root (Scr)
Photography: Joseph August (Photog)
  Dave Ragin (Cam op)
  Marcel Grand (Asst cam)
  Jack Andersen (Asst cam)
Film Editor: Richard Cahoon (Film ed)
Sound: Edward Bernds (Sd eng)
Dance: Max Scheck (Dance dir)
Production Misc: Don Taylor (Tech adv)
  Eddie Blaisdell (Grip)
  Stanley Dunn (Props)
  Irving Lippman (Still photog)
Stand In: Lee McNally (Double for Dorothy Burgess)
  Edna Tichenor (Stand-in for Dorothy Burgess)
  Kay Konrad (Stand-in for Fay Wray)
  William Lally (Stand-in for Jack Holt)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Black Moon by Clements Ripley (New York, 1933)
Authors: Clements Ripley

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Columbia Pictures Corp. 24/6/1934 dd/mm/yyyy LP4784

Physical Properties: Sd:
  b&w:

 
Genre: Horror
Sub-Genre: Jungle
 
Subjects (Major): African Americans
  Cults
  Human sacrifice
  Massacres
  Mothers and daughters
  Racism
  Rites and ceremonies
  Voodoo
  West Indies
 
Subjects (Minor): Children
  Islands
  Marriage
  Murder
  New York City
  Nurses
  Plantations
  Psychiatrists
  Radio operators
  Secretaries
  Uncles
  Yachts and yachting

Note: Contemporary sources indicate that Clements Ripley's novel first appeared in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan . The MPH review commented: "In that the colored natives involved in the film are rather harshly pictured as blood-thirsty worshippers of black gods who indulge in sacrificial orgies, the film may meet with objection in those situations where colored people make up a portion of the patronage." 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   7-Jul-34   
Film Daily   28 Jun 34   p. 6.
International Photographer   1 May 34   p. 16.
Motion Picture Daily   28 Jun 34   p. 14.
Motion Picture Herald   7 Jul 34   p. 48.
New York Times   28 Jun 34   p. 26.
Variety   3 Jul 34   p. 26.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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