For this month’s first review for Genre Grandeur – Zombie Films, here’s a review of King of the Zombies (1940) by Quiggy of The Midnite Drive-In
Thanks again to Darren of Movie Reviews 101 for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Debbie at Moon in Gemini. and it is Movies About Musicians
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Nov by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Debbie!
Let’s see what Quiggy thought of this movie:
The recent fascination with zombies is not new, but the current fascination with zombies who are obsessed with “getting head”, so to speak, is not the same as the zombies of old. Zombies of the 30’s-50’s are as different from the current zombie as Klingons from Star Trek:TOS are from the more recent permutations of Klingons.
The first zombie movie is generally agreed to be Bela Lugosi’s White Zombie. My personal opinion is that early zombies were indistinguishable from someone in a hypnotic trance. They certainly weren’t the lumbering, brain-seeking undead creatures from Night of the Living Dead. And they weren’t nearly as frightening as the CGI enhanced virus sufferers of I am Legend.
Nonetheless a few good (and many not so good) zombie movies were made in pre-Living Dead era. (I arbitrarily choose Night of the Living Dead as the transition point, although you are free to disagree.) One of the better movies of this period is King of the Zombies. And one of the worst is Teenage Zombies (review later today).
Both of these I acquired through a company called Synergy Entertainment which put out about a dozen or so public domain movies accompanied with a t-shirt emblazoned with a movie poster of that movie. I reasoned that even if the movie sucked I still got a decent t-shirt. LOL. And a few of them did suck, but I still wear the t-shirts.
This movie is called a horror comedy (less emphasis on the horror and more on the comedy). The movie stars Dick Purcell as the pilot “Mac”, John Archer as Mr. Bill, and Mantan Moreland in an early comedic role as Jeff. The movie starts out with a plane carrying the three lost over the Caribbean. One of the men mentions its the same area where Admiral Wainwright was lost the week before (remember that because it becomes important). The three crash land on a remote island.
They find a mansion on the island and are made guests by the head of the mansion, Dr. Sangre. The two white men are made comfortable in the guest room, but Jeff is sent down to the servants’ quarters. Much of the humor by the way, politically incorrect as it may be viewed today, centers around Jeff (Mantan Moreland) and his jittery reaction to the zombies he sees but which the two white men think is just his imagination.
Jeff has a brief conversation with the maid (Marguerite Whitten) who introduces him to the zombies, but feigns ignorance when later questioned by Mac and Bill. Meanwhile they all become suspicious of this Dr. Sangre and the fact that he claims there is no radio to contact the outside world, but both hear one in their bedroom.
They snoop around and come upon a discovery. Dr. Sangre has taken Admiral Wainwright, who had crashed on the same island, prisoner, and is using a combination of voodoo and hypnotism to try to get secret information out of him. So it turns out, as I stated earlier, that some of the zombies are only hypnotized human beings… Still there is some voodoo and some of the zombies are real, even if they do look like hypnotized live humans
Oh, an interesting side note: Believe it or not King of the Zombies was nominated for an Academy Award. True! Along with the likes of Citizen Kane, Sergeant York, Suspicion, and the eventual winner, All That Money Can Buy, King of the Zombies was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Music (Best Score of a Dramatic Picture).
That’s it from the backseat of the Plymouth Fury, this time, kiddies. Drive safely going home.