King of the Zombies Reviews
* Clearly the best part of the film is Mantan Moreland, the beloved character actor from innumerable 1930s and 1940s films. He?s got an hilarious physical presence, jittering and skittering in the tradition of the cowardly sidekick like Costello or Shaggy/Scooby. He gets all the best laugh lines, and is the only one who gets funny scenes. The best bit is his banter with the scullery maid, who offers him lots to eat and trades barbs with equal wit.
* Of course, the worst part of the film is the grotesque stereotypical part given to Mantan Moreland, who plays ?Jeff,? the loyal valet. A continuation of the minstrel tradition, Moreland speaks with the exaggerated slang typical of such characters and lives out all the worst stereotypes of behavior. As an educated, hyper-conscious white man I found myself cringing at these elements as I laughed at the humor, and then cringing that I?d laughed. The inextricability between the human elements of Jeff and the racially loaded elements coming from the history of minstrelry and American theater make the film challenging to watch.
* King of the Zombies uses the voodoo zombie, but combines it with the villainy of Nazi Germany, turning the ex-pat Austrian into an intelligence agent for the third reich. He combines hypnotism with voodoo (by way of a native priestess) to control his zombies, though it?s unclear why he has a big army of zombies. There?s also an unexplained niece who hates him but doesn?t seem to be able to do anything about it.
It?s worth watching if you like older zombie movies, and complicated humor steeped in traditions of racial tension. You can watch it on the Internet Archive if you like.
As you can imagine, released in '41, this thing is extremely low-budget as it is pre-WWII which was, sadly, the jump start to our economy over in the U.S.
The plot isn't too bad and I'm sure if a Danny Boyle or a Kubrick ,etc were to tackle it, it could be very well-done. Overall, the film is really sketchy and the editing is downright terrible with some inexplicable cuts in the middle of scenes.
Like I said, more or less by today's standards, it's a terrible film, but it's not a dreadful film. Big difference. If you're a huge zombie fanatic that wants to own as many as you can, go out and track it down. If not, no hard feelings, you're life won't be incomplete if you don't have it.
The doctor to me seemed like a less smoothe rip-off of Dracula, obviously no where near as cool or creepy. Some of the acting was ok, but nothing special. The ceremony drum scene is very laughable, it looks and sounds ridiculous, and the ending is pretty lame aswell.
Starring: Dick Purcell, Mantan Moreland, John Archer, and Joan Woodbury
Director: Jean Yarbrough
Mac (Purcell), Bill (Archer), and Jeff (Moreland) are forced to land on a mysterious island after their plane runs low on fuel. Here, they find a mysterious family who aren't at all what they seem... and who are the center of a Nazi cult of undeath.
"King of the Zombies" is one of those movies that you should show to your ultra-liberal, hyper-PC friends. Their heads will explode when Moreland (as Jeff, friend and loyal servant to adventuresome pilot, Mac) starts in on his stereotypical, subserviant negro comedy routine--a character that was typical in this sort of film through the mid-1940s.
There's a difference here, however. Unlike most films where the black comic relief character is a cowardly goof who needs the guidance and protection of the dashing, capable white hero to get safely through the night, it's actually Jeff who recognizes the danger faced by the heroes. If Mac and Bill weren't a pair of racist jackasses, who dismiss everything that Jeff has to say without even the slightest bit of consideration, there would have been fewer lives lost as the trio struggles against the Nazi zombie master.
Unfortunately, I doubt the filmmakers were aware of this irony, either while reading the script, during shooting, or while assembling the final product. If they were, it goes unnoticed by any character in the film. Given the overall lack of quality in this too-slowly-paced, mostly badly acted low-budget part horror/part wartime propaganda film, I am almost certain the juxtaposition of the very clever black character against the dull-witted white heroes is a complete accident.
I can't really recommend "King of the Zombies", but I do think Mantan Moreland's performance is an excellent one, as he has great comedic timing and a whole raft of truly hilarious lines. The fact that Jeff ultimately emerges as the brightest character in the film is also something that's noteworthy, and I think it gives the film a unique twist.