During World War 2, a small plane off the south coast of America is low on fuel and blown off course by a storm. Guided by a faint radio signal, they crashland on an island. The passenger, his manservant and the pilot take refuge in a mansion owned by a doctor. The easily-spooked manservant soon becomes convinced the mansion is haunted by zombies and ghosts. Exploring, the 3 find a voodoo ritual in the cellar, where the doctor is trying to acquire war intelligence by transferring personalities into his zombies. But the interruption causes the zombies to turn on their creator
Dick Purcell ... James 'Mac' McCarthy
Joan Woodbury ... Barbara Winslow
Mantan Moreland ... Jefferson 'Jeff' Jackson
Henry Victor ... Dr. Miklos Sangre
John Archer ... Bill Summers
Patricia Stacey ... Alyce Sangre
Guy Usher ... Admiral Arthur Wainwright
Marguerite Whitten ... Samantha, the Maid
Leigh Whipper ... Momba, the Butler
Madame Sul-Te-Wan ... Tahama, the Cook and High Priestess
James Davis ... Lazarus, a Zombie (as Jimmy Davis)
Laurence Criner ... Dr. Couillie (as Lawrence Criner)
Based on the unanimous favorable reviews, I downloaded this movie. But the only reason I sat through the entire movie was just to write this warning, to save others from my dreadful fate. If you must see this (homework assignment or something), at least you shouldn't feel as bamboozled as I did.
I'm not going to waste my time trying to come up with clever ways to describe how bad this movie is. Straight to the point: it sucks, it's lame, it's not even camp (except when the hero - "Mr. Bill" - emerges from a plane crash with his suit, tie, and breast-pocket hankie spotlessly intact).
Still want to watch this movie? Then watch the thumbnails - the movie is just as stagnant. It's misleading to call this a "movie": it refuses to budge. It's not just about zombies - it IS a zombie: empty, lifeless, soulless. Dig the first scene and you've seen the entire movie, which just loops the same crap like a nightmare: stiff acting, mindless dialog, bug-eyed darkie in the background. If that's all it takes to entertain you, this crud's for you.
Age of the movie is no excuse - the Marx Brothers classics were all made in 1929-1937. The year of "King of the Zombies" (1941) also produced "Citizen Kane", "The Maltese Falcon", Olsen and Johnson's Hellzapoppin' (with Hollywood's best jitterbug dance scene), and the year's top money-maker: Abbott and Costello's "Buck Privates". In fact, the movie feels like a pale precursor to "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein". Yarbrough, the director, went on to later direct a few Abbott and Costello flicks - the ones that flopped. "King of the Zombies" was as trashy in 1941 as it is today.
Do yourself a favor. If you're looking for a zombie B-movie that reveals the dark side of whiteness, check out the 1932 "White Zombie". It's got imagery, atmosphere, and profound lines like:
"Surely you don't think she's alive, in the hands of natives. Oh no! Better dead than that."
Best of all, it's got the world's most beloved junkie, Bela Lugosi, and His Highness is nearly as mack daddy pimp cool as in the original "Dracula".
The Internet Movie Database calls King Of The Zombies a horror film, and many people who have seen this film call it a horror movie as well. But the truth is, that watching this movie hoping to see an old classic horror film were make your expectations too high therefore making the movie hard to enjoy. King Of The Zombies is an interesting MYSTERY film with some really funny scenes.
The film is about three men, who are on an airplane trying to find a place to land. They're plane ends up crashing on some small island. They search around for a little while, until they find a big house out by a graveyard. The odd man who owns the house invites them in to stay until they can find a way home. But what they don't know, is that they are trapped on an island with zombies!
It's sad, the plot for this movie could have made an excellent horror flick. If this film would have been done right, I believe that it would be very popular. The only problem was that the movie was way too funny, and I absolutely hated the way it ended.
Only check this film out of you are looking for a way to blow an hour and get some good laughs in at the same time.
Mantan Moreland really shines in this movie. He was a great character actor, and he had a LOT of screen time in King Of The Zombies. He wasn't a supporting character in King Of The Zombies; his part was equal among the main players and his name shared equal billing in the opening credits.
Forget what others say about racial stereotyping and enjoy his performance. The man worked with what he was given and took it to as much of a polished performance as possible. Blame Hollywood, not the actor, if you don't like his performance. His takes and reactions were superb. Smiley Burnette and Lou Costello did the same thing in "scary" situations, but Mantan Moreland had a flair for the comedy take that set him apart. He really was great on screen.
King Of The Zombies itself is not the best for a mystery/adventure movie from the time period, but it has the right feel for the time period if you like old movies. All the right elements are there for a fun movie. Why it doesn't really work better is a mystery. Don't expect too much and you will have a good time watching this one.
This little gem of a movie is actually better than it should be considering it is a Monogram picture with a low budget and unfortunate racial stereotypes which were typical for the early 1940's.
Mantan Moreland is the star of this picture. He was a great comedic actor who was stereotyped into playing the dimwitted servant in most of his movies, but he really shines in this picture. I laughed out loud when he tells his boss that he had been "zombiefied". Every scene he is in he steals. This picture was billed as a horror movie, but it is actually a comedy. There is nothing remotely scary about the plot, which involves a German doctor who has taken over an island and is turning the natives into zombies while trying to get classified secrets from a captured American admiral through the use of hypnosis. I really enjoyed this movie despite the cheap sets, silly plot and racial stereotypes. If you want a good laugh on a Saturday afternoon, then pop some popcorn and sit back and enjoy Mantan Moreland. He more than makes up for this movie's deficiencies.
In the presskit for this film, Monogram blatantly advised exhibitors to sell "it along the same lines as [Paramount's] The Ghost Breakers (1940)." The Bob Hope horror/comedy was a runaway hit at the time.
Produced and released prior to Pearl Harbor, the film oddly dances around blatant references to Nazi Germany. While the villain is decidedly Germanic, radio traffic is spoken in German and there's spoken references to spying, neither Germany or Nazis are ever overtly mentioned. The plot, described in the presskit describes the evil Dr. Sangre as "a secret agent for a European government." The powers at Monogram were probably acutely mindful of the problems independent producer Ben Judell encountered when trying to exhibit Hitler - Beast of Berlin (1939) two years earlier. That film was unable to pass local pro-Germany censorship boards and Judell went broke.
The role of Dr. Victor Sangre was designed for Bela Lugosi. When he became unavailable, furious negotiations ensued to obtain Peter Lorre for the part, but a deal could not be reached. Veteran character actor Henry Victor was signed just prior to the date of filming.