King of the Zombies (1941)
Director: Jean Yarbrough
Screenplay: Edmond Kelso
Stars: Dick Purcell, Joan Woodbury, Mantan Moreland, Henry Victor, John Archer and Marguerite Whitten.
Tagline: HUMAN SACRIFICES! SAVAGE TORTURE! VOODOO RITES!
The Overview: Beware of spoilers…
1941. World War II is raging across Europe. James “Mac” McCarthy (Purcell) is flying his small plane from Cuba. With McCarthy is his valet, Jeff Jackson (Moreland) and his buddy, Bill Summers (Archer). A terrible storm blows them off course. Running low on fuel, they pick up a transmission in a foreign language. They spot a small island and although banged up, survive a crash landing.
Dr. Miklos Sangre (Victor) lives on the island with his wife, Alyce (Stacey), and his many servants. Sangre invites Mac, Jeff and Bill into his mansion. Sangre shows Mac and Bill respect, but Jeff is treated like one of the servants. Jeff quickly picks up that something is off with Dr. Sangre. There are strange things taking place on the island. Will Jeff be able to convince Mac and Bill? And if they do believe Jeff will it be too late?
King of the Zombies was originally conceived as a straight up horror film. Bela Lugosi was announced to star. With the success of Bob Hope’s The Ghost Breakers, King of the Zombies was re-written as a comedy. Mantan Moreland’s character was added. The producers were unable to get Lugosi. Their second choice was Peter Lore. He was also unavailable, so they went with Henry Victor. Victor is excellent as the creepy foreign agent.
The real star of King of the Zombies is Mantan Moreland. He is excellent as the scared, but perceptive sidekick (who steals the show). Marguerite Whitten who appeared with Moreland in Mr. Washington Goes to Town and Lucky Ghost, is a welcome addition as a source of information and Mantan’s love interest. Madame Sul-Te-Wan makes a believable voodoo priestess.
King of the Zombies is a low budget “B” picture that is heads and shoulders above most of the same type films of this era. If you’re a fan of the genre, you should enjoy King of the Zombies.
King of the Zombies earns 4 of 5 stars.