Last night, the Late Night Movie Crew and I watched the 1943 film, Revenge of the Zombies.
Revenge of the Zombies deals with the mysterious Dr. von Aldermann (John Carradine), who has a house on the Louisiana bayous and who is involved in weird, 1940s-style scientific experiments. As is evident from his name (but not particularly from Carradine’s disinterested performance), von Aldermann is from Germany and his experiments are designed to create an army of zombies who will destroy American from within for the benefit for the Third Reich. This is a pretty big deal and von Aldermann isn’t particularly subtle about his schemes but, as the film’s begins, nobody has figured out what’s going on.
I guess you can get away with anything on the bayous.
Von Aldermann’s wife Lila (Veda Ann Borg) has recently died but, thanks to the mad scientist, she’s still walking around Louisiana and leading an army of zombies. Lila’s brother (Robert Lowery) shows up with a private investigator (Mauritz Hugo) and yet another mad scientist (Barry Macollum) and they eventually figure out that something weird is happening. With the help of von Aldermann’s secretary (Gale Storm), they try to thwart von Aldermann’s plans and keep the world safe for democracy.
There are a few good points about Revenge of the Zombies. For one thing, the film is only 61 minutes long so the suffering is short. As with any low-budget John Carradine horror film, Revenge of the Zombies is fun to watch with a group of snarky friends. Historically, this film is significant for being one of the first zombie movies. It’s always interesting to see how non-threatening zombies were in the days before George Romero and The Walking Dead.
And then there’s the character of Jeff (Mantan Moreland), who is a chauffeur and who provides most of the film’s comic relief. It’s always difficult for contemporary audiences to deal with the racial attitudes displayed in the films and literature of the past. On the one hand, Jeff is written as a complete and total stereotype and, as you listen to his dialogue, you’re painfully aware of the fact that the goal was to get audiences to laugh at him as opposed to with him. On the other hand, Moreland is literally the only actor in the film who actually gives a good performance. Even when delivering the most cringe-worthy of dialogue, Moreland does so with a conviction and commitment that holds your interest. As you watch Revenge of the Zombies, you really don’t care what happens to most of the bland and interchangeable characters. But you really do want Jeff to survive.
And, ultimately, you do take some comfort in that. Moreland was given a role that, as written, was very demeaning but, in the end, Jeff is the only character that you care about.
As for the rest of Revenge of the Zombies, it’s short, it’s pretty bad but it’s not terrible, and you can watch it below!