Review: King of the Zombies

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 26 - 2010

The pre-WWII potboiler King of the Zombies is more spy movie with zombies as a plot device than zombie movie, and it’s a dull, plodding spy movie at that. Two men and their faithful, comedy-relief black servant (I mention his race because it’s a constant theme in the movie) crash land on an island somewhere in the Bahamas. There they find a Nazi (not identified as such, but not hard to decipher) scientist who’s using voodoo to raise a zombie army and interrogate a captured admiral. A lot of not very much happens, the black servant (played by Mantan Moreland) does a lot of icky playing to broad stereotypes, some “zombies” shuffle around not very menacingly, the scientist gets caught and killed, the end.

I’m not one to hew to political correctness, but the way blacks are presented in this movie is hard to ignore. I know it was a different time, but it’s a very “gee, aren’t uppity negroes just hilarious! And isn’t it even more hilarious when they get put in their place!” kind of thing. It essentially takes over most of the movie, making it into a grotesque, anachronistic race-relations slapstick. Moreland seems a decent, perhaps even gifted actor, but he’s given a shitty row to hoe, here.

The bottom line is, this isn’t much of a zombie movie. The zombies are just stiff-shouldered black guys who don’t do anything. Pass on this one unless you’re determined to thoroughly explore the history of zombie film.

King of the Zombies/US/1941

Note: King of Zombies has entered the public domain, so if you’re curious, you can watch or download it from the Internet Archive.

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