Revenge of the Zombies

08/24/2023 08:25

Film: Revenge of the Zombies

Year: 1943

Director: Steve Sekely

Writers: Edmond Kelso and Van Norcross

Starring: John Carradine, Gale Storm and Robert Lowery



This was a movie that I first learned about when I watched the prequel, King of the Zombies. I knew this was one that I’d get to when I shifted to watching horror from 1943. What intrigued me was to see Mantan Moreland come back along with Madame Sul-Te-Wan. There was at least representation. Other than that, I knew this was a pre-Night of the Living Dead zombie movie.

Synopsis: when Dr. von Altermann’s (John Carradine) wife Lila (Veda Ann Borg) dies mysteriously at his spooky mansion, her friends and relations suspect murder.

Now I’ll be honest, I did cut the synopsis down as it gets quite wordy. The information I’ve kept in is all that we need. The movie itself starts with it being stormy out. We are in Louisiana and near the bayous. Lazarus (James Baskett) makes a call, waking up other zombies. He gives them orders to dig and one to watch over Dr. Harvey Keating’s (Barry Macollum) house.

We are following Larry Adams (Robert Lowery) who is trying to figure out what happened to his sister, Lila. She was married to Dr. Max Heinrich von Altermann. From everything that was known, she was healthy and died rather suddenly. This is why he suspects murder. He is here with Scott Warrington (Mauritz Hugo) who is a private investigator. They enlist the aid of Dr. Keating who suspects foul play as well.

They converge on the house of Max. He has a secretary of Jennifer Rand (Gale Storm) who Larry takes a liking to. Max is more than willing to help their investigation. It even seems that her will leaves everything to Larry. This is odd since she is married to the doctor. It is suspected that he is trying to get rid of them.

There is a good reason too. Max, with the aid of Mammy Beulah (Sul-Te-Wan), turned Lazarus and the others we saw earlier into zombies. He then does the same thing to his wife. It turns out that this doctor is working with the Nazis and believes they can turn the tide of the war if they can create an army of zombies that will do whatever they’re told. There is a hiccup when Lila refuses to listen to Max. She isn’t the only one that wants to help this trio solve what is happening before it is too late.

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. I want to bring up about this being a sequel. This is an interesting way to do it and effective. We are getting a similar premise to what we got in King of the Zombies. There is a Nazi that is trying to use zombies for World War II. We have Americans that stumble on the plot and do what they can to stop them. This makes more sense with the brother of a victim coming to investigate what happened. There are other changes as well. This is moved from an island in the Caribbean to Louisiana. Voodoo is practiced in both areas or at least thought to be, so that is believable. I thought what was kept the same and what was changed worked well in the confines of the story.

What I can’t give credit for is using the same concept. I loved the idea for King to have a Nazi trying to figure out how to make zombies for the Third Reich. I’m not sure when it was discovered that Adolf Hitler was into the occult, but it fits in line with different things I’ve heard over the years. It is less creative to use it again a couple years later for another movie. This is a ‘poverty row’ flick so that make sense.

Before moving away from the story completely, I am glad that this featured black characters. Moreland is used less here, but he is still over the top with the comedy. I like him. They also bring back Mammmy Beulah. She takes on the ‘magical negro’ character. She knows how to make the elixir for creating zombies. That means she also knows how to counteract it as well. This is slightly racist with things I’ve learned from Horror Noire, but it is the era this was made. We still see this character today. It doesn’t make it easier to digest though. I’ll also go over the zombies here. They are voodoo ones. What I did find interesting is that they’re referred to as the ‘living dead’. I’m not sure if that was used prior to this film.

Next should be the acting. I’ve already given credit to Sul-Te-Wan and Moreland. I’m glad they were cast here. It is interesting to see Carradine in another starring role this year. He has a great, suave look that translate to him as a villain. Storm was solid as well. She isn’t given a lot to work with outside of Max turning his attention toward her. I do like Lowery, Macollum and Hugo as our trio trying to solve the mystery. Borg was good as a zombie. Credit to Baskett as well as the others for being these monsters. One last person to credit is Bob Steele as the sheriff. There is a commentary there about corrupt local officials as it looks like he’s a henchman for Max. That message still fits today. I’d say that overall, the acting here is solid across the board.

All that is left to go into is filmmaking. Since this is a ‘poverty row’ film, the cinematography is fine. I did like the setting of the bayou of Louisiana. There is something creepy about it and desolate. That works especially when the storm rolls in. Another setting is Max’s house. I did like the slight elements of the ‘old dark house’ and trying to find his laboratory. The effects we get are limited. That is also due in part to the era. I also thought the soundtrack was fine. I did like the call that was made for the zombies. There is an eerie factor there.

In conclusion, this movie is fine. This is a sequel in name only. It borrows elements like the Nazis trying to learn to create zombies for WWII and being in an area where voodoo is found. Other than that, there isn’t continuity between the two. I do wish that this would do a bit more to set itself apart. The acting is fine. Credit there to Carradine, Moreland and Sul-Te-Wan as the bright spots. The rest fit for what was needed. This is made well enough. It doesn’t do much to stand out though either. I’d only recommend this to fans of this era of cinema or you’re out to see historical zombie films.


My Rating: 6 out of 10