In World War II, during a storm, a small plane crashes in an island between Cuba and Puerto Rico, but the pilot James 'Mac' McCarthy (Dick Purcell) and his two passengers, Bill Summers (John Archer) and his black servant Jeff Jackson (Mantan Moreland), survive. Bill is on a mission trying to find Admiral Arthur Wainwright (Guy Usher), who vanished in that area. They are lodged by the Austrian Dr Mikhail Sangre (Henry Victor) in his mansion. The scared Jeff finds that the place has zombies, but Mac and Bill do not believe him. Later, they find that Dr Sangre is a spy transferring the knowledge of the admiral and other prominent persons to the zombies and they must stop him...
Spoilers follow ...
- King of the Zombies review by NP
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In this standard comedy horror, three travellers make a forced landing on a remote island where they are met by Dr. Sangre (Henry Victor, playing Bela Lugosi - for whom the role was originally intended) and his servant Momba (Leigh Whipper). The two bland leads James and Bill (Dick Purcell and John Archer) are shown to their rooms, where manservant Jefferson (Mantan Moreland) is told he is to sleep in the servant’s quarters. When he protests, James confirms that he will do as he is told.
Jeff becomes acquainted with the hired help and becomes convinced the remote building is haunted by zombies.
‘Zombies? What’s them?’ ‘Dead folks that walks around.’
This is the kind of wide-eyed, knock-about light comedy fairly prevalent around this time. A haunted house mystery of sorts, featuring the blank-eyed dead. It is Moreland’s show really. Madame Sul-Te-Wan, playing Tahama, also invests her part with a convincingly unnerving sense of superstition. While the chisel-jawed American actors play adequate straight leads, their ‘subordinates’ are far more interesting and entertaining, although in-keeping with the one-note scares on display, are limited in their patter.
As shivering Jeff states towards the film’s close, ‘If there’s one thing I wouldn’t want to be twice, zombies is both of them!”