Monday, November 26, 2007


Following the success of their WHITE ZOMBIE, I'm sure Victor and Edward Halperin were eager to produce another living dead picture. Released in 1936 and directed by big brother Victor, REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES may have been a crowd-pleasing second helping back in the day, but it sure hasn't held up against the rigors of time.

For a 62-minute movie, the plot is surprisingly complicated. The film begins with the legend of Angkor, a lost city in Asia built by the living dead. An international expedition is sent to learn Angkor's secrets, including the use of telepathy to create and control zombies. This sets up an archaeological race between the American soldiers in the expedition and a shameless Lugosi wannabe (embodying here the Yellow Peril caricature of the era), but don't expect any RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK-style action, since the "race" is really two actors "wading" through a swamp set in front of a rear-projection screen. (One of two such hilarious scenes, the other being a ludicrously cut-rate battle sequence early in the film that bad movie fans will love.)

Dean Jagger is the all-American soldier who recovers the secret. A shy, soft-spoken fellow, Jagger learns to grow some cajones when he's jilted in a love triangle with fellow officer Robert Noland and Dorothy Stone. (Though Stone plays such a thoroughly unappealing woman, it's a wonder why Jagger cares at all; the scene in which she rebuffs his affections is priceless for its stilted, unnatural exchange--has anyone ever talked like this?) Jagger uses his newfound powers to not only mentally enslave every minority in the area--his will conveyed by superimposing Lugosi's eyes from WHITE ZOMBIE over the screen--but to win Stone's affections. Alas, true love can never be unless Jagger gives up his power, and so he does in a surprising return of his milquetoast behavior, setting up the revolt of the title (which is really more like a destructive temper tantrum with Jagger's death at the climax).

About that revolt. Can it really be considered a revolt when the zombies don't attack until after they've been released? And since they've been released, aren't they no longer zombies? (I think Linda Richman once posed a philosophical debate about this very subject.)

Confounding and dull, REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES lacks the atmosphere and mystery that made WHITE ZOMBIE so enjoyable. Though it may amuse fans of the Poverty Row horrors (which do have their share of creaky charms), those weaned on the more visceral entries of the zombie cannon are going to be sorely disappointed. It wouldn't surprise me if a good number of you have seen this one; if you've ever bought one of those 50 Gazillion Movie DVD packs, you no doubt own this title.

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