Revenge of the Zombies (1943) 1 brain1 brain

Alternate Titles:

The Corpse Vanishes

If you've seen King of the Zombies, then you've pretty much seen this film. Both of them are low-budget movies in which a mad scientist in a remote location is secretly creating an army of zombies for the Nazis. The heroes are two interchangeable guys in jackets, but the best feature and saving grace of each movie is Mantan Moreland. Moreland even has the same character name, Jeff, playing a manservant to one of the heroes. Yet again, watching Moreland in his role brings about a combination of appreciation of his humor and discomfort at the way his character is treated in the film, by both the writers and the other characters. Despite Jeff's repeated insistence that there are zombies walking around, the heroes tell him he must be imagining things (because he is, after all, "only a manservant"), and they only agree with him after slowly building up their own evidence. But watching Jeff's reactions when he first finds out about the zombies himself is a pleasure, for instance, when the former chauffer of the scientist says to him "I drove a car like this for master...when I was alive."

One major difference between the two movies is that this time the scientist is played by John Carradine, who would play a more-well-meaning scientist in The Face of Marble a few years later. Carradine puts in his usual capable performance, although since he was in seven movies that came out in 1943, you have to wonder how he had any energy for the role at all. The two heroes, Scott Warrington (Mauritz Hugo) and Larry Adams (Robert Lowery), are, as I said, interchangeable stock characters. Warrington is the brother-in-law of Carradine's character, Dr. Max Heinrich von Altermann (who would have thought he was working for the Nazis?), and Warrington has hired Adams, a private-eye, to come with him to von Altermann's isolated estate in the Louisiana bayou to investigate the sudden death of his sister, von Altermann's wife (Veda Ann Borg). When they arrive, they slowly begin to figure out what's going on, while Jeff comes face-to-face with various zombies almost from the moment they arrive. Warrington and Adams really start to get suspicious when von Altermann's wife's body seems to start moving around on its own.

I was watching this with fellow movie critic Goatdog, and he pointed out an interesting fact: this may be the first movie in which the point is made that a zombie can only be stopped by destroying the brain. I've seen most of the zombie movies made before this, and although there are scenes in which a zombie is shot in the body and seems fine, I can't recall any character realizing that a head shot would do the trick. So for the zombie movie buffs out there, Revenge of the Zombies does at least contain that historic moment.

Overall this is a fun film, but there is little to distinguish it from the rest of the pack of horror films being churned out in those days. If you're into oldies, give it a whirl.