RSS Feed

Tag Archives: zombies

Oh No! It’s a Love Story!

I have not done anything really blogworthy so far today (although I may mock something up about my earlier gyrations), so I thought I could watch a cheesy horror movie to write about. I love to write about cheesy horror movies, and it’s Saturday afternoon. What better time for a monster movie? (Actually, in my estimation, any time is a good time.)

So after my usual Spoiler Alert, let’s get on with it.

I DVR’d I Walked With a Zombie (1943) from TCM sometime in October. Only an hour and fifteen minutes long. Perfect!

Of course I knew zombies in older movies are not usually the disgusting flesh-eating zombies we know and love from more recent fare (full disclosure: I haven’t seen a more recent zombie movie than the 1968 Night of the Living Dead; I just thought the expression “we know and love” would sound cool). Still, I thought catatonic undead, mindlessly obeying the nefarious behest of some villainous sort, what’s not to like?

Once again, I was in for disappointment. Oh, it was a perfectly good movie. I watched with interest. But it wasn’t a monster movie, it was a love story! It was based on a novel, and I know just the sort, because it is the kind I used to read all the time, in the tradition of Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and whichever Bronte sister wrote Jane Eyre.

In fact, when I looked it up in Leonard Maltin’s 2011 Movie Guide (Signet, 2010), I read that it was loosely based on Jane Eyre. Maltin says it with an exclamation point, like he just can’t believe it. I can believe it. Brooding romantic guy in an exotic setting with a crazy wife, wholesome young thing to fall in love with him. That’s Jane Eyre. The charming younger half-brother and the wise (or IS she?) mother are more from the Holt and Whitney canon.

The atmosphere is pretty well done, and the voodoo scenes are creepy. There is one voodoo’d guy who is my idea of a 1940s zombie: bug-eyed, shuffling, doing what the voodoo guy orders him to do, pretty scary, although you could probably outrun him.

Perhaps I didn’t need the spoiler alert, since I haven’t said too much about the plot. I won’t, either, because I think the movie is worth a watch, as long as you don’t have your heart set on a monster. For a romance novel, it makes a fairly decent horror flick.

More Vegetarian Zombies

Spoiler Alert! I don’t know why I bother with these Spoiler Alerts. Real movie reviewers never do. Then again, I think it’s clear I’m not a real reviewer. You probably didn’t need a Spoiler Alert to tell you that.

I was thinking of Monster Movie Monday when I watched King of the Zombies (1941) on Steven’s collection of 50 Horror Classics (so I missed it by a day). Speaking of spoiler alerts, the blurb in the booklet that comes with the collection tells you almost everything. I should have known better than to read it. Really, the word “zombies” in the title tells me everything I needed to know.

The movie opens on three guys on a plane about to make an emergency landing on — what else? — a mysterious, uncharted island. They seem to be getting some radio transmission from the island but they can’t understand it. This makes them hopeful (radio transmission) rather than suspicious (can’t understand it). Of course, the characters don’t know they’re in a monster movie. That kind of ironic pose did not happen in movies till much later (although I do seem to remember Heckle and Jeckle knowing they are cartoon characters. Does that count?) (But I digress).

The three guys are the pilot, a jaunty Irishman; the purported hero; and his valet, a black man. I guess they referred to African Americans as “colored” at this time.

It is no secret that movies of this era reflect the racism rampant in the country at that time. When black people got parts in movies they were usually servants or natives. They sometimes got to sing songs. They sometimes got to act really scared. They were often the comic relief. In this movie, the valet gets to act scared, provides comic relief and is easily the most interesting character in the picture.

The proprietor of the island assures the three that he has no radio, although he is happy to welcome them as his guests. He has a catatonic wife, a beautiful niece and an extremely creepy butler. The Valet is not best pleased when the bad guy (oh you knew he was the bad guy as soon as I mentioned him; I’m not going to keep calling him the proprietor for the rest of the post) sends him off with the creepy butler to the servants’ quarters.

Things look up for Valet when he meets a pretty maid in the kitchen. They take a turn for the worse when she warns him of zombies — dead people who walk. Oh, there’s also an old witch-doctor-looking woman brewing something in a pot.

A lot of time is wasted with Valet seeing zombies and his boss and the pilot not believing him. Not a whole lot is done with the catatonic wife and beautiful niece (it’s the wife’s niece; she’s only related to the Bad Guy by marriage, in case anybody was worried).

That was actually OK with me, because Valet and Pretty Maid were my favorite characters anyways. The Irish Pilot was pretty cool, too, but he didn’t really have enough to do, except die and get made into a zombie. Oops. Well, that’s why I put in the Spoiler Alert.

The zombies in this picture, once again, are not flesh-eating monsters. In fact, Pretty Maid serves them up some stew-looking stuff that is apparently pretty bland. She realizes Valet has not in fact become a zombie when he asks for salt. Apparently zombies can’t eat salt (high blood pressure in the undead? News to me, but, whatever). She puts too much on just to be sure, so I don’t think the poor guy gets any dinner.

I kind of stopped paying attention by the end. I seem to think the zombies revolted; in fact, I remember reading that on the blurb. As in Revolt of the Zombies, it’s not such a much.

I feel I should mention that I watched this movie almost two weeks ago and have been having trouble with the write-up. In these not-as-post-racial-as-one-would-hope times, I hesitated over my description of the black characters. Then I thought maybe I could write a whole blog post thrashing out my dilemma. Before I wrote that post, I re-read my draft of this one and thought, “Hmmm, it’s not so bad. Maybe I’ll publish it after all.”

Zombies: A Love Story?

I wanted to have Monster Movie Monday, so I tried to find one I hadn’t seen yet in Steven’s collection of 50 Horror Classics. I thought I couldn’t go wrong with Revolt of the Zombies (1936). Then again, I’ve been fooled before.

Oh yeah, Spoiler Alert! I really don’t know how to write about a movie with spoiling something. In this case, I’m probably going to be giving something of a plot summary, so I may spoil everything.

The movie takes place during World War I. The first scene finds the main guy, a soldier, trying to warn his superiors about the danger of zombies, tireless, indestructible robot creatures doing the bidding of their master. Or he may be pitching them as a way to win the war. I was counting stitches on my knitting at the time, and I was really just waiting for the monsters to show up anyways. Predictably, the superior scorns the entire notion.

In the outer office, Main Guy has a conversation with his friend, a likable egotist, who advises him to be ruthless and run roughshod over people to get what he wants. I thought, “Ah! Here is the theme of the picture: ruthless vs not. OK, now bring on the monsters.”

During this scene, a guru-looking guy is standing by, straight and utterly motionless. I thought at first he was a zombie wandered in from another scene, but no, he’s a guy that has the secret of making zombies. He’s going to show people what zombies can do. I think. It got hard to follow at this point, although things cleared up a little when they get to Angkor Wat. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Switch to a battle scene where some Asian-looking soldiers (remember, movies of this era are not known for their diversity and sensitivity) have glazed, robotic expressions on their faces. They march slowly toward the European-looking soldiers (by the mustaches, I thought they were French). The robot-like ones are impervious to bullets and annihilate the others.

Excuse me, what? I mean, did that, in fact, just happen? And did Guru Guy make it happen, just to prove a point? If they ever explained exactly who Guru Guy is, I missed it. In my defense, I was still suffering from a cold and was a little fuzzy in the head (insert smart remark of your choice).

The next thing we know, Guru Guy is murdered as he prays in front of some statue. Might have been Buddha. Might have been some Chinese god. This movie really mixes it up with the ethnicities, as far as I could tell. The murderer wants the zombie-making secret. He doesn’t get it but at least he gets away with the murder, largely because the soldiers seem more exercised about loss of the zombie secret than the dead body.

Soon they are all in Angkor Wat, where they might find the secret. The expedition is led by an archaeologist with a beautiful daughter. I’m sure some of you were just waiting for a beautiful daughter to show up (you know who you are).

I was not very impressed with the set for Angkor Wat. It was very obviously a painted backdrop. You can get away with this on stage or sometimes in a movie when it’s seen through a window. Not a very big window. Didn’t they have some stock footage of some similar looking place they could have flashed, then put the outdoor scenes next to a wall or near a tent or something? Of course, one suspends one’s disbelief when watching a movie, but my disbelief was already hanging by a thin thread.

Main Guy tells Beautiful Daughter a story about some guy who gave up everything for the woman he loved. She likes that, but it seems she doesn’t like Main Guy as much as she likes his friend the Likable Egotist. She uses Main Guy to get him and does so — you guessed it — ruthlessly.

Now I like a love triangle as well as the next movie buff, but where are the zombies? Finally, Main Guy discovers the secret. In this movie, you can turn anybody into a zombie using some kind of mental telepathy. For the first zombie, Main Guy is burning some stuff in a petri dish and wafts the fumes toward his subject, but he doesn’t do that more than once. One guy he even zombie-izes from another room.

These zombies, by the way, are not the messed-up, flesh-eating monsters you may have been hoping for. They are merely robotic. Soon Main Guy has like a bazillion of them, including his former friends and bosses.

The only one he doesn’t zombie-ize is the Beautiful Daughter, because he still wants to marry her. She agrees to marry him in order to save her true love’s life.

So what wins out in the end? Ruthlessness or sacrifice for love? Well, I don’t want to give away the ending (despite having given away practically everything else), and, quite frankly, I’m not sure of the answer even having seen the ending. I will say that the Zombie revolt, when it finally happens, is not what I would call a revolt, and I don’t think if even lasts long enough to rate being the title of the movie.

On the whole, I found it an interesting movie, largely because I kept trying to figure out what sort of a picture it was. Supernatural adventure? Philosophical love story? I’m still not sure. Perhaps I’ll get some other movie buffs to watch it with me and we’ll have a discussion. Might rate another blog post. Or would that be too ruthless of me?