Revolt of the Zombies

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In the lost city of Angkor, deep in the jungles of Cambodia, lies the secret to creating zombies, a secret that the Allied Powers of WWI are desperate to destroy.

Is a city still considered lost if you know exactly where it is? Maybe I’m just a little slow on the uptake, scratch that, I know I’m a little slow on the uptake, but doesn’t lost refer to something that’s location is unknown? Something that’s location was once known but no longer? That’s what I thought lost meant anyways. Actually, let me consult the all-knowing definition deity Webster and see what his Wordship has to say about it:

Lost

adjective

  1. Unable to be found
  2. Not knowing where you are or how to get where you want to go, unable to find your way
  3. No longer held, owned, or possessed

Okay, so it seems like I got the definition down then, so why then is a city whose location is known called the Lost City. They know where Angkor is, they have troops stationed near there, they have a colonial garrison keeping watch over the place, and there is even a nicely furnished scientific research facility set up at the supposed “lost city.” How the fuck is it lost? I get that it makes the place sound a lot more mysterious and all, but a city that everyone knows the location of is far from lost. I can call my house the “Lost Home of The Undead Review” but it’s still just the place where a lazy zombie watches movies and then bitches about them on the internet. Oh, and I occasionally post humorous Star Wars or Star Trek memes on Facebook. If I want them to sound more mysterious though I guess I could just call them “lost memes.” If it’s good enough for the lost city that every knows the location of, then it’s good enough for Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge’s famous “I got ninety nine problems but a breach ain’t one” meme.

Our revolting attempt at a sequel to White Zombie begins with a little bit of backstory, during the events of World War 1 a tale was told in secret, one that was told by a regiment of French Cambodian soldiers from the lost city of Angkor (there’s that lost bit again) when they arrived on the French-Austrian Front. Armand, a linguistic researcher with the Allied forces, relates this tale to his commanding officer, a tale about near unstoppable zombie soldiers that will follow any and all orders given to them without question, but his commander wants to hear none of what he considers to be rubbish. A Cambodian priest who accompanied the soldiers from Angkor tells Armand after the meeting with his doubting superior that he can mentally control a squad of zombies that are ready to bear down on an enemy trench, something he proves by having the zombified squad tear into the enemy with no regard to their own lives or any damage inflicted upon them. Armand believes this test to be a rousing success but Strategic Command thinks otherwise, believing that this will be the end of the, um, white race…hey, I didn’t write this movie I just watched it. The 30’s were a…a um…well a very different time with some very regrettable attitudes. Anyways, command believes that if the priest won’t give up his secret so that the method for creating zombies may be destroyed that much easier he should then be imprisoned for the rest of his life, justice taking a hard hit when racism is involved. Before the priest can get too cozy in his new surroundings he is murdered in his cell by the conniving General Mazovia who steals a secret scroll from the man after dispatching him. After the priest’s body is discovered, an expedition is sent to Angkor so that they might find and destroy anything that could lead to the creation of zombies. Once he arrives, Armand meets the beautiful Claire, instantly becoming smitten with her, and the two are quickly engaged. However it seems that Claire is more interested in Armand’s friend Cliff and has only been using the clueless man to get closer to her true desire, somehow reasoning that her love for Cliff justifies her actions. The devastated Armand throws himself into his work and eventually comes to believe he has discovered the hidden location of the secret to creating zombies. He finds a priest and follows him to a concealed chamber, himself followed by General Mazovia who is still hoping to discover how to create zombies and has managed to tag along with the expedition team. The priest finally leads him to where the zombie secrets are kept, and after a little puzzle solving Armand is able to reveal a door with mysterious inscriptions written upon it. When he returns to camp, Armand finds that he has been gone for two days and the absence has resulted in his termination from the expedition, but before he can be sent home he tests out his newfound knowledge to transform his aide into a zombie slave. Now armed with the ability to turn anyone he wishes into a zombie and create his own army if need be, he sets his sights not on world conquests but the woman he believes stolen from him, and he will stop at nothing to get her.

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{…}

Revolt of the Zombies is considered a sequel to White Zombie in spirit alone, which is a good thing considering how much of a failure this film is when compared to its predecessor. The Halperins wanted this to be a direct sequel to White Zombie, but were sued by Amusement Securities Corporation, the same people that had financed their previous zombie endeavor. Amusement Securities claimed that they had a contract with the Helperins which gave them exclusive rights to the word “zombie.” A judge somewhat agreed with Amusement Securities, the Halperins were still allowed to use the word “zombie” as obvious by the title Revolt of the Zombies, but they weren’t allowed to market Revolt as a sequel to White Zombie, instead having to settle with making it a standalone shit sandwich. I have no idea what the original contract was, though I would think it was somewhere around what Amusement Securities claimed being as how they more or less won their case (then again money does some strange thing to the legal system so who really knows), but I’m glad this low mark for early zombie cinema can’t claim a direct attachment to a gem like White Zombie. Story wise it doesn’t really connect with White Zombie anyways, so I’m not sure what the point of even calling this a sequel was other than just trying to earn it a few more bucks at the box office. Kind of like the myriad amount of Night of the Living Dead rip offs keep using the name to earn themselves a few more bucks in the straight to video market (and yeah, fuck you Dawn of the Living Dead most of all, I’m still working on my time machine just to get that hour and a half of my life back). I’d say I was happy that previous lead villain Bela Lugosi at least had nothing to do with this trash, but the films he did star in after this don’t have a reputation as being the greatest, and it’s possible he might have been able to at least make this somewhat more interesting. There was no way he could have saved Revolt of the Zombies by a long shot, but he might have at least added something that made the movie worth giving it a shot. At least his eyes made it into the film. The very same haunting, disembodied eyes that made their appearance whenever Lugosi’s character Murder Legendre controlled his zombified minions makes an appearance here as well, and rather than film a new set of eyes, possibly those of new zombie master Armand (Dean Jagger), they simply reused Lugosi’s eyes from White Zombie.

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{Even Lugosi’s eyes are embarrassed to be a part of this movie}

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{I guess Jagger’s “I need to use the bathroom” eyes just didn’t cut it}

The story is a major step down, not so much in its plot, but in how poorly it was written. I guess it’s much harder for the Halperins to make a zombie flick when they don’t have anyone to steal their ideas from. The plot does actually make sense for the most part, a way to create zombies is discovered in Cambodia that once again gives a person the power to create mindless slaves unable to resist the orders they are given. It makes sense that a mystical place like Angkor Wat would hold an ancient power to create zombies, and that the military powers who discovered it would want it destroyed rather than have it getting out into the world, though I would like to think it was for all of mankind vs. just one color but I tend to be an optimist. It even makes sense that the one man who discovered the secret for himself would be corrupted by it and use it for his own selfish gains. The story is sound, unfortunately how that story was written was not. Beyond the bits and pieces of Revolt of the Zombies that don’t make sense, bits and pieces I’ll get to in just a minute, there is the fact of how utterly boring and pointless the entire movie felt. Nothing really happens for most of the flick, it’s just a bunch of people prattling on with each other about how they feel, like watching an old television soap opera created by someone who clearly had no idea what they wanted to do or where they wanted to take their story. Revolt of the Zombies is less a zombie film, or even a horror film, hell, it’s not even a thriller, it’s more a romantic drama, a romantic drama in which nothing much happens other than a lot of talking, unimportant, uninspired talking. I had to fight just to keep myself awake the whole time. I honestly think that I would have had more fun sitting in the vegetable section of an old folk’s home. Then there’s the list of things that just flat out don’t make sense. Quite a lot of the film doesn’t make sense, but there are things that specifically bordered on “just not giving a shit” writing. Let me go down the list with a few of my favorites:

  • When General Mazovia first steals the scroll from the priest that was imprisoned in the beginning, how the hell does he seem to know what it means? It makes sense that Armand would be able to read it, he’s a linguistic expert, but why would a military man with no expertise in the field suddenly be able to interrupt such an ancient language? It was essentially just a giant picture that would only make sense to someone that was an expert in languages.
  • When the priest that came back from Angkor wants to prove that he can control his zombies and sends them against the soldiers that are entrenched, the zombies are shot several times in the chest and stomach but continue to march forward regardless. They aren’t supposed to be undead zombies, just people that have been sapped of all will. Even assuming that with all trace of their humanity removed they feel no pain there is still only so much a human body can take before it drops. That small squad of zombie soldiers should have been obliterated before they got anywhere close to the enemy trench. Completely numbed to pain or not, you get shot through your heart and you’re going to drop dead.
  • The secret to turning someone into a zombie is to burn a certain chemical mixture, what that mixture is never stated, but Armand mixes something together, burns it, and waves the smoke into his aide’s face. The aide freaks out, though he doesn’t bother to try and move out of the way, choosing to instead stand there for about ten seconds while the smoke makes its way over to him, having every opportunity to run out the door that is no more than five feet away from him and directly away from the smoke, but choosing to stand there like an idiot. When the smoke takes ahold of the aide and zombifies him, Armand gains mental control over him. Why exactly does a smoke give you powers of mind control over the person that inhales it? Sure, it was the 30’s and all and they still hadn’t even figured out that inhaling toxic smoke into your lungs could be detrimental to your health, but they can’t possibly have thought mind control would work that way.
  • Later on Armand doesn’t need to even use the smoke, he just randomly gets the power to mentally control anyone he wants to control. What at first required whatever the smoke was, suddenly required nothing more than him wanting to turn you into a zombie slave. It was like he became Charles Xavier out of nowhere.
  • Do I need to mention the whole “lost” city thing again?

Again, I understand that this was in the 30’s and a couple of those could possibly be explained by the time period, but not even White Zombie played that wildly with its ideas of how someone could control the zombies. Revolt of the Zombies ended up feeling not simply boring, but silly as well.

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{What’s really amazing is the bullets actually cause their shirts to transform into vests in the very next scene}

Then there are the characters. These are easily some of the blandest characters I’ve seen in any film, horror or otherwise. Claire (Dorothy Stone), Armand’s love interest/object of obsession is both a conniving bitch and a petulant child of a woman. She’s a selfish, spoiled brat that could care less about others, and what’s worse is the movie tries to make you feel bad for Claire later on in the film when Armand steps off the deep end when she’s the one who pushed him in. Then there’s Armand’s friend and Claire’s love interest Cliff (Robert Noland) who has all the emotional diversity of an early Steven Segal. He seemed like he didn’t even want to be there half the time, like maybe he was only in the movie because he lost a bet to someone. Last but not least there is Armand (Dean Jagger), easily the dullest character of the entire film, someone so absolutely flat it made the movie damn near torturous to watch. He is indifferent to everything around him, barely reacting to even the things he is supposed to be excited about, even an impassioned speech from him comes across as dull, if not outright forced. At one point someone tries to stab him to which he barely punches the guy, gives him a quick glance when the attacker falls, and then continues trotting along like he hardly cares that a man just attempted to take his life. Then there are the zombie actors, oh my god, the zombie actors. They aren’t hapless men and women robbed of their will and forced into servitude, they’re bored laborers who maybe, kind of want to be somewhere else, but can’t get the motivation to try something new. They don’t look dead eyed or empty, they look like they’re sitting through a class on the history of cardboard box making and are on hour number six. It doesn’t help that they don’t have any kind of makeup to help push a hallow look, but to add on top of that actors who simply look like they could have cared less makes for some of the worst zombies to be shown in the genre’s history. When your film is getting close to eighty years old and you still remain one of the worst examples of zombies in cinema, you know you fucked up. I can’t fully blame the zombie actors though because when the leads can’t act worth a damn either then why should anyone else try? Seriously, every actor in this thing was just absolutely horrendous, well, maybe not every actor. There was one among all of them that did manage to do a great job with his character, but he is sadly not in it very much, and that is the character of General Mazovia played by Roy D’Arcy. D’Arcy did a terrific job with Mazovia, coming across as both creepy and intriguing, the one bright spot in an otherwise absolute garbage flick.

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{Thank you Mr. D’Arcy for at least making one thing in this fucking terrible movie worth while}

This is one I would never recommend watching. It is a boring, waste of time that should be avoided completely if possible. If you’ve seen every other zombie film out there, than go look this one up, otherwise stay the fuck away unless you’re really interested in finding out how much colonial racism one can fit inside a single zombie movie.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Victor Halperin (White Zombie, Torture Ship)

Starring: Dorothy Stone (Paree, Paree, Radio Hook-Up), Dean Jagger (Alligator, End of the World), and Robert Noland

Written By: Victor Halperin (White Zombie, Torture Ship) and Howard Higgin (The Invisible, Hell’s House)

Released By: Edward Halperin Productions, Victor Halperin Productions, and Academy Pictures Distributing Corporation

Release Year: 1936

Release Type: Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Pre-MPAA, Approved

Rotting Heads: Empty Skull (Worst Rating Possible)

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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