Revolt of the Zombies (1936)

Who’s in it?: Dean Jagger (White Christmas)

What’s it about?: A scientist (Jagger) uses zombie powers to get the girl.

How is it?: It takes a long time to figure out what Revolt of the Zombies is about. It starts out about English imperialists fighting the zombie army that’s fueling a Cambodian revolution, but that quickly fades into the background. Then it looks like it’s going to be about the team of archeologists and other scientists who are looking for a way to stop the zombies, but that too becomes backstory. Eventually it becomes about a love triangle between two of the scientists and the daughter of a third, and even though that’s the least interesting angle on the tale, that’s where it more or less stays.

Claire (Dorothy Stone) is in love with Clifford, but he doesn’t seem that interested in her until she starts paying attention to poor Armand (Jagger). Claire dumps Armand as soon as Clifford comes around and there are lots of speeches advocating being ruthless in the pursuit of one’s desires. Armand takes this to heart, so when he discovers the secret to creating zombies, he uses it to separate Claire from Clifford and force her to marry him. Unfortunately, all three of these people are incredible jerks and I couldn’t have cared less whether any of them got together or spent the rest of their sad, selfish lives alone.

It’s worth pointing out though, that – evil as he is – Armand never turns Claire into a zombie or directly subjugates her will. Unlike the villain from White Zombie, he’s smart enough to know that he won’t be satisfied with that relationship. But he does have to figure out that the result is the same whether he influences her directly or through other people. He can’t be happy unless Claire loves him of her own free will. That would be an interesting theme if it hasn’t been done so many other times, including – like I said – White Zombie.

Revolt of the Zombies has something else in common with White Zombie too. It steals the close-up shot of Lugosi’s eyes from the earlier movie and uses it whenever someone’s being controlled by zombie power. It’s a cool shot, but lifting it from another film is a lame move.

Rating: Turkey.

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