(director: Gordon Douglas; screenwriters: story by Robert Faber/Lawrence Kimble; cinematographer: Jack MacKenzie; editor: Philip Martin; music: Roy Webb; cast: Wally Brown (Jerry Miles), Alan Carney (Mike Streger), Bela Lugosi (Dr. Paul Renault), Anne Jeffreys (Jean LaDance), Sheldon Leonard (Ace Miller), Frank Jenks (Gus), Ian Wolfe (Prof. Hopkins), Joseph Vitale (Joseph), Darby Jones (Kolaga, the Zombie), Louis Jean Heydt (Douglas Walker), Russell Hopton (Benny); Runtime: 69; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Benjamin Stoloff; RKO; 1945)
“Lugosi is probably the only reason for seeing the film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Wally Brown (Jerry Miles) and Alan Carney (Mike Streger) were single vaudeville acts, but RKO teamed them up for this comedy hoping they would capture the same magic and box office that Abbott and Costello managed. They must have done something right because in the next three years they appeared in 12 features together. This one is supposedly their best. It’s a tolerable comedy that works only because Bela Lugosi does a funny dead-pan parody of himself and Ian Wolfe is hilarious as an eccentric scientist. Wally and Alan are daffy, but their comedy shtick did nothing for me. Gordon Douglas does a workmanlike job as director, in a slapstick film that’s outdated.
Jerry and Mike are working as Broadway press agents for ex-gangster Ace Miller (Sheldon Leonard), who is opening a new nightclub called the Zombie Hut. They get publicity all over town advertising a zombie on Broadway for the opening, but they foolishly get popular radio commentator Douglas Walker (Heydt) to give them free publicity if he has the right to check out the zombie. He has always hated Ace for being a swindler and threatens to expose the nightclub as phony if it doesn’t produce a real zombie.
When Ace threatens to have his boys Benny and Gus bump them off unless they get a genuine zombie, the press agents go to the city museum and question the curator, Dr. Hopkins (Ian Wolfe), who is a madman but an expert on zombies. They are told about a scientist called Dr. Paul Renault (Bela Lugosi), who went to a Caribbean island 25 years ago to study zombies but hasn’t been heard from since. Ace provides the tickets for the boys to go to San Sebastien and bring back a real zombie.
There the boys meet cabaret singer Jean la Dance (Anne Jeffreys), who strikes a deal with them. They get her transportation on the next boat to leave and she helps them find a zombie. The trio heads into the jungle surrounded with voodoo signs and a real zombie called Kolaga, who brings them to the castle of Renault. The scientist is a madman who is trying a new serum to see if he can create a zombie through science instead of voodoo. All his experiments have so far ended in failure, as the serum wears off after a few days and Renault buries his subjects. With the arrival of these visitors, he has new subjects and the zany comedy is derived from the battle between the press agents and the professor.
Lugosi is, probably, the only reason for seeing this film.
REVIEWED ON 9/24/2002 GRADE: C