Revolt of the Zombies (1936)


USA. 1936.


Director – Victor Halperin, Producer – Edward Halperin, Photography (b&w) – Arthur Martinelli, Music Director – Abe Meyer, Special Effects – Ray Mercer, Art Direction – Leigh Smith. Production Company – Favorite Films Corp/A Halperin Production


Dean Jagger (Armand Loque), Dorothy Stone (Claire Duval), Robert Noland (Clifford Grayson), Roy D’Arcy (General Mazovin), George Cleveland (General Duval), E. Alyn [Fred] Warren (Dr Trevissant), William Crowell (Tsiang)


During World War I, a Cambodian priest helps the allied war effort by raising zombies. The allies want the secret of creating zombies. When the priest refuses to divulge it, they jail him but he is murdered before he can tell them anything. An expedition is sent to Angkor Wat to try and find the secret of creating zombies. When one member of the expedition, Clifford Grayson, announces his engagement to Claire Duval, colleague Armand Loque is inflamed with jealousy. Loque goes out on his own to find the secret and then raises the zombies to force Claire come to him.

Brothers Victor and Edward Halperin made one of the great horror classics of the 1930s with White Zombie (1932). However, their subsequent attempts to repeat that success – the possession film Supernatural (1933) and this – failed miserably. Both of the latter are dreary and dull efforts that leave one wondering just how the Halperins could have misunderstood what made the original work. Revolt of the Zombies seems an even greater attempt to try and replicate White Zombie with the Halperins again returning to zombie themes.

Where White Zombie was atmospheric, Revolt of the Zombies is slow and talky. There is certainly a good idea to it, of sorcerers raising the dead as an army to fight in the War effort – it would be a great idea conducted as a modern horror film. However, the gulf between conception and delivery here is immense. For all such a grand idea of finding the secret of raising zombies, all the lead villain can think to do is use them to get his way in a banal love triangle. There is also an unconvincing attempt to turn Khmer culture and the reliefs of the Aspara figures at Angkor Wat (which are in fact representations of heavenly dancers in Hindu mythology) into representations of zombie practice.

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