Synopsis: Scott Warrington (Mauritz Hugo) arrives at the Louisiana mansion of his sister Lila and brother-in-law Dr. Max Von Altermann (John Carradine), a man whom Scott has never met. Lila has recently died under suspicious circumstances, and Scott, thinking there may be trouble afoot, is traveling with Larry Adams (Robert Lowery), a private detective he’s hired. Wary of Dr. Van Alterman’s intentions, they decide to switch roles: Larry will pretend to be Scott and Scott will pretend to be Larry.
Dr. Altermann has secretly harnessed the power to bring the dead back to life as zombie slaves. His own manservant Lazarus (James Baskett) and a number of the workers on the plantation are undead, though Scott and Larry as well as their comic-relief driver (Manton Morland) are unaware of it.
Soon Dr. Von Altermann meets with a mysterious representative of the Third Reich. Dr. Von Altermann gives a demonstration of zombie obedience to the visiting Nazi, explaining that an army of the undead could never be defeated, since they will continue to function no matter how much damage they sustain in battle. He reveals that he himself killed Lila to use her in his diabolical experiments; to him, Lila was unimportant compared to the Nazi zombie army he’s preparing.
But Dr. Altermann’s big dreams are threatened by some inconvenient happenings: Lila’s body keeps wandering around, and even Scott and Larry have seen it on the move. And the zombies are unexpectedly starting to disobey his orders….
Comments: In preparing to write about this John Carradine programmer, I went back and watched I Walked With a Zombie, the groundbreaking Val Lewton voodoo film that predated this one by six months. I wondered, is there any indication that this is Monogram’s attempt to cash in on that intelligent and well-regarded picture?
After watching both films back-to-back, my first impulse is to say no. Even though the two films were released in the same year, and are both ostensibly about zombies, there’s almost no resemblance between the two. Revenge of the Zombies, like its Monogram progenitor King of the Zombies, is as overtly dumb and lurid as I Walked With a Zombie is literate and lyrical. It’s like trying to compare it It Comes at Night with Dead Snow.
I’m guessing that somebody involved in the production saw I Walked With a Zombie because Revenge of the Zombies makes a number of clumsy, half-hearted attempts to evoke the spooky, gossamer-like atmosphere of a Lewton film, most notably when Lazarus goes out to summon the zombies to him with an unnerving “Aaaaaaaaa-wooooooooo!”. We also have Lila wandering around aimlessly, much as Jessica Holland does in I Walked With a Zombie. But like the (many) other Lewton imitators, no one at Monogram was equipped to do what Lewton did. So the efforts end up looking silly, like children dressing up as adults.
Fortunately, the movie doesn’t spend much time trying to sing above its range, and in short order gets down to what the audience paid for: John Carradine chewing the scenery with grandiose speeches about his “Nazi zombie army”, a phrase I can’t even type — much less say — without smiling.
Cry of the Werewolf
Synopsis: Dr. Charles Morris (Fritz Leiber) operates a museum of the occult, located in the former mansion of a famous Gypsy queen named Marie LaTour. Dr. Morris tells assistant Elsa Chauvet (Osa Massen) that he is about to publish a ground-breaking work on Marie LaTour, which will reveal important new information about her life.
Elsa leaves to pick up Dr. Morris’ son Bob (Stephen Crane) at the train station, but when the two of them return to the LaTour mansion they find Dr. Morris has been killed by an animal – apparently a wolf. Moreover, the notes he has compiled for his manuscript have been tossed into the fireplace and are mostly burned, and a tour guide who was present at the museum (John Abbott) is now babbling incoherently, his mind apparently broken by what he witnessed.
Bob and Elsa devise a way to reconstruct some of the information from the burned notes, and this leads them to investigate the mythology and practices of the Gypsies. Marie LaTour had purportedly been a werewolf, and as the Gypsies are a matriarchal society, her daughter — also named Marie LaTour (Nina Foch)– has inherited her lycanthropy.
Meanwhile, Lt. Barry Lane (Barton McLane) doggedly tries to solve the murder without resorting to occult explanations. This is surprisingly difficult, since Elsa, his first prime suspect, is cleared because her fingerprints don’t match those found at the scene of the crime, and museum janitor Jan Spavero, his second prime suspect, ends up getting mauled by a wolf. …