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King of the Zombies

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

King of the Zombies
Promotional release poster
Directed byJean Yarbrough
Written byEdmond Kelso
Produced byLindsley Parsons
CinematographyMack Stengler
Edited byRichard C. Currier
Music byEdward J. Kay
Sterling Productions, Inc.
Distributed byMonogram Pictures Corporation
Release date
  • May 14, 1941 (1941-05-14)
Running time
67 minutes
CountryUnited States

King of the Zombies is a 1941 American zombie comedy film directed by Jean Yarbrough and starring Dick Purcell, Joan Woodbury, and Mantan Moreland. The film was produced by Monogram Pictures, and was typical of its B films produced by the Pine-Thomas team. Along with flying scenes, the use of zany characters and slapstick efforts were juxtaposed with a spy and zombie story.[1]


In 1941, a Capelis XC-12 transport aircraft flying between Cuba and Puerto Rico runs low on fuel and is blown off course by a storm. The pilot, James "Mac" McCarthy (Dick Purcell), cannot pick up any radio transmissions over the Caribbean except for a faint signal. After crash-landing on a remote island, passenger Bill Summers (John Archer) and his black manservant Jefferson Jackson (Mantan Moreland), take refuge in a mansion owned by Dr. Miklos Sangre (Henry Victor) and his wife Alyce (Patricia Stacey).

Jackson, frightened by his surroundings, is convinced the mansion is haunted by zombies and confirms this with some of Dr. Sangre's servants. The stranded group becomes aware that mysterious events are taking place in the mansion.

The group stumbles upon a voodoo ritual in the cellar conducted by the doctor who is in reality a foreign spy trying to acquire war intelligence from a captured US Admiral whose aircraft had also crashed on the island. McCarthy falls under the doctor's spell but Summers comes to his aid. When Summers stops the ritual, the zombies turn on their master. Sangre shoots the pilot but falls to his death in a firepit. With Sangre dead, all the zombies are released from his spell.



Mantan Moreland as "Jeff" Jackson

King of the Zombies was announced in January 1941 as a vehicle for Bela Lugosi.[2] It was inspired by the success of The Ghost Breakers (1940).[1]

Lugosi was meant to play the role of Dr. Sangre.[3] When he became unavailable, negotiations ensued to obtain Peter Lorre for the part, but a deal could not be reached.[4] Veteran character actor Henry Victor was signed just prior to the date of filming.[5]

Principal photography by Sterling Productions, Inc. began on March 28, 1941 and wrapped in early April, being primarily filmed on a studio back lot.[6] The transport aircraft used in King of the Zombies was a Capelis XC-12, built in 1933 by Capelis Safety Airplane Corporation of California. The aircraft was a 12-seat, low-wing cabin monoplane with two 525 hp Wright Cyclone engines. [Note 1]


In the press kit for King of the Zombies, Monogram advised exhibitors to sell "it along the same lines as Paramount's The Ghost Breakers (1940)." The Bob Hope horror/comedy was a runaway hit at the time.[7]


Writing in The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, academic Peter Dendle called King of the Zombies "... utterly absurd and delightful".[3] Bruce G. Hallenbeck, who wrote Comedy-Horror Films, said that the film's politically incorrect humor comes off as innocent due to Moreland's delivery.[7]


King of the Zombies was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music (Music Score of a Dramatic Picture) (Edward Kay).[3]


Two years later, King of the Zombies was followed by a sequel, of sorts, called Revenge of the Zombies (1943) that included two of the original cast members. Mantan Moreland reprised his role as Jeff. Madame Sul-Te-Wan was cast as Mammy Beulah, the housekeeper.



  1. ^ The aircraft appears as both a model and in disassembled form as a crashed aircraft.


  1. ^ a b Weaver 1993, pp. 36-45.
  2. ^ "Of local origin The New York Times, January 27, 1941, p. 11.
  3. ^ a b c Dendle 2001, pp. 96–97.
  4. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Robinson, Ida Lupino chosen for 'Sea Beast': Award winner assigned Hepburn return imminent 'Cracked Nuts' cast set Sanders to act Nazi cop Lorre 'King of Zombies'." Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1941, p. 12.
  5. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Disney, Goldwyn will coproduce fairy tale: Hayworth, Astaire duo Helen Parrish wins lead Autry subject revealed Purcell, Woodbury team Montgomery in dual role." Los Angeles Times, March 28, 1941, p. 26.
  6. ^ "Original print information: 'King of the Zombies'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: August 18, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Hallenbeck 2009, pp. 32–34.


  • Dendle, Peter. The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2001. ISBN 978-0-7864-9288-6.
  • Hallenbeck, Bruce G. Comedy-Horror Films: A Chronological History, 1914-2008. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7864-5378-8.
  • Weaver, Tom. Poverty Row Horrors! Mongram, PRC and Republic Horror Films of the Forties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1993. ISBN 978-0-7864-0798-9.

External links

This page was last edited on 24 November 2023, at 04:59
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