An okay time-passer for "Golden Age" film fanatics
Farffleblex Plaffington | Parnybarnel, Mississippi | 09/07/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Well, first off, if you're checking out Revolt of the Zombies as some very early Night of the Living Dead (1968)-type film, forget it. This is about "zombies" in a more psychological sense, where that term merely denotes someone who is not in control of their will, but who must instead follow the will of another. The "zombies" here, as little as they are in the film, are largely metaphors for subservience to the state or authority in general, as in wartime. It is quite a stretch to call this a horror film.
The film is set during World War I. A "French Cambodian" contingent had heard strange stories about zombification--supposedly Angkor Wat was built by utilizing zombies--and there are tales of zombie armies easily overcoming foes. Armand Louque (Dean Jagger) brings back a priest who supposedly knows the secret of zombification, but he won't talk. So Louque and an international military contingent head to Angkor Wat on an archaeological expedition designed to discover the secret of zombification and destroy the information before zombies have a chance to "wipe out the white race".
One of the odd things about Revolt of the Zombies is that it seems like maybe writer/director Victor Halperin decided to change his game plan while shooting the script. The film begins as if it will explore the zombie/military metaphor, and maybe even have adventure elements, but after about 15 minutes, it changes gears and becomes more of a love triangle story.
Halperin does stick with a subtext about will and power (and a Nietzschean "will to power"). The film is interesting on that level, but the script and the editing are very choppy. This is yet another older film for which I wouldn't be surprised if there is missing footage, especially since some scenes even fade or cut while a character is uttering dialogue.
Amidst the contrived romance story, Halperin tries to keep referring to the zombie thread, but little of the zombie material makes much sense. Louque discovers the secret of zombification, but it doesn't mean much to the viewer. The mechanics of the zombie material are vague and confusing--Halperin even resorts to using superimposed footage of Bela Lugosi's googly-eyes from his 1932 film, White Zombie, but never explains what it has to do with anything. There are big gaps in the plot, including the love story. Promising, interesting characters from early reels disappear for long periods of time. One potential villain is disposed of unceremoniously before he gets to do much.
If you're a big fan of old, creaky B movies, Revolt of the Zombies may be worth watching at least once--the acting isn't all that bad, and if you've got a good imagination, you can piece together an interesting story in your mind to fill in all of the gaps. But this is the second time I've seen the film, with the first only being about five years ago, and I could barely recall anything about it--so it's not exactly memorable."
He's got Bela Lugosi's eyes...
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 07/07/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The word `zombie' is thrown around a lot in this film titled Revolt of the Zombies (1936), and it made me question if the term was being used properly, as I always associated it with regards to reviving and maintaining power over the dead, perhaps through a ritual, or some such manner...well, there were a few definitions (including one for a tall drink made of rum, liqueur, and fruit juice), and one did specify `One who looks or behaves like an automaton'...which is pretty much how the word is used this film (zombification by means of hypnosis), as opposed to reanimation of corpses through that voodoo that you do so very well...co-written and directed by Victor Halperin (White Zombie), the film stars Dean Jagger (X the Unknown), Dorothy Stone (Savage Fury), and Robert Noland, in his only big, or small, screen appearance. Also appearing is Roy D'Arcy (El Capitan Tormenta), George Cleveland (The Devil and Daniel Webster), and E. Alyn Warren (Tarzan the Fearless).
The beginning of the film is a little confusing, but the gist is during the first world war there was a regiment of French Cambodians, hailing from the lost city called Angkor (or somewhere there abouts), that appeared on the Franco-Austrian front and proved to be impervious to death by conventional means, fighting like they were robots. The allies learn of this, and also of the existence of a priest, the last in a long line of those familiar with the ancient art of turning men into zombies, or mindless automatons who will do their masters bidding. Seeing as how the priest won't give up the ghost, they decided to imprison him, as the secret is too dangerous to fall into enemy hands, but someone has a more permanent solution, if you get my drift...upon learning the secret of the process may be located in the lost city of Angkor (which seemed awful easy to find, being a `lost' city and all), the allies form a international expedition featuring General Duval (Cleveland), his daughter Claire (Stone), Armand Louque (Jagger), Clifford Grayson (Noland), and a Colonel Mazovia (D'Arcy), among others. They manage to find the not-so-lot city, but locating the secret is a bit more difficult...and dangerous. During this time Armand falls in love with Claire, but she only has eyes for Cliff. She agrees to marry Armand, but only as a means to provoke Cliff into action as it turns out Cliff loves Claire, but Armand had gotten to her first, or some such thing...anyway, Claire gives Armand the old dumparoo, which leaves him a shell of his former self, that is until Armand accidentally stumbles upon the secret of making zombies, something he then puts to use in order to obtain that which he desires most, the backstabbing Claire, by creating a virtual army of zombies to do his bidding (seriously, he goes on a hypnotizin' jag, giving the whammy to everyone in sight)...soon Claire and Cliff become suspicious, but it may be too late, as those around them are under Armand's fiendish control...
I was a little disappointed with this movie, primarily because I was hoping for a little of that old black magic that made the Halprin's Brothers 1932 release titled White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi, one of my favorite non-Universal horror films from the classic age of horror films, but it's missing...replaced by a huge, honking hunk of melodrama...bah...an admirable effort, but one that missed the mark, for me at least. What really annoyed me was the one halfway interesting character of Colonel Mazovia had so little screen time, and not a whole lot to do with the story, which sort of went against the impression of importance I got from the story early on...oh sure, he was so sinister as to be a cartoonish caricature of evil (leering eyes, pencil-thin mustache forming into a goatee, always dressed in black, and constantly slinking about) but he was, at the very least, more interesting than most of the other characters presented. You see, he, too desired the secret, and had quite the convoluted plan to achieve his goal, one that relied a little too much on uncontrolled factors, in my opinion...and I'll tell you what, the lead characters weren't all that likable, especially Armand who becomes a real egotistical a-hole once he learns the power to control men's minds, driven by an obsession to obtain something he can never have...I suppose one could make the argument that he was ultimately a sympathetic character, caught up in delusions of grandeur, a puppet to his own desires, but that'd be a tough sell, from where I sat. And then there's Claire...what a peach she is, using her engagement to Armand solely as a ploy to get with Cliff...oh yeah, she's a keeper...dames...can't live with `em, can't kill `em (legally, at least)...and I didn't understand why she was along in the first place. Yeah, she was General Duval's daughter, and he seemed in charge of the expedition, but she had no real purpose other than being a pretty plot point...the story is fairly straightforward, but tends to jump forward in a startling and confusing manner at times...a perfect example is near the beginning when Armand meets Claire and we see his almost immediately infatuated with her...while, in the same scene, we see her drawn to Cliff. Right after this there is a scene with Armand and Claire celebrating their engagement...how in the heck did we get here from there? Ah well...the performances were adequate, possibly (but unlikely) hampered by an overly talkative script...check out how proper and erudite Armand becomes after imbibing in the intoxicating juices of his newfound knowledge. And if this was the best Ms. Stone had, I'm really not surprised her career petered out after only two more films. One aspect I liked a lot was the sets, which were much better than the story deserved in that they created a creepy and spooky atmosphere just waiting for the appropriate material.
The full screen print on this Alpha DVD release looks really decent, and comes across clear, despite obvious signs of age (missing frames, lines, etc.). The audio is decent, and I had no problems making out the dialog. There are no special features, but there is a visual depiction of other Alpha DVDs.
By the way, if you're wondering about my title for my review, whenever Armand would use his new power, a large set of eyes, meant to be Armand's, but really belonging to Lugosi, was superimposed on the screen. This effect was taken from Halprin's previous film White Zombie (1932), which is really worth checking out, if you're a fan of early horror classics, as this was how Bela Lugosi's character created zombies...
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 10/15/2010
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Dreary follow-up to the Halperins' "White Zombie" - minus Bela Lugosi and the atmospheric qualities associated with the 1932 horror classic. Despite the offbeat Cambodia setting, "Revolt of the Zombies" (1936) is a lifeless disappointment. Random close-ups of Bela's eyes and Arthur Martinelli's photography cannot redeem this 65-minute journey into boredom. Dean Jagger (miscast beyond belief) makes a poor substitute for Lugosi."