Started out like it would be a guilty pleasure but around the halfway point the slapstick and sight gags got to be too much. Bela is a mad scientist trying to use science to duplicate what the island natives can do with voodoo. Wally Brown and Alan Carney are a low rent Abbott and Costello. They wear out their welcome before too long. Still I never turn down a chance to see Bela…in this case just once.
Ex gangster Ace Miller (Sheldon Leonard) is opening a club called The Zombie Hut. Press agents Jerry Miles (Wally Brown) and Mike Strager (Alan Carney) drop circulars from a plane to publicize that the club will have a real zombie on opening night. Ace is trying to pass off a boxer names Sam as a zombie. Radio host Douglas Walker always tries to expose Ace as a phony. When he shows up he sees Sam. They know each other. He reads part of the script he’ll use that night to make a fool of Ace. Mike and Jerry better find a real zombie or else.
They go to a museum after hours and Worthington the janitor lets them in. He takes them to the basement to see the curator Dr.Hopkins. He’s a bit batty but tells them about an old friend he hasn’t seen in twenty-five years. He doesn’t know if he’s still alive. When last heard from he was on the island of San Sebastian. His name is Dr.Paul Renault (Bela Lugosi).
Mike and Jerry decide to get out of town. While packing they don’t realize that Ace is in the room. He sends for his boys Gus (Frank Jenks) and Benny to take them to a boat leaving for the island. When they go ashore they’re greeted by a friendly Calypso singer. Watching is Renault’s assistant Joseph. When Mike and Jerry walk off the singer starts the rest of the song. It’s about doom and gloom. Joseph says he’ll let his boss know about their arrival. He also has a new serum Renault ordered.
Mike and Jerry go to a club and watch Jean La Danse (Anne Jeffreys) perform. She’s a singer and knife thrower. Lurking outside is Kalaga the zombie (Darby Jones). Renault sent him to get a victim for his new serum. Mike and Jerry scare the waiter and a few others with talk about finding a zombie. Jean leads them through the jungle to a voodoo ritual. Kalaga follows. He knocks Mike down and takes off with Jean. There are numerous sight gags and slapstick galore in the native camp as Mike and Jerry try to hide out. Joseph finds them hiding in a tree and takes them to Renault’s castle.
Inside Renault is about to inject the serum into Jean. Mike,Jerry and Joseph arrive and Renault hides Jean. Mike and Jerry talk to him about finding a zombie. Renault decides they should find out first hand. He has them dig their own graves. They just think they’re doing a favor for the doctor.
Jerry falls through the hole into the basement and sees Kalaga. He gets back outside and tells Mike about the zombie. He doesn’t believe him.
From here on out the sight gags really pick up and it’s no surprise Jerry is turned into a zombie. Back in New York it’s opening night. An impatient Ace is waiting for Mike and Jerry to deliver a zombie.
Bela got stuck in a lot of bad movies but he always tried his best. He had a reputation as a real pro no matter the material. This is a case in point.
I happened to watch this earlier this week. It seemed like such a promising goofy start and then the movie somehow just kept on going on, past the point it was really possible to care.
I was disappointed that the last half couldn’t keep up with the first. It had potential but they blew it.
Now today I went on to the Joe E Brown baseball comedy Fireman Save My Child, which goes on shockingly long for how little story it has. But it’s a Joe E Brown baseball comedy, so if you didn’t know that going in you’re the one at fault, not the movie-makers.
Two other baseball comedies are worth a look..”It Happens Every Spring” (1949) with Ray Milland and 1950’s “Kill The Umpire” with William Bendix. Both have a high silliness content but knowing that going in you might enjoy them. Get in touch with your inner ten year old.