King of the Zombies

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King of the Zombies
Promotional film poster
Directed by Jean Yarbrough
Produced by Lindsley Parsons
Written by Edmond Kelso
Music by Edward J. Kay
Cinematography Mack Stengler
Edited by Richard C. Currier
Distributed by Monogram Pictures Corporation
Release dates
  • May 14, 1941 (1941-05-14)
Running time
67 minutes
Country United States
Language English

King of the Zombies is a 1941 American horror comedy film produced by Monogram Pictures.[1]


During World War II, a Capelis XC-12 plane somewhere over the Caribbean runs low on fuel and is blown off course by a storm. Guided by a faint radio signal, they crash-land on an island. The passenger, his manservant and the pilot take refuge in a mansion owned by a doctor. The quick-witted yet easily frightened manservant (Mantan Moreland) soon becomes convinced the mansion is haunted by zombies, and confirms this with some of the doctor's hired help. Exploring, the three stumble upon a voodoo ritual being conducted in the cellar, where the doctor, who is in reality a foreign spy, is trying to acquire war intelligence from a captured US Admiral whose plane had crashed in a similar fashion on the island. But the interruption causes the zombies to turn on their master.


Mantan Moreland as "Jeff" Jackson


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


In the press kit for this film, 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.[6]


Writing in The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, academic Peter Dendle called it "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.[6]


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


Two years later, in 1943, the film was followed by a sequel, of sorts, called Revenge of the Zombies which 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. ^ a b Tom Weaver, Poverty Row Horrors! Mongram, PRC and Republic Horror Films of the Forties, 1993 p 36-45
  2. ^ Of Local Origin New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 27 Jan 1941: 11.
  3. ^ a b c Dendle, Peter (2001). The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia. McFarland & Company. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-0-7864-9288-6. 
  4. ^ 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 Zomrbies' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 01 Mar 1941: 12.
  5. ^ Disney, Goldwyn Will Coproduce Fairy Tale: Hayworth, Astaire Duo Helen Parrish Wins Lead Autry Subject Revealed Purcell, Woodbury Team Montgomery in Dual Role Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 28 Mar 1941: 26.
  6. ^ a b Hallenbeck, Bruce G. (2009). Comedy-Horror Films: A Chronological History, 1914-2008. McFarland & Company. pp. 32–34. ISBN 9780786453788. 

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