King of the Zombies
In "King of the Zombies" (1941), World War II is raging and a trio of Americans search for a missing Admiral. When a storm imperils their small airplane, they follow a beacon to an island that turns out to be inhabited by an Austrian scientist, his pretty niece, and a handful of servants. Unfortunately for the visitors, their host is plotting with Axis powers to sabotage the Allies in the war effort using a top secret weapon: zombies.
Billed as a horror-comedy hybrid, the comedy is provided chiefly by Mantan Moreland's portrayal of Jefferson "Jeff" Jackson, a servant accompanying Bill Summers and the pilot, Mac. Like other well-known black actors in the Thirties and Forties, Moreland started his career in vaudeville and made a name for himself in Hollywood by playing the jester to white lead actors' straight, sensible characters. For some viewers, Moreland's nuanced delivery is overshadowed by the bigger picture in which talented African Americans were portrayed only as servants and comic relief instead of as fully realized people with a range of concerns, many of which did not revolve around the lives of white people.
Jim WattsJim Watts, Senior Mechanical Engineer with the Utah Center for Aerospace Innovation and Design at Weber State University discusses some of the technical problems with King of the Zombies.
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