Revolt of the Zombies
Let the cheery orchestral score that introduces the opening credits of "Revolt of the Zombies" (1936) be your hint that this film is not, repeat, not filled with animated corpses that perform grisly cannibalistic acts until someone blows their heads off with a shotgun. The zombies here are actually living humans whose lose their wills (but not their memories) until and unless the master who controls them voluntarily relinquishes his power over them. Aside from showing a few soldiers receiving sanitized versions of gunshot wounds and a tidy little murder or two, the film avoids much in the way of death and disfigurement. But if this disappoints you, there's still plenty of fun to be had with "Revolt" as it attempts to delve into the Deep Philosophical Implications (DPIs) of trying to get your own way.
The film's main character Armand is an ace with ancient languages but when it comes to asserting himself—even when he's 100% in the right—he's nothing but a joker. His buddy Clifford is a strapping, egotistical force who encourages Armand to show more "intestinal fortitude" and go after what he wants in life. When Armand's fiancée Claire decides Clifford is more to her liking, the stuttering milquetoast decides that what he wants in life is to turn everyone around him into zombies—everyone except Claire, that is. He's content simply to blackmail her into ditching Clifford and returning to him. When he discovers that freeing the minds he dominates is the only way he has a chance of winning Claire's appreciation (as opposed to mere compliance to his will), he must choose between power and love.
While "Revolt" can be viewed simply for the fun of it, folks who really are interested in DPIs may find its portrayal of the dynamics between the Westerners and the Cambodians of particular interest. Armand's struggle to succeed in life without being an opportunistic jerk may be seen as a parallel journey of colonialism's rise and fall. After all, the recipe for making zombies that Armand steals is a Cambodian one, and it's mainly a passel of unnamed Cambodian characters he turns into his zombified private militia. Postcolonial scholars may argue that, like Armand, Western powers invaded Asia for personal gain without concern for the rights of the natives, including the right of self-determination—a position that some suggest harms colonist as well as colonized.
Todd C. GreyTodd C. Grey, Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Utah, discusses forensic pathology and the film "White Zombie."
Angela SmithAngela Smith, professor of Gender Studies and English at the University of Utah, discusses her scholarship on monstrous bodies and how we can better understand politics and culture through films such as “Night of the Living Dead.”
More Science to go with the Show
Find More UEN SciFi Friday