When your zombie movie starts off with some 1930’s orchestral score that sounds like its going to break out into happy song and dance, you get an instant idea of what the next 60 minutes are going to be like – not a scary idea in sight.
Seems that as the world’s ability to travel to other nations increased, and cultures much different to our own were discovered, there came an air of “mystery” about these other societies or tribes – and as people often do, they created fearful stories to fill the vastness of their incomplete knowledge. One such myth, which had early horror cinema in its grips, was “the zombie” – a human robbed of his own life or free will – controlled by the evil intentions of one master or dark priest. Religion being a more widespread practice back then, they were often discussed in early film, as if their existence could possibly be real, and something to fear. Revolt of the Zombies makes an attempt to scientifically discuss the threat – amidst pompous characters that muse about how good it would be to have an army of them at their disposal – and then segues into a mess for the rest of the film.
Revolt of the Zombies begins when an Oriental priest is captured. He is sentenced to solitary imprisonment for life when he refuses to turn over the secret which he holds – the power to create zombies! While being incarcerated, the priest is killed, and his parchment on how to control zombies is stolen – partially burned but mostly intact. Soon several generals of US allied nations agree that a secret mission must be unleashed. An expedition to a lost city, to retrieve and destroy the secrets of creating zombies – before the east can put together an army of robot soldiers. Armand (Dean Jagger), a student of dead languages, accompanies the generals and one of their daughters Claire (Dorothy Stone) to the lost city until accidentally uncovering the formula.
Most of the story, while adventurous and containing a fair amount of drones walking in a trance, is a love triangle between Armand, Claire, and Englishman Clifford Grayson (Robert Noland). There are long exchanges of dialogue, with all three of the aforementioned subject all sweating their relationships and how it’s all going to play out. By the end, Armand uses his power for evil purposes – but gives up his power in a final attempt to win over Claire’s love. Soon, the zombies revolt, and tens of angry Orientals are running around looking to get revenge on their master. It escapes me where the story of saving the world went. The uninteresting love story over powers any horror angle. If anything, it feels like some fictional African expedition movie, with very little action. The zombies are slow, boring, talk, and are pretty much the extended hand of another evildoer, who doesn’t really do too much in this film.
Final Analysis: Claiming to be “the weirdest story in 2000 years”, Revolt is instead a clunky, poorly made film – that even ancient cinema enthusiasts will have trouble milking anything enjoyable out of. The cheery score is inappropriate, lifting your spirits when you’d otherwise think they’d be trying to create some dark atmosphere. There is often mention of race – the destruction of the white race – and use of zombies that are Oriental – indicating that there was an imbedded fear or effect from war pulling the tides of the plot. Over all, Revolt of the Zombies is a mismatch of plot angles – war, racial ignorance, a love story to fall asleep by, and zombies devoid of anything that makes them creepy. Other than Bela Lugosi’s superimposed zombie eyes from another movie, this film contains extremely minimal horror value for today’s viewer.