This movie appears to be an attempt to capitalize on every possible contemporary issue and popular subject of the late 1930's and early 1940's. There are spies, Nazis, zombies and an African American comedian thrown in for good measure. I would say the director threw in everything but the kitchen sink, but there was one of those too. The primary plot is generally dull and lifeless, but the comedy in this movie is classic.
Our story begins with three people in an airplane lost over the ocean. They desperately scan for a radio beacon to find an airport, finding instead a suspicious radio conversation. The trio, James "Mac" McCarthy (Dick Purcell, who managed 74 film appearances before his untimely death in 1944), his servant Jefferson "Jeff" Jackson (comedian Mantan Moreland, who is one of the best things about this movie; Moreland became a regular in the Charlie Chan movies of the 1940's), and pilot Bill Summers (John Archer, who was near the beginning of a career that would eventually span 60 years) crash onto the island and discover suspicious happenings.
We soon learn that an admiral is missing, and that can only mean one thing. Yep, you got it; the admiral has to be on the island somewhere. The local guy in power appears to be Dr. Miklos Sangre (Henry Victor, who appeared in many spy movies as well as the cult classic "Freaks"). He has assorted house guests, including a bevy of genuine zombies. We also learn that Dr. Sangre is attempting to use voodoo to gain the secrets of the admiral.
Most of this movie was bizarre. I kept wondering why the various characters did the things they did. The one thing that made this movie survivable was the antics of Mantan Moreland and beautiful Marguerite Whitten as Samantha the maid. Both actors were far superior to any of the other actors in this movie. Moreland's style of comedy may seem to step too closely to the degrading stereotypes of the era, but it was also evident that servant Jeff Jackson and maid Samantha were the only two characters who knew what was really going on and were the only characters smart enough to stay out of the way of trouble. Moreland's lead in taking the zombies to dinner is easily the best part of this movie and that scene showcased the talents of both performers.
My first impression of this movie is that it tried to squeeze too many subplots into its short length. We have Nazis, zombies, a missing admiral, a love story, a crash and more. The director avoided the problem caused by having a lot of plots by spending very little time on developing any of the plots. I thought this movie was about the missing admiral, but the movie seemed to wander around for a while and the missing admiral got very little face time until near the end of the movie. Even after watching the movie the most memorable portions were those featuring Moreland and Whitten. My general impression is that this movie is a comedy that also has some stuff about zombies and an admiral in it. At least, that is the way I am going to remember the movie.
I could easily dismiss this movie as worthless, and it nearly is. However, all the scenes with Moreland and Whitten were enjoyable. Whitten was a wonderfully smooth actress who commanded her role. Moreland is a natural comedian whose presence made him the focus of every scene he was in. This movie is rare in that African American performers were the lead characters in several scenes though Caucasian performers were the nominal stars of the movie. I recommend this movie for the presence of these two stars. However, be aware that much of the humor in this movie would be considered unacceptable by today's standards.
Before I forget, the title of this movie borders on the absurd. Dr. Sangre was a Nazi experimenting with hypnosis and voodoo. He was far from the "King of the Zombies." Sometimes movie titles are more impressive than the movies themselves.