The Great World War is nearing an end, and members of the French army face a foe deadlier than any they have seen in battle. An oriental chaplain has been found with the formula to turn men into zombies. He alone knows the location of the secret formula, but refuses to reveal it while he is imprisoned. These zombies can be used as military super soldiers, able to overrun dozens of enemy troops. Before the priest can destroy the formula, power mad Colonel Mazovia (D’arcy) grabs the paper telling the location of the secret of the zombies.
After the war, an expedition of International forces is sent to Cambodia to find the zombie recipe. That expedition includes Mazovia (though viewers are never given a chance to see him weasel his way into the party.) Also on board are Armand Loque (Jagger) and Cliff Grayson (Noland), who are good friends. The party rounds out with General Duval (George Cleveland) and his beautiful daughter, Claire (Stone). Cliff and Armand spend most of the film fighting for Claire’s affection, like Luke and Han chasing Leia all through Star Wars.
Mazovia becomes the film’s big bad villain; a stereotypical maniac dressed in black and bearing an ever-present sneer. With many of the scenes shot in Angkor, Indochina, the team spends plenty of time in safari gear. Between the setting and the cartoon villain, viewers may feel like they’re watching a workprint of Disney’s “Tarzan.”
Loque finds the zombie formula through some good fortune and dumb luck. He doesn’t report it to the group, though. Instead, he tests the formula on his house boy. Once he is successful, he moves on to bigger and better things, including leveraging the formula to get Claire to choose him over Cliff. Despite the potential for world domination, Loque keeps his sights firmly on getting into the blonde bombshell’s panties (and he falls short of even that.)
70 years from now, someone may dig up “From Justin to Kelly” and give it a merciless review. They would have 70 years of bad reviews to draw upon. Everyone involved in “Revolt of the Zombies” has left the land of the living and will never read this review. With any luck, the same will be true of Justin and Kelly in 2080.
Actors Notes: Jagger would go on to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1949’s “Twelve o’ Clock High.” D’Arcy was late in his career during filming, having already established himself as a villain in serials. Cleveland went on to a long acting career, including the role of “Gramps” Miller in “Lassie.”
Trivia fact: The frightening eyes that pop onto the screen are those of none other than Bela Lugosi. He appeared in Halperin’s earlier work, White Zombie.
Considered a disappointment across the board, Revolt was doomed from the start. The Halperin brothers had announced a sequel to the successful 1932 film, White Zombie. Instead, they faced delays, script problems, and a lawsuit over the use of the word “zombie.”
“Revolt” has a run time of 65 minutes, which will feel like three times as long. The film is forgettable on all levels, and viewers are better served by checking out “White Zombie”, George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, or, for a twist, “The Shadow” episode from October, 1940 titled “The Isle of the Living Dead”.
The version of “Revolt of the Zombies” viewed here is included as part of the 50-movie pack Horror Classics DVD collection by Treeline Films. Highlights of the collection include “Carnival of Souls’, “Night of the Living Dead”, “The Last Man on Earth”, “The House on Haunted Hill”, “The Little Shop of Horrors”, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, “Nightmare Castle”, and “Metropolis.”