King of the Zombies is definitely one of the most unique zombie films I have ever seen, mainly due to the way that WWII served as the backdrop to the story, and actually involved a character named Admiral Wainwright (could this have been a shake-up of General Jonathon Wainwright?). We begin when a plane is drawn off course and lands on a remote island that is virtually run by a single German doctor, played by Henry Victor. He has a collection of zombies acquired through the voodoo magic of his servants as well as his studies in hypnotism.
While the Nazis are never mentioned, it is obvious that he is trying to relay information back to them regarding the US Army, as he tortures and attempts to get secrets out of the admiral through hypnotism. Still, the army subplot is relatively minor, and the three main characters, played by Dick Purcell, the wonderfully funny Mantan Moreland, and John Archer, take up most of the screen-time in trying to find a way off the island, as well as seeing what the evil doctor is up to. The story spins through some pretty cool scenes of zombification and rituals.
For a smaller budget film from the 1940’s, the acting holds up quite well (it’s actually the strong point), with Moreland’s character being a real treat to watch. His mannerisms and dialogue worked very well to compliment what would have been an overly dark storyline, especially for audiences back then. Instead, this ends up being part horror, part comedy (the first of its kind?). Oh, and here is a little bit of movie trivia for you: this is the only zombie movie in history to ever get nominated for an Academy Award, which it did for a very underused best musical score (but failed to win). Also starring Joan Woodbury. Directed by Jean Yarbrough. 6 out of 10 stars.