In 1941 when King of the Zombies was released, zombies were not exactly the shambling monsters that everyone knows and loves today, but the essence of what they were and what they are remains a constant to this very day. So while there are no rotting corpses to be found and no special effects to be had whatsoever, the movie turns out to be a good one for a few different reasons.
The predominant factor as to why King of the Zombies is so entertaining is the fact that a fair amount of comedy was injected into it. More often than not, it is Mantan Moreland, his acting chops and comic timing that makes it so enjoyable. Yes, the man was given a clichéd, cookie-cutter and slightly racist role that many African-American actors would find themselves cast in, but he made the best of it and when stacked up against anyone else in the film, he ran circles around them. While Dick Purcell and Joan Woodbury would take top billing in the feature, it should have been Moreland as much of the picture revolved around him. Purcell and Woodbury were even a little uninteresting when it really comes down to it and aside from the previously mentioned Moreland and the villain as played by Henry Viktor, the rest of the cast was pretty average. If there was one fault the movie had, it was the lack of characterization, possibly the script, that made the film slightly lacklustre. Thankfully Moreland was present to liven things up and keep it all going.
Good to see was director Jean Yarbrough, who along with the rest of the crew, would manage to create a very eerie atmosphere throughout the picture. The zombies, as previously stated were nothing to write home about, but the overall setting worked well and gave the film the only horror it would see. Though one might expect this film to be exceptionally scary or feature a literal king of the zombies at first, they will be disappointed a little, but it by no means makes the film a bad one.
As it is, the movie could have had a little more action or a little more horror and was not by far the worst or best of the genre, but at the end of the day, King of the Zombies was a fun excursion into the absurd and there is nothing wrong with that.
3 out of 5