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On the Franco-Austrian Frontier during WW I, an oriental priest, chaplain of a French colonial regiment, is condemned to life imprisonment because he possesses the power of turning men into zombies. As the priest,in his prison cell, is preparing to burn the parchment containing the location of the secret formula, Colonel Mazovia kills the priest and takes the partially-burned parchment. Fade to after the war to an expedition of representatives from all the Allied countries (only those with colonial interests it appears) being sent to Cambodia to find and destroy forever the Secret of the Zombies. The group includes Colonel Mazovia (somewhat akin to sending the fox to guard the hen house); a student of dead languages, Armand Louque; Englishman Clifford Grayson; and General Duval and his daughter Claire. Armand falls in love with Claire, who accepts his proposal of marriage in order to spite Clifford whom she really loves. Later, when Claire, following an accident, runs to Cliff for ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"You have the secret of the zombies, let me have it."
Though the title includes the word "zombies", this film is not what you'd expect from a movie made today, though for 1936 the concept is played out about as well as would probably be expected. Dean Jagger portrays Armand Louque, an officer in the French Army of World War I, who has stumbled upon an ancient tale of soldiers turned into automatons, or "zombies", who are impervious in battle and may hold the key to victory in the war, though on whose side is not certain. At first he has trouble convincing his superiors of this phenomenon, but eventually French General Duval (George Cleveland) orders a non military expedition into the ancient Cambodian city of Angkor to find the secret of the zombies and destroy it.
The story is played out against the backdrop of a love triangle involving Louque, Duval's daughter Claire (Dorothy Stone), and Clifford Grayson (Robert Noland), all a part of the expedition. When Louque laments over his lack of forcefulness and resolve, Grayson offers him advice to go after what he wants in life with all his power. That advice begins to transform Louque, particularly after he's successful in obtaining a stone tablet resembling a photo from the ancient city. Having followed a temple priest into a swamp, Louque now appears to hold the secret he had been seeking, though it's not made clear how he has instantaneously been able to command the power of "zombiefication". All it takes is placing his right fist to the forehead simulating a third eye, and casting his thoughts out to those he wishes to control. This comes in handy for winning back his girl, and taking Grayson's early advice as he comments to his servant, "Buna, we're learning to be ruthless".
Fans of early "B" horror flicks will recognize the use of Bela Lugosi's signature eye stare, plucked from the 1932 film "White Zombie", also from director Victor Halperin. Of the two movies, "White Zombie" is preferably superior, both in story content and in it's depiction of the undead, where the zombies have a more sinister appearance and are more threatening. In "Revolt", the zombies are enemy soldiers with a glazed over look that merely react to their mentor's commands. In fact, the actual revolt of the title occurs only when Louque releases the soldiers from his mental command in deference to his love for Claire; they overrun his compound and kill him in the process.
Not to be too harsh on the film, it plays out decently within the parameters of it's story outline, but if you're thinking "zombies!!!" within the traditional context, you'll probably be disappointed. If you want to sample an early treatment of the subject, the aforementioned "White Zombie" with Bela Lugosi is the way to go.
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