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Anton Giulio Majano
During World War 2, a small plane off the south coast of America is low on fuel and blown off course by a storm. Guided by a faint radio signal, they crashland on an island. The passenger, his manservant and the pilot take refuge in a mansion owned by a doctor. The easily-spooked manservant soon becomes convinced the mansion is haunted by zombies and ghosts. Exploring, the 3 find a voodoo ritual in the cellar, where the doctor is trying to acquire war intelligence by transferring personalities into his zombies. But the interruption causes the zombies to turn on their creator. Written by
Cynan Rees <email@example.com>
implicitly intended for an urban African-American audience, this film is mantan Moreland's masterpiece performance. a wicked parody of the b-movie horror cycle that washed over American screens in the wake of the success of the universal monster movies, Moreland - with blessings from director Jean Yarbrough and writer Edmond Kelso - uses his role to rip, tear, kick, and generally trash all the expectations concerning race in his culture, rightly pinioning it as little better than the racism of Nazi Germany.
the white 'heroes' of this film are completely stupid, especially the Anglo-Saxon guy John Archer as 'Bill Summers', who can't quite figure out how he could be trapped on an island just because his plane crashed and the local Nazi doesn't want him to leave.
although the Nazi's role was clearly intended for Bela Lugosi, Henry Victor does a pretty good job sounding like a slimy spy who doesn't even like Irish people, so we can guess what he thinks of blacks.
but it's the black guy who saves the day - the black guy who solves the mystery - indeed, the black guy who even figures out that there is a mystery, while the hokey white boys scratch their heads. and along the way, he drops a lot of little gags about the African-American cultural experience, especially in Harlem, then de-facto capital of African-America, and how he would rather be there than chasing 'hants' on some dumb Nazi's jungle island.
this is a Jean Yarbrough film, so of course there are a lot of silly goofs and gaffs, and unintentionally funny stuff - i especially like the line about the guy who just got shot through the chest five times getting better in a little while; yeah.
but this is an historically important film because it is not only mantan Moreland's one leading-role star-turn, but because it is clearly designed to subvert the culture that made it impossible for actors and comedians as good as Moreland from getting their fair share of star-turn leading roles - a culture which, sadly, still needs some subverting today, 65 years later.
but like it or not - and i happen to love this film - this is the first, the beach-head in that ongoing underground cultural war for civil rights and justice in all areas of American life, even the Hollywood film.
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