Thursday, May 6, 2010

In short: Blood of the Zombie (1961)

aka The Dead One

Johnny (John McKay) has just married his girlfriend Linda (Linda Ormond). After watching some of the entertainments available in three bars in their native New Orleans, the happy couple goes off to their three-day-honeymoon on the old plantation Johnny, who's obviously a miser, will inherit now that he's married thanks to some rather peculiar aspects of his grandfather's will.

On their way through the wilderness that lies oh so very close to the city, Johnny and Linda pick up the burlesque dancer Bella Bella (Darlene Myrick). The poor gal's car has died right in the middle of nowhere. Also, and I'm just making this up right now, Johnny has always dreamt of taking a random female stranger with a bizarre name in while honeymooning.

When they arrive at the plantation, Johnny realizes that not all is bunnies and unicorns. His cousin Monica (Monica Davies) has been running the place for years and is not amused by suddenly having to deal with Johnny as the new master of the house.

Monica does the obvious: revive her dead brother Jonas (Clyde Kelly) as a zombie and incite him through rigorous voodoo drumming to murder Linda. Whatever could go wrong with this plan?

If you go into Blood of the Zombie looking for a decent voodoo zombie film, or the missing link between I Walked With A Zombie and Night of the Living Dead you will be sorely disappointed. This is regional independent horror at its most dire, with no plot to speak of, acting that fluctuates between hysterical and somnambulistic and the visual creativity only a completely immobile camera on a tripod can provide. I have to admit, I sort of liked Jonas' zombie outfit, though. After all, it is not every day you can watch the slowest zombie in movie history shuffle around in a tuxedo and a bow tie.

Of course, I didn't go into the movie looking for these simple thrills anyway. I have seen way too many of these regional offerings to expect anything that amounts to a movie as most people understand the term. Instead, I went into Blood of the Zombie hoping for a time capsule of New Orleans and Louisiana in the early 60s. In this respect, the film does deliver a lot of what I was looking for. The awe-inspiring "three bars/three artists" sequence alone is worth the price of admission, as it provides an unfiltered glimpse into a moment in New Orleans' entertainment history, but that's not all the film has to offer. There's also a bit of random hepcat lingo provided by jazz pianist Joe Burton, the beauties of very ugly outfits, the local colour only a romantic tour through old slave quarters can provide and a lot of remarkably enlightening insights into casual racism and other parts of the mores of the film's place and time, all packed into slightly over sixty minutes of an only seemingly boring film.



Todd said...

I love movies where the characters are given the same names as the actors who play them. It's like the actors can't even be trusted to respond to a name other than their own.

houseinrlyeh said...

I'm pretty sure that's a sensible precaution in this case.