Jerry Miles (Wally Brown) and Mike Strager (Alan Carney) are Broadway press agents. Their client is ex-gangster Ace Miller (Sheldon Leonard). Ace is trying to go straight and is opening a nightclub called “The Zombie Hut”. As part of their publicity for the nightclub Jerry and Mike advertise that “The Zombie Hut” will have a genuine zombie on hand for the opening.
When radio personality Douglas Walker (Louis Jean Heydt) finds out about the zombie angle he makes it a point to tell Ace that he will humiliate the former gangster should he either not provide said zombie or if he tries to pass someone off as a zombie who really isn’t one. Ace is not happy with Jerry and Mike.
Jerry and Mike visit the only person they can think of that may help them find a zombie. Professor Hopkins (Ian Wolfe) is a squirrely little intellectual and the curator of a museum. He tells the press agents that the only place that a real zombie can be found is on the island of San Sebastian in the Virgin Islands. He says that Professor Paul Renault is the guy to see if you’re looking for zombies. If Renault is still alive that is.
By now Jerry and Mike are freaked out and plan a trip to San Francisco instead. Ace, on the other hand, plans a trip for them to San Sebastian. The two are escorted to an awaiting tramp steamer by a couple of Ace’s minions.
Once on San Sebastian, which looks strangely like the RKO film set, the boys meet a nightclub singer named Jean La Dance (Anne Jeffreys). She volunteers to help them find a zombie if they help her get off the island.
Professor Renault (Bela Lugosi) is a mad scientist that does experiments on the natives. He has a zombie that the natives created using voodoo. He is Kalaga (Darby Jones). Renault is trying to make a zombie using science instead of voodoo. So far his experiments have either died or returned to normal. Now he needs new subjects to experiment on.
“Zombies on Broadway” was released in 1945 and was directed by Gordon Douglas. The movie is a comedy/horror film. Although it’s not too strong on either genre. Brown and Carney were a comedy team basically created by RKO to emulate Abbott and Costello.
If you experience a little déjà vu while watching the film then you’ve probably seen “I Walked With a Zombie” 1943, also by RKO. Both movies had many of the same actors, specifically Sir Lancelot and Darby Jones, both of them in basically the same roles as previously. Even the name of the island is the same. Some consider “Zombies on Broadway” a spoof on “I Walked With a Zombie”.
Granted the movie is dated. The humor isn’t all that funny, although I did get a couple little chuckles from it. It’s 40’s humor and people were looking for anything that would take their minds from the war. It’s not great but it’s not horrible either. Lugosi, though his part is rather small, does the best he can with what he has to work with. I’ve seen much worse.
Watch it for Lugosi. And the monkey. They are the best actors in the film.