Zombies on Broadway (1945) is a tongue in cheek comedy that is way out of date. However, it features Bela Lugosi and zombies so it must be watched.
Rough Script – Zombies on Broadway (1945)
Welcome to today’s show, my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follows the links to social media in the podcast show notes. Today we are looking at first of our 2015 horror movies. Episode 41 – Zombies on Broadway (1945) is a comedy. Surprise. I have the feeling that this episode will be way on the short side. This movie ain’t about much. It does have some serious racial stereotyping. However, it has a few stars and a couple of actors that will show up in future podcasts. So let jump right in and start going over the comic talent.
Wally Brown and Alan Carney were a movie comedy duo that was active from 1943-1946. Brown stayed a bit player in movies while Carney had a few larger roles such as the navigator in The High and the Mighty (1954) with John Wayne. Carney was the straight main while Brown was the comic relief.
In this movie, Wally Brown played the role of Jerry Miles while Alan Carney played the role of Mike Strager. The pair was playing press agents for a nightclub that was being opened in New York.
Sheldon Leonard plays semi-reformed gangster and future nightclub owner Ace Miller. Leonard was born in New York City. I’m seeing a trend. After graduating from university Leonard went to work as a stockbroker but was cast out of work by the 1929 crash. At that time he made the choice to go into acting which seems an odd choice when 25 percent of the population was out of work. It took five years before Leonard made it to Broadway. On the strength of his work, he began to get movie roles. However, has looks kept him in the villain or tough guy roles. One example of a role was that of the brutal bartender in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) when George was seeing what life was like without him. In the 1950s Leonard moved into a successful television production career.
Louis Jean Heydt played the role of radioman Douglas Walker. Heydt worked as a reporter after college. He began working as a journalist and then started working on stage from 1927-1948. In the mid-30s he went to Hollywood and became a regular fixture. However, he never made it big so you are more likely to recognize his face and not his name.
Ian Wolfe played curator Prof. Hopkins and all around zombie expert. Wolf was born in 1896 in Canton, Illinois. He began his career working it the theater and did not start in movies until he was 38. Amazingly he had over 300 movie and television roles. He generally played the role of an almost unnoticed background character, such as a butler. Elderly, thin, and bald he would most often not be noticed but his roles were often the type where he said at the end “of course he was a vampire.” That’s not an actual quote from a movie but it should be. At the age of 85, he played the butler for Mrs. Carlson on the television show WKRP in Cincinnati 1978-1982.
The biggest star in this movie has a small role. Bela Lugosi was Professor Paul Renault, head zombie scientist. Lugosi was covered in Episode 20 White Zombie (1932). However, as a reminder, he had been shooting morphine products since 1935.
Anne Jeffreys played island nightclub singer Jean La Danse. Well thought out name! Primarily a singer she began modeling in her youth and continued working towards a singing career until she landed a role on stage in 1940. Her first movie role was in I Married an Angel (1942). She worked under contract for Republic pictures and RKO but she was mostly cast in B westerns and crime dramas. Her movie career ended by the late 40s. She did more signing, television, and stage work but could never get her career back to where it was.
Sir Lancelot was uncredited as a Calypso Singer. He was born Lancelot Pinard, in 1902 on the island of Trinidad. It is said that he did not pick up his love for calypso until he was studying in New York in the 1940s.
Using the name Sir Lancelot he wrote and performed calypso and acted on the side. In addition to singing calypso in Zombies on Broadway (1945), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), and the very dark film noir prison movie Brute Force (1947). Lancelot had a role in one of my personal favorites The Buccaneer (1958) as Scipio. The name, of course, is derivative of the famous Roman family that was known for being able to win battles in Africa when other Romans couldn’t. You know that old Latin expression – Only a Scipio can win in Africa.
Finally, there was Darby Jones who played a small role as Kalaga – the Zombie. I think THE zombie is right, this guy is scary. Jones was around Hollywood for about 25 years and played in roles such as natives and servants.
Two jokers Jerry Miles (Wally Brown) and Mike Strager (Alan Carney) are being paid as press agents for a new nightclub in New York City. They are drumming up, see what I did there, business for The Zombie Hut which is opening on Friday 13th. They are having leaflets dropped on this city and the film uses cut in scenes of ticker-tape parades to show the leaflets coming down. It seems like they are doing a good job but there is just one hitch. They say they are going to produce a live authentic zombie for the opening.
When club owned by Ace Miller (Sheldon Leonard) comes in flanks by his two tough guys, it is clear that Ace has not reformed as a gangster. He is happy with what Jerry and Mike are doing until he hears the part about the live zombie. Jerry and Mike show him the actor Sam (Martin Wilkins) that will play a zombie and Ace is calm for a bit until he discovered that they have given exclusive radio access to Douglas Walker (Louis Jean Heydt). Walker is a crusading radio investigative journalist in the model of Walter Winchell. Walker has hated Ace and been out to get him for years. Ace threatens to kill Jerry and Mike unless they can produce a real zombie before the opening.
Walker comes into the club and reads the smear story that he is going to read about having a real zombie and ripping off the public. To make matters worse Walker knows Sam as a local boxer.
Ace tells the pair of press agents that they will be killed on opening night if there is no zombie. Jerry and Mike go to the international museum and are let in by Worthington (Nick Stewart). They are taken to the bone room where they meet curator Hopkins(Ian Wolfe).
After the pair explain what they want Hopkins tells them his old school chum left 25 years ago to researching zombie in the only known place of their existence – on San Sebastián one of the smaller Virgin Islands. What? Everybody knows Haiti or half of Hispaniola is the correct location.
Mike and Jerry decide to escape to California. Back at their apartment, they are talking smack about Ace when Ace pops up on the couch. The two thugs put the pair on a boat to San Sebastián. The pair arrives on San Sebastián and are greated with a song played by actor Sir Lancelot. Glaring at them in the distance is scared henchman Joseph (Joseph Vitale). Joseph makes it to a plantation by nightfall. Inside Professor Paul Renault (Bela Lugosi) is working on making a scientific zombie.
Renault sends Kalaga (Darby Jones) to get new non-native subjects. Jerry and Mike go to the local island cafe where Jean La Danse(Anne Jeffreys) is singing in and doing a knife act.
Jean comes over when they ask for a zombie. She wants a way off the island and will help them find a zombie in exchange. Jean takes Jerry and Mike into the jungle while Kalaga follows. Since it’s a full moon the drums start beating. They see a cow skull and a dead black panther, the animal, but keep going. Kalaga captures Jean. Jerry and Mike decide to hide by the zombie ceremony grounds. They must change clothes and keep their spare zombie customers in the hut. Mike hides in a burial box while Jerry dresses in blackface. Mike follows in the fire and Jerry runs away in the box with a monkey.
Mike, Jerry, and the monkey find the wall to the plantation of Renault. Joseph and Renault are preparing to turn Jean into a zombie. Joseph finds Jerry and Mike and takes them into the house. They meet Renault and they catch a lie about why he is on the island.
They do the dirt throwing gaga. Jerry falls through the bottom of his grave into a tunnel where he sees Kalaga. Joseph takes them to their room. Kalaga goes to get Mike to be turned into a zombie. Renault’s perfect formula turns Mike into a zombie. He then sends him back to the room and tells Kalaga to get Jerry. The monkey steals the formula and Jean escapes freeing Jerry. Renault and the monkey do the switching door trick with the drawers of a chest of drawers.
Renault kept saying “kill, kill” to Kalaga who then kills Renault and buries him out back. Jean, Jerry, Mike, and the monkey make it past the voodoo crowd by 1 being a real zombie and 2 pretending to be a zombie. This includes the monkey walking by with outstretched arms.
Zombie Mike and the crew are picked up at the dock by Ace’s henchmen. Walker and Hopkins are in the club waiting for the smear when there’s no zombie. Mike comes out of the zombie formula. Ace comes in and sees there is no zombie. As Ace gets ready to kill the pair, the monkey gives Jean the formula, and she hits the lights as bullets fire. They reveal the zombie and it’s Ace. Walker and Hopkins agree it’s a zombie as Jerry sits on the needle and turns into a zombie.
World-Famous Short Summary – Two men take an island vacation and bring back a monkey
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Beware the moors