King of the Zombies features Mantan Moreland in his typical horror role, the simple-minded, jittery spook: “Not me, y’all go on in there! I’m ain’t goin’ in dere!” The manservant of — oh no! — “Mr. Bill” (John Archer), he crash lands on a Caribbean island with his boss and the pilot (Dick Purcell), who all end up staying at creepy Dr. “Subtle Name” Sangre’s pad. Mantan must sleep in the servants’ quarters initially, then sees zombies and ghosts repeatedly — although his humorless boss doesn’t believe him (and treats him with humorless contempt, unlike Bob Hope, who orders Willie Best around but at least jokes with him afterward).
There’s no doubt that Mantan was a comic master, and his talent is still obvious today, but the subject matter may make some a tad uncomfy. Witness a typical gag: hypnotized by Sangre, Mantan is told to repeat “I am dead,” but instead responds “I is?!” Leigh Whipper is also featured as the somber butler Momba, and Marguerite Whitten is the sexy American maid Samantha. Madame Sul-Te-Wan is Tahama, cook and high priestess, and James Davis is a zombie.