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A distinguished pianist (Ralph Morgan, brother of Oz's wizard) feels an influx of restless energy but his fingers aren't tickling the ivories the way they used to, and there's worse to come. He's contracted acromegaly, and not by accident. He's the victim of Igor Markoff, The Monster Maker, a fake doctor who wields the dread disease as a weapon of vengeance and blackmail. Glenn Strange, a captive gorilla (Ray Corrigan), and Ace the Wonder Dog are among the supporting attractions. J. Carroll Naish played the title role in this PRC production the same year he performed his Academy Award-nominated part in Columbia's Sahara (he'd be nominated again for 1945's A Medal for Benny).

Oscar glory came more directly to PRC's King of the Zombies: It was nominated itself for best score. Listen carefully to Edward Kay's music and see if you can figure out why the Academy considered it the equal of such heavy hitters as Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman, Miklos Rozsa, and Max Steiner, all nominated that year (Herrmann won). Henry Victor (Freaks) barely registers in the zombie master role intended for Bela Lugosi, but never fear, because Mantan Moreland is on hand. Functioning as a combination comic relief and audience surrogate, he's onto the living dead menace well before the dim-witted hero. His comic timing and delivery turn King of the Zombies from a Bela-less Lugosi programmer into a wild ride. (Martin Nichols)

Interview with Bela Lugosi


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