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"If there's one thing that I wouldn't want to be twice, zombies is both of them!"


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King of the Zombies, one of my favorite films. is on TCM tonight, at 6:30pm, almost prime time!  I love the film -- it was the first video I ever purchased, even before I had a VCR to play it on.  I bought it from Video Yesteryear, a company out of Connecticut.


Great story/script, with many quotable lines;  great cast, including Mantan Moreland's best performance. Two of the actors -- Madame Sul-Te-Wan (Tahama) and Leigh Whipper (Momba) featured prominently in African-American film history. Madame was the first black actor to receive a contract from a studio; Whipper was the first black actor to join Actors' Equity. He was also a founder of the Negro Actors Guild of America.


King of the Zombies was nominated for an Academy Award for best music. The winner that year was Bernard Herrmann for The Devil and Daniel Webster, but Edward J. Kay's score for King of the Zombies should have won. As Mantan Moreland says when he hears the drumbeat written by Kay: "It ain't Gene Krupa!"


I could go on and on about this film. One of the aspects of it that has intrigued me for years is, how did Samantha, played so well by Marguerite Whitten, get to that island? 



Mantan Moreland and Marguerite Whitten



Madame Sul-Te-Wan as Tahama

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And I usually tune in to TCM to get AWAY from zombies everywhere ELSE! 


King of the Zombies is not like that George Romero junk. King of the Zombies adheres to the classical/scholarly rules of zombie-ness. For example, when Jeff (Mantan Moreland, who thinks he's a zombie) complains that the food is tasteless: 


Jeff: "Where's the salt?"

Samantha: "You eats that the way it is and likes it. Zombies ain't supposed to use salt."


W.B. Seabrook, The Magic Island (1929), the book which introduced zombies into popular culture:


"...as everyone knows, zombies must never be permitted to taste salt..." So the food prepared for them was tasteless and unseasoned."


and, a more scholarly reference, from Voodoo in Haiti (1959), by the French anthropologist Alfred Metraux:


"Their docility is total provided you never give them salt. If imprudently they are given a plate containing even a grain of salt the fog which cloaks their minds instantly clear away and they become conscious of their terrible servitude." (Metraux follows with a story about what happened to a group of zombies who were inadvertently fed some salted nuts).


From The Magic Island:


"But the baker of the tablettes had salted the pistachio nuts before stirring them into the rapadou, and as the zombies tasted the salt, they knew that they were dead and made a dreadful outcry and arose and turned their faces toward the mountain." 



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here's a pretty good article from vulture.com about how THE WALKING DEAD (and the concept of zombies in pop culture) has devolved into a pro-fascism platform. it's pretty interesting, and i post the link here because it spends some time discussing the evolution of Zombies on film, especially in the context of slavery.



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