Countdown to Halloween: "T" is for Teenage Zombies (1959)
There’s no reason I should have any fondness for Teenage Zombies (1959), a movie that, perhaps not surprisingly, does not feature any teenage zombies. Well, two young women do become under the influence of an experimental gas that causes them to stand speechless for a few minutes. Somehow, though, I enjoyed it. It’s not a movie that’s so bad, it’s good; but, one that’s so bad, it’s OK.
What appeals to me is the overall nostalgia that drips from the movie. Everything feels authentic to what I think I know about the era. From the inane malt shop conversation, to the fact that a young boy would take his girl horseback riding (at the ridicule of his friends), to the innocent relationship between teenagers and the police, Teenage Zombies feels like pure Americana.
It’s also silly fun. The movie includes a lot of brawling among good guys, bad guys, and gorillas… seemingly endless scenes of brawling. They’re hilarious, as the characters, regardless of age or role in the plot, hug and roll around on the floor. There’s not a lot of punching or fighting happening, but there’s a lot of… well, hugging and rolling around on the floor.
This occurs on an island that’s existence is known to the kids only by rumor. Oddly, in a little surprise I actually didn’t see coming, the sheriff (Mike Concannon) does know about the island… all about the island. On it, Dr. Myra (Katherine Victor) is performing experiences for an unidentified foreign country and hopes to create a race of zombie slaves to take over the United States.
I don’t actually know from where the aforementioned gorilla originates, but he appears during the finale about the time the evil creature for most of the rest of the movie, a zombie named Ivan (Chuck Niles), disappears. I mean, why not throw in a guy in a gorilla suit? Aren’t most movies better when they feature a guy in a gorilla suit? It’s sad that a man named Mitch Evans is uncredited for his performance.
Actually, I wasn’t sure it was a gorilla. Most of the movie is dark and murky. I don’t think we should demand a restoration, though. The more we can see of Teenage Zombies is probably not the better; nor is the more we hear. The score would have us believe the movie is a non-stop thrill ride. Even its dull moments are scored like the survival of the world hinges on the actions of whoever is on screen.
I was therefore interested to learn that the score was taken (and uncredited) from Kronos (1957). Although misused, it does add something substantial to an otherwise lighter than air movie. The director, Jerry Warren, was also guilty of giving us Man Beast (1956), The Incredible Petrified World (1959), Curse of the Stone Hand (1965), and the US sequences for Face of the Screaming Werewolf (1964).
In a 1978 interview with Tom Weaver, Warren said about his movies, “I’d shoot one day on this stuff and throw it together… I was in the business to make money. I never, ever tried in any way to compete, or to make something worthwhile. It’s not very fair to the public, I guess, but that was my attitude… You didn’t have to go all out and make a really good picture.” There’s nothing else I can say.
Written by Jerry Warren
Directed by Jerry Warren
Starring Don Sullivan, Katherine Victor, Steve Conte, J.L.D. Morrison, Brianne Murphy, Paul Pepper, Mitzie Albertson, Jay Hawk, Mike Concannon, Nan Green RT 73 min.
Home Video Prime Video (streaming)
Part of the Countdown to Halloween. Click here for a list of all the blogs participating. Each offers its own distinctive month long celebration of the chilling holiday we all love.