Ed. note– My initial review of THE DEAD ONE was kinda dry and played too much on puns. In revising it, I realized the only way to make the review of this dumb and boring flick any fun for both you and me was to poke fun at it. And so I did.– P.F.
Long before zombies became flesh eating hordes from the imagination of Hell of Famer George Romero, they were the product of voodoo. Sprung from the fictitious journalism of William Seabrook, they were resurrected by some Haitian high priest’s mystic hoogabala, destined to shamble along and do a slave’s work. In 1961, seven years before Romero hit the scene and changed the paradigm, Barry Mahon entered the scene with THE DEAD ONE. With this flick, Mahon, who spent the majority of his years making nudie cuties with titles such as FANNY HILL MEETS DR. EROTICO, took the standard voodoo zombie, transported him to Creole country, and let him collect dust. Full confession: I’d much rather be reviewing FANNY HILL MEETS DR. EROTICO. That title alone is a grabber, and anything with Dr. Erotico can’t possibly be as boring as THE DEAD ONE.
THE DEAD ONE is true to its title straight from the start, as Monica goes through the motions of conducting a full-out voodoo ceremony, frantically beating drums, Black plantation workers and all. Commanding Jonas from the grave, she sets him out to kill her cousin John’s new wife Linda. Though cliché, that opening musters up all the verve this flick carries, as it’s a dead one from there.
That opening also sets the conflict, which takes a little time to get going. I’ll now take time in this review to discuss a problem that plagues several bad movies I’ve reviewed over the years: the dance number. When you see a dance scene in an older horror movie, it’s usually there for two reasons, to get those crazy teens into the theatres to see one hip monster movie, and to pad the run time. John and Linda, who were married earlier in the day, stop at three separate dance clubs on their way to the family mansion. Trust me, Barry, no one in your audience for your zombie flick called THE DEAD ONE is buying a ticket to watch 15 minutes gobbled up by bad dancing. And what kind of husband is John, anyway? He takes his newly betrothed to see a gal named Bella Bella perform a girlie show, and then invites Bella to join them at the manse when her car breaks down. Just how badly does this guy want to lose his new digs in the oh-I-know-it’s-definitely-coming divorce? What an idiot!
THE DEAD ONE is part of the Horror Movie Relocation Program, under its other title BLOOD OF THE ZOMBIE. No zombie bleeds in this flick. Filmmaking is a lie. Though I wonder if any bodily fluids were transmitted in FANNY HILL MEETS DR. EROTICO.
If Mahon had played this with any sense of humor, it could at least have been dumb fun. Instead, I’m stuck with these silly characters in a flick that’s also not scary. Things drag even when Mahon’s camera takes us inside the slave quarters and into the family tomb. Not that the actor do anything to torque things up. John McKay sleepwalks through his role as John, so much so that you might think he was the zombie if you weren’t paying attention. As Monica, Monica Davis chews scenery like a Romero zombie chomping on a fat guy. Oh and if you’re curious, Linda is played by an actress named Linda.
Jonas doesn’t do anything to up the thrills; after the first two minutes, he disappears until about 40 minutes in. He shambles around for what seems like forever, not killing the two people he’s supposed to kill. Par for the course, he’s an idiot too. When Jonas finally does kill someone after almost an hour, it’s the wrong person. And oh God, his makeup job is awful. He looks like a greenish David Bowie from the Ziggy Stardust days. In fact, now that Bowie’s dead, I think he’d still be a better choice to play Jonas.
By the time Jonas goes up in a literal cloud of smoke at the film’s end—and yes, he literally goes up in a cloud of smoke—you’ll be wondering, Why couldn’t Romero have invented the Romero zombie seven years earlier? And where can I find a copy of FANNY HILL MEETS DR. EROTICO?