Teenage Zombies (1960)
“See Teenage Girls Thrust Into the Weird Pulsating Cage of Horror!”
Teenage Zombies (1960)
Director: Jerry Warren
Cast: Don Sullivan, Katherine Victor, Steve Conte
Synopsis: A crazed female scientist uses nerve gas to turn local teenagers into her unquestioning slaves.
Made in 1957, at the height of the U.S. drive-in era (although not released until 1960, presumably because writer-producer-director-editor Jerry Warren needed at least two years to work up the nerve to inflict it on an unsuspecting public), Teenage Zombies is an example of just how low even Z-grade movie-making can sink in the hands of those in search of moviemaking talent. At least with this one you somehow get the impression that Warren was truly attempting to make an entertaining and exciting teen-horror movie, even if it’s clear that he really didn’t have the faintest idea about how to actually do it.
The heroes of Teenage Zombies are a group of clean-cut teens (one of whom looks about 35) who, when they’re not having fun on the local lake, are enjoying milk shakes in the local hang-out. Unlike teens since the 1970s, the thought of sex never enters the minds of Regg, Skip, Pam, Julie, et al. In fact, it’s tempting to believe that these kids don’t even know what sex is (or what they would do with it if they had one), such is the vacuum in which they seem to reside. One day, four of these kids venture to a remote island on which the mysterious Dr. Myra (Z-grade horror queen Katherine Victor) is conducting experiments in which she turns humans into shuffling zombies. Unusually for this kind of schlock, Myra isn’t zombifying her victims out of some mad, egomaniacal power trip, but as part of some dastardly Eastern political plot to invade the USA. Because these kids are the world’s most gullible, it’s not long before they find themselves locked in cages as they each wait their turn to become the latest subject of Dr. Myra’s ongoing attempts to perfect her technique.
It would be interesting to know the budget for Teenage Zombies – from the look of the film, the dull locations, poor lighting and amateurish acting, it would honestly be a surprise to find that it amounted to more than three figures. The police station is nothing more than a serving hatch behind which two people have to carefully negotiate a route around one another. Warren’s directing skills are negligible – he has a poorly-edited montage sequence in which we see a couple of cops drifting around the lake in search of the missing kids immediately followed by an identical montage sequence in which a couple of teenagers substitute for the cops – and he hasn’t a clue when it comes to pacing or staging a fight scene.
And yet, despite it all its failings, it’s hilariously bad fight scenes and nonsensical plot, there’s something strangely endearing about the whole enterprise. You get the impression that everyone’s trying their best and, to his credit, Warren does include an unexpected twist (even if he does predictably botch its handling). Despite this, Teenage Zombies is a movie few will want to see more than once.
(Reviewed 11th January 2015)