For tonight’s pick, we have the 1941 horror-comedy King of the Zombies. Personally, I think Mantan Moreland in this is a comic genius, and it has nothing to do with race. Every other line out of his mouth is a howler. Some people might be concerned because he’s a black guy playing a manservant who talks in vernacular and is scared a lot. I mean: a lot.
But on the other hand, I look at it this way: one, he’s too smart to be there and he knows it. It’s like he’s somebody who heard the Eddie Murphy routine but found himself in the genre anyway and wants no part of it. When told he’s learned a lot since he arrived, his response is “Nothin’ I ain’t willin’ to unlearn just as quick.” Which reminds me a lot of Costello in the Abbott & Costello Meet (insert monster here) movies. In fact, I think he’s the brightest guy in the whole movie.
And two, if you think about it, his fear and his desire to get the hell out of dodge make him sort of like a proto-Shaggy. And if you think about it some more, the whole thing sort of plays like a Scooby-Doo episode. No, really: there’s even a line that’s only one step removed from “If it hadn’t been for you meddling kids…” in there.