“Teenage Zombies”: A female mad scientist plots to turn four teens into her unquestioning slaves

By on January 15, 2019

Jerry Warren’s Teenage Zombies (1959) — which just might be the best “so-bad-it’s-good” Grade Z cult film since Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space — follows the fate of four teenagers imprisoned by a crazy mad scientist on a remote mysterious island.

Watch Teenage Zombies — featured in the 2004 documentary The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made — as well as much-better movies about teens and zombies now on Night Flight Plus.

TEENAGEZOMBIES3

Teenage Zombies follows a group of four Archie-style malt shop-inhabiting teenagers — “Reg” (Don Sullivan), “Skip” (Paul Pepper), “Julie” (Mitzi Alpertson) and “Pam” (Bri Murphy, Warren’s wife) — who decide to go water-skiing one afternoon.

Instead of the fun water-sports outing they’d planned, they end up on an island being used as a testing center by a wicked scientist named “Dr. Myra.”

She’s played by Katherine Victor, who later changed her name to disassociate herself with any of the five films she made with Warren.

TEENAGEZOMBIES4

Dr. Myra is developing a zombie nerve gas for “an eastern power” (we’re supposed to believe she works for the Commies).

She plans to drop the nerve gas pellets — which revive dead teenagers, turning them into easily-controlled unquestioning slaves — into water reservoirs around the U.S.

TEENAGEZOMBIES13

The teens are ultimately rescued by a zombie-fied ape-man, played by actor Mitch Evans (some sources say Evan Hayworth) wearing a clumsy gorilla suit.

Dr. Myra’s only real zombie is her loyal servant “Ivan,” played by longtime L.A. jazz radio deejay Chuck Niles!

TEENAGEZOMBIES9

Warren’s schlockfest came along pretty late in the cycle of ’50s-era teenage monster movies.

By then, bored teenagers were clearly ready for the next teensploitation trend, which turned out to be schlocky beach party movies (but, by the late 60s, totally great counterculture cinematic triumphs like Dennis Hopper‘s Easy Rider were arriving in theaters).

TEENAGEZOMBIES10

Posters and ads for Teenage Zombies promised moviegoers they were going to see “Young Pawns Thrust into Pulsating Cages of Horror in a Sadistic Experiment.”

If you’re a fan of crude, campy 1950s horror/sci-films — Grade Z flicks that were consistently panned by film critics and lampooned and ridiculed by everyone else — you’re going to want to check this one out.

TEENAGEZOMBIES8

Read more about Jerry Warren and Teenage Zombies below.

IDevices-For-NF-web

Hey! Do you have a Night Flight Plus subscription?

We’re offering up original uncut air masters of Night Flight programming from the video vaults of the 1980s TV show, as well as provocative new selections from the world of music, documentaries, animation, cult films and more. Sign up today!



TEENAGEZOMBIES5

Critically-maligned American film director Jerry Warren (b. 1925) is today probably best known as one of the great “bad movie” directors.

Teenage Zombies and The Incredible Petrified World — he’d finished shooting both in 1957, although Teenage Zombies wasn’t released theatrically until 1959 — were two reasons why he rivaled Ed Wood for the title of Schlockmeister Supreme.

TEENAGEZOMBIES6

The reason for this film’s delay was actually the death of the film editor, in March 1957, who’d previously cut Warren’s movies for his G.B.M. Productions.

Warren and his wife, cinematographer Brianne “Bri” Murphy — she’s also credited here as production supervisor “G. B. Murphy” and wardrobe stylist “Geraldine Brianne” — edited Teenage Zombies themselves, which is why it took a few years before it could be released.

TEENAGEZOMBIES12

Warren — who also used the names “Erich Bromberg,” “Jaques Lecotier” and “Richard Wallace” — wrote the screenplay for Teenage Zombies in less than a week, on his honeymoon, shortly after he and Murphy were married in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Teenage Zombies was actually the result of a conversation between Murphy and Maurice Bernard, a film financier who’d offered up $30,000 for a production budget.

Murphy thought that for that much money her thrifty husband could actually deliver him two movies, which is exactly what he did, cutting many corners to do it.

TEENAGEZOMBIES19

Warren shot Teenage Zombies in just five days, in mostly just one take per scene and without any coverage footage.

To further save money, he lensed the island and boat scene exteriors near the Salton Sea, where he wouldn’t need film permits or need to pay expensive location fees.

For the interior shots at Dr. Myra’s house, he used the home of  actor Don Morrison– he plays enemy agent “Brandt,” and is billed here as “J.L.D. Morrison” — who lived in the Brentwood-area neighborhood of Mandeville Canyon, in the Hollywood hills above Sunset Boulevard.

Other interiors were shot on the Larchmont stage on Hollywood’s “Poverty Row.”

TEENAGEZOMBIES7

Warren’s often-incoherent editing features mainly “master shots,” and he rarely cuts away to close-ups because he mostly didn’t even shoot them.

He later admitted he made Teenage Zombies to “put together a picture that was long enough to play the lower half of my double-bill” with The Incredible Petrified World.

Both films have actually been described as “two of the most tremendously tedious movies ever made.”

TEENAGEZOMBIES14

During the 1960s, Warren continued churning out bad Grade Z exploitation movies, including Terror of the Bloodhunters (1962), Face of the Screaming Werewolf, Curse of the Stone Hand, and Attack of the Mayan Mummy (all 1964), and Creature of the Walking Dead and House of Black Death (both 1965).

Warren mistakenly believed DC Comics had no claims to the name “Batwoman,” even though they owned all copyrights to their Batman character, and released The Wild World of Bat Woman in 1966.

He was wrong, of course, and the film sank into obscurity after being re-titled She Was a Hippy Vampire (it was later spoofed on Mystery Science Theater 3000).

TEENAGEZOMBIES17

Bri Murphy — who divorced Warren shortly after filming of Teenage Zombies was completed — later had a successful career as cinematographer.

She was the first female Director of Photography on a major studio picture — Fatso (1980) — and she also directed 1972’s Blood Sabbath, with the great Dyanne Thorne.

Warren died of lung cancer in Escondido, California, on August 21, 1998.

Watch Teenage Zombies on Night Flight Plus.

TEENAGEZOMBIES1

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.