Every time I see Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, I am reminded by how entertained by it. The first ten minutes alone are well worth the price of admission. It cannot be mentioned enough the almost genius of the comedy of Cary Grant’s physical presence. For me this hearkens to some of the comedy of the silent era.
This film is definitely a strange bird. It is about a mad scientist, Dr. Max Heinrich von Altermann (played by John Carradine) who is working on creating an army of zombie soldiers for the Germany during World War II. Don’t worry the feds are on the case as well as the brother of his recently “deceased” wife (Veda Ann Borg).
The ethnic stereotyping will shock some of today’s viewers; a reading of the definitive source on the portrayal of African Americans in cinema: Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, and you will be able to easily identify the caricatures. For audiences of the day, they knew what they were in for by the presence of one Mantan Moreland, a popular actor in his day as the go-to guy of “bug-eyed” slapstick comic relief. This slapstick, when combined with the theme of zombies and Nazis does provide for a bit of “campiness” that devotees of B-films might appreciate.
Mantan’s performance as well as the presence of John Carradine do elevate this film for a production of Hollywood’s Poverty Row (by Monogram Pictures), but that still does not make it a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. However, that is part of the charm and appeal of a movie like this. During this time, it was the minor studios’ job to deliver low-budget (and often short) forms of cinematic amusement – good taste be damned!