Dead Men Walk (1943)

FEBRUARY 15, 2008


One thing I love about old movies, besides the length (I’m a busy man, I don’t have time for these two hour Argento opuses every day!), is how uncomplicated they are. Dead Men Walk is about a guy who kills his brother, but the brother was into black magic so he comes back as a vampire, and then seeks revenge. That’s it. Nowadays, there’d be a third brother, a real estate scam, some double crosses, a talking sandwich, a few dancing girls, a space shuttle...

This is actually one of the better old-school vampire movies. As expected, you don’t get a lot of violence, but the atmosphere makes up for it, and it also has what had to be one of the first “twin” effects (via a split screen). George Zucco doesn’t fight himself, Van Damme style, but the effect works beautifully and that’s all that matters. There’s also a great deal of fire in the movie; in addition to the standard fiery finale (which contains the longest “thing falls over that starts the fire” shot in cinematic history I think), there’s also 2-3 scenes of book burning in the first 15 minutes.

And also this guy, who resembles a redneck Robert Englund impersonating a chicken when he moves:

Dwight Frye also appears in the film as... the bad guy’s servant! Wow! But to be fair, his role of Zolarr is nothing at all like his Renfield or Igor roles, since this movie wasn’t based on a book. This was a wholly original character, one who just happens to do the same sort of shit that his other ones do. Poor guy. I looked him up on Wikipedia today and found that he died on a bus. A terrible way to go for anyone, but he was about to begin filming a role in a big budget drama about Woodrow Wilson, which must have been pretty exciting for him, since the role probably wouldn’t require him to yell out MASTER! or something to that effect.

Anyway, good stuff. The story might not be groundbreaking, but for 62 minutes you can’t really complain. You CAN complain about the transfer though - it's possibly the worst on this budget pack yet, with lots of that weird shifting effect (where small objects in slow moving shots seem to drift around). Apparently when Turner Classic aired the film a while back, their transfer sucked too. That's one really awesome thing about the digital format - treasures like The Attic will be preserved for hundreds of years to come.

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. I've got this one on one of my yet-unopened budget packs (it's a sickness, I tell you!), but haven't had the chance to screen it yet. Still, I'm a big Dwight Frye fan (best crazy-laugh in cinematic history, hands-down), and I'll look forward to it, especially after your good review.

    I feel I must point out, however, that Frye never played "Igor." His hunchbacked assistant was named Fritz. It was Bela Lugosi who played Ygor, in Son of Frankenstein, and he wasn't hunchbacked--his character had survived being hanged, and his neck had fused back together wrong, giving him his strange posture. One of Lugosi's best roles, imo, and nothing like the suave aristocratic demon he ordinarily played.


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