Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dead Men Walk (1943)

The Evil Elwyn Clayton is dead, murdered by his twin brother, the good doctor Lloyd Clayton. But evil doesn't stay dead long. Elwyn rises, with help from his faithful servant Zolarr, as a Vampire! Dr. Clayton's niece Gayle, played by the hot Mary Carlisle, is in danger. She is to be married to the wooden Dr. Bently, but o'll dad has plans to make her his vampire servant.

After Dr. Clayton realizes his Evil brother is a vampire, he knows he must find the body during the daytime and burn it. He does everything he can, including searching the entire town for the body. No, wait. Everything EXCEPT actually search for the body. Instead he just rubs his chin. Until the end, that is, when he searches for it AT NIGHT! Way to go, Doctor Action.

This film has a lot going for it. George Zucco as both Claytons, the hot Mary Carlisle in the last movie of her career, and even Dwight Frye (Dracula's Renfield) as Zolarr. Less than seven months after this film came out, Dwight would be dead, another happy customer of the Christian Science Healthcare Plan. One wonders if health concerns explain his muted performance. Fern Emmett, looking like a simple minded and good intentioned Elmira Gulch, was a crazy townswoman who knew Elwyn had risen. Three and a half years later, she too would be dead.

The story was fair, the script ok, the setting good. Why was the movie so ... flat? First might be the quality of this public domain film. The contrast seemed a little weak. A good filmmaker can do wonders with black and white, shadows and highlights. See The Day The Earth Stood Still. This movie didn't have any of that. A black screen is good for dark, brooding dialog, but no good for fight scenes. I also think it could have been edited a little better.

What it was truly missing was a proper score. A good score goes a long way to build suspense and creepiness. The score was a total dud.

I fell asleep during parts of Dead Men Walk, so I watched it again online, skipping the parts I saw. I wanted to like this movie, but I never felt involved with the characters. George Zucco was great, but his vampire fell flat. Put a proper soundtrack on this film and clean it up, and you'd have a real good movie. I wanted to give it a 3, but as it is now, the best I can do is a 2.5.

Watch it here.

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