Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Dead Men Walk (1943).

The Scoop:
This is another of those Poverty Row quickies churned out by the dozen by PRC and other companies in the early 1940s, but this one manages to rise slightly above the crowd, thanks in no small part to some creepy Universal-style touches, and to the performance of George Zucco.

Zucco was the undisputed king of this genre, bringing a gravity and intensity that deserved better than the cheapness that surrounded him. Here, he delivers one of his better performances as twin brothers -- one, an upstanding doctor and paragon of civic virtue, and the other, a vampire intent on destroying his brother's life. These soap opera-style evil twin machinations are grafted onto a thin plot that is way too reminiscent of "Dracula" (complete with the presence of Dwight Frye as a hunchbacked assistant).

Of course, no matter how much the film tries to rise above its origins, that still doesn't make it a good movie. "Dead Men Walk" is still a turd, but at least it's a highly-polished turd and, as such, deserves some attention from b-movie fans.

Best Line:
"I don't blame you for thinking of me as a homocidal maniac, but the truth is even more unbelievable."

Side Note:
That "grizzled prospector"-looking guy with the unbilled cameo is veteran character actor Al "Fuzzy" St. John, who got his start in dozens of Mack Sennett silent shorts, then went on to practically create the grizzled prospector stereotype as a B-movie Western sidekick to the likes of Lash La Rue, Buster Crabbe and others.

Companion Viewing:
"The Mad Monster" (1942) and "The Corpse Vanishes" (1942).


Take a Look:
Here's a taste from the action-packed climax:

If you don't want the spoilers, the whole movie is available from Internet Moving Image Archive.

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