Dead Men Walk (1943)

After an introduction where a book on vampire lore is thrown into a fire and a disembodied head warns us in dire tones to beware the unknown, we cut to the funeral of one Elwyn Clayton (George Zucco). It is interrupted when old woman Kate (Fern Emmett) bursts in to declare that Elwyn does not deserve a church service due to the evil he has done.

Though unbalanced, it seems that her opinion of Elwyn is also held by his brother Clayton (Zucco again), his son-in-law to be David Bentley (Nedrick Young) and daughter Gayle (Mary Carlisle). It turns out that Elwyn had attacked Clayton, and in defending himself he had to kill his own brother. However, sometimes people refuse to stay dead.

Clayton begins burning Elwyn's papers, but the latter's servant Zolarr (Dwight Frye) interrupts him, accuses Clayton of murder and threatens death for him and those around him. Zolarr then proceeds to remove Elwyn's coffin from the crypt and open up. Lo and behold, Elwyn is now a vampire! After feeding, he pays a visit to his brother to reinforce what Zolarr has said. The next night Gayle starts to show signs of extreme anemia.

David at first fears that Clayton is purposely killing his daughter slowly, but soon encounters Elwyn himself. The hunt is on for Elwyn's hiding place, while the town starts to rise against Clayton, demanding justice for a string of murders.

This is largely a by-the-book old-time horror film, produced on a low budget in hopes of competing with the Universal horror pictures, which, though getting long in the tooth, were still quite popular in the 1940s. It's not horrible, but it also does nothing new with the genre. Zucco's performance is great, Carlisle is largely wasted in her last film role and Nedrick Young looks more like a second-string thug in a cheap gangster film than a learned doctor.

Still, what it lacks in originality it does make up for in atmosphere, and the movie is still quite enjoyable for many of the hammy performances of the character actors, Dwight Frye in particular.

Dead Men Walk (1943)
Duration: 64 minutes
Starring: George Zucco, Mary Carlisle, Nedrick Young
Director: Sam Newfield

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