30 July 2014

I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
70 min.
Directed by Jacques Tourneur.
With Frances Dee, Tom Conway, James Ellison, Christine Gordon, Edith Barrett, James Bell, Teresa Harris, Darby Jones.
Beautifully realized zombie/voodoo horror from producer Val Lewton.

Nurse Betsy Connell (Dee) is hired to travel to the West Indies and act as caretaker for an ailing woman suffering from a rather unspecified disease.

Once there, Betsy discovers her patient is literally one of the walking dead - a helpless stiff whose vital signs are all intact, but who has no emotional or mental awareness.

Soon, Betsy is desperate to cure her ward and so she consults the mysterious 'houngan,' a powerful group of local voodoo practitioners.

But has Betsy opened up a deadly can of worms?

This moody terror is in many ways a sophisticated essay on the conflict between modern science and the supernatural (a theme also present in the 1942 Lewton-Tourneur masterpiece Cat People).

Here again Lewton and Tourneur conjure up a stylish classic buoyed by good performances (especially Dee), a brisk pace and a pervasive atmosphere of dread.

Best scene: Dee and Gordon's night walk through the jungle pathways (strewn with various symbols of black magic)...and the ominous moment they encounter the inherently creepy Carrefour (Jones)!

A must see.

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