20 April 2014

The Walking Dead (1936)
66 min.
Directed by Michael Curtiz.
With Boris Karloff, Edmund Gwenn, Marguerite Churchill, Ricardo Cortez, Barton MacLane, Warren Hull, Joe Sawyer.
Director Michael Curtiz and horror legend Boris Karloff prove quite a pair in this exciting 1936 chiller from Warner Bros.

Ex-con John Ellman (Karloff) is down on his luck, and badly in need of some cash.

So when he's offered a job of keeping an eye on a distinguished court judge, he accepts the gig.

Turns out it's all a dirty set up.

A group of racketeers kill the judge, and railroad Ellman for the murder. Unable to prove his innocence, poor John is sent to death row - and executed.

Thankfully, scientist Beaumont (Gwenn) believes he can right society's wrong. He uses electricity to resuscitate John's heart...and successfully brings him back to life!

But John isn't interested in life anymore. He has only one thing on his mind: revenge.

He'll get equal with the men that did him in...even if it kills him (again).

Curtiz helmed many a mainstream classic (including 1942's Casablanca, 1945's Mildred Pierce et al).

Yet, he was also no stranger to horror, having directed Doctor X (1932) and Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). Here, Curtiz sets up your basic 1930s melodrama, then at just under half its running time, expertly shifts the mood to supernatural terror.

Karloff excels in a role that seems tailor made for him. And there are some genuine moments of dread.

For instance, take the scene where Karloff - just back from the dead - plays a somber classical piece on the piano, his tormentors seated yards away.

Karloff gives each of his accusers the most evil eye, with just the slightest hint of a tear mixed in amongst his raging fury.

Unmatchable.

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