This may be the best movie marathon I’ve done yet of horror oldies from my late brother’s DVD collection, so let’s get right into them.
I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943)
This 69-minute movie seriously delivers on the creepy voodoo vibe. It could be heralded for having a significant number of Black actors, but considering they all use voodoo rituals to fuck with the privileged white people in the film, it could also be interpreted as presenting Black people as evil. However, they are actually just getting revenge for the way they’ve been wronged.
A nurse is hired to help the wife of a plantation owner in the Caribbean. The wife roams the creepy house at night as if in a permanent sleepwalking state.
The nurse learns the backstory of the couple from the locals, and she decides to help heal the wife…by taking her through a frightening forest to a fricking voodoo ritual. Unfortunately, in doing so, she puts a target on her own back…and discovers that everyone around her has dark secrets.
THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)
Based on a Robert Louis Stevenson short story, The Body Snatcher deals with a popular horror theme from back then: scientists robbing graves to use the corpses for experiments. In this case the doctor means well; he’s trying to make a wheelchair-bound girl walk again.
Unfortunately, he selects Bela Lugosi as his assistant and Boris Karloff as his body snatcher! What keeps this movie’s plot moving forward is that everyone starts blackmailing each other for robbing graves when essentially they are all accomplices!
Two moments really stand out here. First, the one scene in which Karloff and Lugosi come face to face is worth the price of admission. Second, the final scene really steps up the horror, with the scientist being terrorized by a corpse he’s transporting in his coach. Awesome.
THE RETURN OF DRACULA (1958)
This little 77-minute movie is how I would have wanted my Drac flix back in the 50s, instead of all that boring period piece Hammer stuff I blogged about recently.
It’s modern day, and Drac is being hunted in Transylvania. So he boards a train, kills a dude, and assumes his identity.
This lands him in the home of long-distance relatives in the U.S. who think he’s their cousin. But they soon notice he acts kind of weird and comes and goes at odd hours.
There are some classic Dracula elements here. He avoids mirrors, he visits a victim in her room and turns her into one of his minions, he hates crucifixes, and he sleeps in a coffin. Yet we never actually see him deliver a bite or flash his teeth.
However, the final act rox because it revolves around a Halloween party! And when one of the vamp minions is staked, the film does something shocking for its time…it suddenly turns full color for an instant in a close-up of blood gushing out from around the stake. Awesome.
THE VAMPIRE (1957)
This is another delicious vampire flick from the 1950s. In this one, a doctor acquires an experimental brain pill from a deceased scientist and accidentally takes it.
The pill was made with bat blood.
Our doctor begins having blackouts, and soon realizes that every time he does, someone dies, and puncture wounds are apparent on the necks of the deceased.
There are a satisfying number of kills, however, we once again never actually see the vampire bite anyone. Guess it was taboo back then. Even so, we eventually get to see the doc transforming into the vamp a few times and he is pretty dang creepy looking. There’s also a freaky casket opening scene that reveals a gnarly corpse inside.
This probably would have been another fave of mine if I’d been around back then.