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The Walking Dead (1936)

Imagine... Dr. Beaumont keeping this heart pumping for over twenty years!

Jimmy (Warren Hull)

Wish he could do something about making your heart pump!

Nancy (Marguerite Churchill)

For a film that runs barely over an hour but spends almost half that time setting up the story, The Walking Dead (1936) is a tight little thriller. Director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mildred Pierce) expertly weaves seemingly disparate plots together to tell an elaborate, yet simple, story.


What does a corrupt justice system, a wrongly convicted man just released from a 10-year prison sentence, and a young couple in a medical research lab have to do with each other? Their paths convene naturally while somehow allowing each of them to maintain their individual subplots. If you’ve never seen it, part of the fun is learning where it’s all headed.


There seems to be no hint of horror or science-fiction until past the halfway mark, when the focus becomes clear. At least, that’s the part of the story I embraced. Dr. Evan Beaumont (Edmund Gwenn) finds in John Ellman (Boris Karloff) an opportunity to learn what happens when we die.


Events are ambiguous. The characters are convinced there must be something supernatural happening as a body count rises. However, it’s a rare instance when we, the viewers, might be more convinced than the characters that there just happen to be a number of coincidences occurring one after the other.


You’ll notice no mention of zombies. This isn’t that kind of “walking dead.” The phrase, though, has double meaning with Karloff’s character. Framed for murder, convicted for a second time, and placed on death row, he’s one of the walking dead, even though he’s alive. When he’s revived after his first jolt of electrocution, it becomes a more literal description of his state.


Neither does Karloff sport monstrous makeup, although he has a wide streak of white running through his hair after he’s shocked. There’s a scene that evokes Frankenstein when he’s revived, with all the equipment and electricity. Dr. Beuamont even gets to say, “He’s alive.” The Walking Dead is very much alive with energy and spirit. I recommend it.


Tomorrow, check Richard's post at:

The name I'm giving him (first letter of first name must be first letter of last name, Churchill) is:

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