TV Terror Guide: The Dead Don't Die (1975)


Air Date: Jan. 14, 1975 (NBC)

Production Companies: Douglas S. Cramer Company

Running Time: 74 min.

Available on: YouTube

Written by: Robert Bloch

Directed by: Curtis Harrington

Cast: George Hamilton, Linda Cristal, Joan Blondell, Ralph Meeker, James McEachin, Reggie Nalder, Ray Milland

Rating: 4 vintage televisions (out of 10)

 

With each name in the credits, my anticipation grew… Written by Robert Bloch, directed by Curtis Harrington, starring Ray Milland… I was about to watch another terrific TV movie like The Cat Creature (1973), an homage to classic horror of days gone by. Sadly, that didn’t happen, and it’s not just because it wasn’t what I expected. I just didn’t really like it much at all.

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My primary issue isn’t that it takes in Chicago in 1934, it’s that it’s so inauthentic. Let me clarify. The physical look is terrific, from art deco fonts in the aforementioned opening titles, to weary dancers on the floor of a marathon contest. (Hey, now; I wasn’t there, but it seems authentic.) But then you have actors that seem like they’re visiting from 1975 Los Angeles.

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George Hamilton is the worst, and he plays the main character, Don Drake. He’s trying to fulfill a promise to his wrongly convicted (and executed in the electric chair) brother that he will posthumously clear his name. About midway through the movie, he spots his brother, alive and well on the street…

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Maybe it was the transfer I watched on YouTube, but I swear, I did not see the scene in which he spotted his brother. Drake talks about it only after the fact. Then again, I could have dozed or been distracted by a text; I found The Dead Don’t Die to be extremely tedious. The thing is, it shouldn’t have been. There are a lot of great ideas popping up here and there.

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I mean, there are zombie assassins and an army of the dead, for heaven’s sake! How can that concept be squandered? One way is with a nonsensical explanation; the other is with failed execution. Also, the stakes just aren’t that high, considering that the focal point of the plot, the brother, Ralph (Jerry Douglas) dies at the beginning.

 

Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch The Dead Don't Die as well as all the great movies from this series...

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