The Walking Dead (1936)

I think we all have films that we have always meant to see but never have got around watching.  The Walking Dead, starring Boris Karloff, was one of those films for me, not helped by the fact that it was only available within a boxed set only available in America.  Anyhow, finally this week I got around to watching this little horror movie directed by the under-rated Michael Curtiz.

When watched alongside other horror movies of the early and mid 1930s, one thing about The Walking Dead stares you right in the face:  it has no sense of humour, not even a witty line here and there.  Most horror films of the era have a brilliant dark sense of humour, but this is a most dour affair, which sees Karloff framed for a murder he didn’t commit and being sent to the electric chair before being revived and seeking revenge – or, at least, answers. Karloff is truly wonderful in what is one of his best roles, and is hugely sympathetic throughout, but especially as the seemingly depressed down-on-his-luck tragic figure of the man framed for murder.  Edmund Gwenn gives fine, if unlikely, support as the scientist who brings him back to life.

The film takes a long while to get where it’s going, especially considering it is only 69 minutes long and, indeed, the second half feels somewhat rushed after the overlong exposition.  As with the best horror films, the monster itself is something/someone the audience feels sorry for, and in that regard the film echos Frankenstein and even The Mummy from a few years earlier.  Well worth a watch if you can find it, but not a particularly fun ride due to its dark tones.

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