Saturday, January 7, 2017
Revenge Of The Zombies and Valley Of The Zombies (US Horrors, 1943/46)
Revenge Of The Zombies
Valley Of The Zombies
USA 1946 b&w
Director Philip Ford Writers Dorrel McGowan, Stuart McGown
Both King and Revenge Of The Zombies must have made enough cashola for rival company Republic Pictures to release the exploitatively-titled Valley Of The Zombies in 1946. The film certainly wastes no time in plunging straight into the guts of the story: a tall figure in a top hat and cloak breaks into a doctor’s office at the hospital’s morgue and demands a supply of his rare blood type, only to reveal himself as Ormond Murks, the insane criminal mind the doctor had committed several years before for claiming to have found the secret of eternal life. Murks was later pronounced dead and interred in his family crypt, but has since existed somewhere between the living and the dead by stealing packaged supplies of his precious life fluid…until now, he decides, that fresher really IS better. Thus begins a string of murders throughout the city, all strangled, drained of blood and then meticulously embalmed. Chief suspects are the morgue’s resident couple Dr Terry Evans and Nurse Susan Drake, a wise-cracking pair of amateur sleuths equally at home prowling around mausoleums at midnight or napping on the morgue’s slab. Naturally they’re two steps ahead of the bumbling Irish-American cops, which means the ditzy Nurse Susan is a sitting target for Murks’ dastardly plans.
If ever there was a film screaming out for a name actor to carry it, it’s Valley Of The Zombies. The role of Murks would have usually been reserved for Boris Karloff; instead we’re given Ian Keith, a salted plum of a stage actor who was once in the running for Bela Lugosi’s Dracula. Here he’s more Tod Slaughter than Lugosi, an adequate by-the-numbers villain who sadly only ever hints at the evocative Valley in the title, its voodoo rituals and Devil’s potions the source of his secrets. Thus we’re treated to one zombie-like scientist, and one hypnotized broad who acts like the living dead. Thanks, Republic, you suckered us alright. Still, Valley Of The Zombies is brisk, ghoulish fun, in the tradition of many B detective serials of the era, and a throwback to a pre-George Romera era when the word “zombie” had an air of mystery about it.