I Walked With a Zombie (1943) - Jacques Tourneur

SUBTLE ZOMBIE FLICK 60/100

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Director: Jacques Tourneur
Writers: Curt Siodmak (screenplay), Ardel Wray (screenplay)
Stars: Frances Dee, Tom Conway, James Ellison
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: 30 April 1943 (USA)
Production Companies: RKO Radio Pictures
Runtime: 69 min
Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color: Black and White

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I Walked With a Zombie is an American horror film produced by Val Lewton. It was directed by Jacques Tourneur and starred Frances Dee, Tom Conway and James Ellison. It’s a cheap little feature that entertains during a period that needed it. Released in 1943, the movie had come while the world was deep embroiled in it’s second greatest war. Production money was scarce and most pictures were being made on a very slim budget. But somehow, this movie still managed to keep me entertained throughout.

Betsy Connell is a nurse that travels from Canada to the Caribbean to take care of Jessica, the very sick wife of a wealthy plantation owner. Betsy is a bit naive and is told a lot of strange tales about the area. At night she hears strange noises and discovers that Jessica is kept in a comatose state and considered a zombie, caught in limbo between life and death. To help the plantation owner, Betsy takes Jessica to the local voodoo shamans. They perform a ritualistic ceremony that incorporates a lot of dancing, great chanting/music and voodoo dolls.

This movie paints an extravagant picture for such a low-budget production. It had a fairly high quality shine to it, considering its a low-budget RKO production. I don’t really care too much for the voodoo motif behind these early Zombie pictures, but this production didn’t bother me. It’s clearly a ripoff of White Zombie but that shouldn’t sway you away from seeking it out. The production here is much cleaner and the thin runtime makes for a much more concise story.

I Walked With a Zombie suffers from a poor case of political incorrectness. The stereotypes are horrible, but the picture ends up being an entertaining feature. It's charming, it has an amazing soundtrack and it sets scenes masterfully. Suspence runs deep. Do yourself a favor and watch this movie. It's one of Val Lewton's best.