Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Movie Review: Valley of the Zombies (1946)

Valley of the Zombies
VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES - Poster Image

Dr. Terry Evans...Robert Livingston
Nurse Susan Drake...Lorna Gray
Ormond Mercks...Ian Keith

Written by Dorrell & Stuart McGowan
Directed by Philip Ford

VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES - Title Screen

Ormond Mercks, a mental patient, supposedly died while on the operating table but he somehow came back...with a thirst for vengeance and human blood.

When some medical professionals are found murdered--and professionally embalmed--police suspicion lands on Dr. Terry Evans and his gal pal Nurse Susan Drake. Desperate to prove their innocence, the duo play Junior Detectives and embark on an investigation.

VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES - Nurse Susan and Dr. Terry

Robert Livingstone and Lorna Gray are suitable as Terry and Susan, respectively. He's the adventurous type, leading the investigation much more effectively than the police, while she's the fraidy cat prone to fits of panic. Both are adept at cracking one-liners at the most inappropriate of times.

I wish we had spent more time with the two homicide detectives, who, though not particularly good at their jobs, carried themselves with that old school tough guy attitude I love so much, their dialogue peppered with ridiculous hardboiled street slang.

Ian Keith is effective as the classically creepy Mercks, dressed all in black and soliloquizing evilly with perfect diction. He's the smooth talking, well educated gentleman villain that you haven't seen much of since color film became all the rage. Kind of a Barnabas Collins crossed with Bela Lugosi.

VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES - The Fantastically Creepy Mercks

The title is pretty misleading. There is no valley, and there is only one zombie. That zombie isn't even what we think of as a zombie in the modern age. If anything, he's a vampire, with his blood drinking and talk of mesmerism.

This isn't even truly a horror film. It's more of a mystery than anything else, and the murderer just so happens to be undead--or something akin to it. It has the tone and sensibilities of an Old Dark House movie despite the fact that it isn't confined to any singular location.

What's most interesting (at least to me) are how far back some of our most well-known genre trappings really date. The movie starts off with Susan uncovering what she thinks is a corpse lying on the examining table, only to find that it is her horny boyfriend trying to frighten her--a scene that can still be found in just about every horror film that takes place in a hospital setting. This being an older flick, though, he's not looking for a hot quickie, just a little smooch to get him through the day. We've also grown accustom to seeing the cheap Animal Jump Scare, usually with a cat leaping out of the darkness to give our heroes (and hopefully the audience) a good jolt...but this is probably the only place you'll see it done with a cow.

It's far from a great film by any standards, but the camera does manage to capture some easily-appreciated horror imagery and there are enough interesting elements to hold your attention, at least for the brief running time.

VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES - Nurse Susan

1946
Not Rated
56 Minutes
B&W
English
United States

"I have discovered a world in between. A world of living death."
--J/Metro

3 comments:

  1. I was going to review this one for my zombie month last halloween, but it just slipped by me. It's interesting to see how zombie movies have mutated into what they are today. I saw 'King of the Zombies' which is from the same era as this one and the best of these old old zombie movies would have to be 'I Walked With a Zombie' so classy...but also, of course White Zombie which is still creepy to this day.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Francisco: I agree with you on all points, my friend. WHITE ZOMBIE is under appreciated these days, though it was a more accurate representation of the "true" nature of zombies before Romero got his paws on them. Much as I love the flesh-munching variety, I would like to see a modern take on the old-school zombie. Not a remake, not a spoof, just a straightforward horror flick that follows the original rules.

    Thanks for stopping by!
    --J/Metro

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete

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