Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Dead Men Walk (1943)

It appears I am less tolerant of merely okay horror films than I am of merely okay mysteries.  Or maybe the reason that The Fatal Hour got a qualified recommendation when this one did not is that the former film actually had a female character with a role that went beyond 'victim'.

Certainly the two films share many of the same low-budget limitations: this one is more ambitious in terms of sets and action sequences, but the shortcomings of both aren't hard to pick up.  The script of this one, if anything, is more exposition-heavy ... or worse at disguising exposition as conversation, anyway.

Kindly Doctor Lloyd Clayton has been forced to kill his wicked brother Elwyn in an act of what he describes as self defence.  After the funeral, he goes to his brother's home and begins to burn the dead man's many occult books.  It seems Doctor Clayton considers all the material to be foul and unnatural.  Still, it also seems be doesn't believe if has any basis in truth: not even when his supposedly dead brother appears that night and warns of his impending vengeance.

Elwyn's revenge is focused on Lloyd's ward, Grace, whom he visits each night as a vampire and drains of blood.  As Grace sickens, Lloyd's problems are compounded by people's growing suspicion that he is behind her malady.  After all, as her guardian, he would inherit her considerable wealth if she were to die.

Lloyd will eventually become desperate enough to consider non-scientific solutions to his problem, but by the time he does, the suspicions of the locals appear to have been confirmed: Lloyd and Elwyn are identical, you see, and so when the supposedly deceased Elwyn is witnessed committing crimes, who else would they blame but Lloyd?

All this sets up a conclusion where Lloyd struggles to lay his brother to a final rest before a lynch mob can claim his own life.  Which sounds more exciting in theory than it is in actual execution.

There's nothing especially bad about this film, but also nothing especially innovative or memorable.  If you want spooky shenanigans, there are many better options.

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