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  Dead Men Walk Zucco To 'EmBuy this film here.
Year: 1943
Director: Sam Newfield
Stars: George Zucco, Mary Carlisle, Nedrick Young, Dwight Frye, Fern Emmett, Robert Strange, Hal Price, Sam Flint
Genre: Horror
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Doctor Elwyn Clayton (George Zucco) has died, and the only person really mourning him is his twin brother Lloyd (also George Zucco), who is a doctor too. Only Elwyn was the black sheep of the family thanks to his fascination with the Dark Arts which led him to investigate witchcraft and the occult, what lies beyond this realm occupying his time, which is why his funeral is interrupted by local busybody Kate (Fern Emmett) accusing him of murder as he lies in his coffin. But what Lloyd and his niece Gayle (Mary Carlisle) do not know is that Elwyn may be making a return visit to their town - as a vampire!

Bram Stoker's novel Dracula effectively set the lore of vampires in stone, and though ever after there have been variations on his themes, they all owe a debt to his classic work. As seen here, where Zucco played a bloodsucker not quite like the Count, but nevertheless patterned after him; Elwyn was not some caped Eastern European, he was a posh Brit who had somehow found himself in Middle America along with his brother (unless they were supposed to be playing American and couldn't be bothered doing the accent), yet the style and his post-mortem powers were the same, leaving the tell-tale bite marks on the necks of his victims.

Chief among those victims was his niece, or at least you had to assume Gayle was his niece, since she was Lloyd's niece, and there is no mention of her being his daughter. Carlisle, who died in 2018 at age 104, decided to call it a day on her acting career after this effort, and little wonder as she had been in musicals with Bing Crosby in the previous decade, but now it was the nineteen-forties and she was stuck in a Poverty Row material like this, from the most identifiable low budget Hollywood studio aside from Monogram, P.R.C. As if that were not enough, her role here required her to lie about looking wan for more or less the duration.

Meanwhile Zucco had more of a plum role, or plum roles, as a starring part he would not have enjoyed in the higher budget items he would also be found in, moving between headlining cheapo horrors and supporting roles in more prestigious pictures with urbane ease. Thanks to a blatant lie in Kenneth Anger's book Hollywood Babylon II, the rumour that has dogged him ever since he passed away is he became convinced the Elder Gods of H.P. Lovecraft infamy had begun to plague him in his later years and he went stark staring mad; nothing could be further from the truth, though in an interesting twist his Elwyn here would have made a pretty respectable Lovecraftian anti-hero what with his immersion in the arcane knowledge mankind should not be meddling with, though Howard was never one for vampirism.

Also in the cast and of note were Nedrick Young, the actor turned screenwriter who here was the love interest for Carlisle where you had to say as an actor he was a fine screenwriter (though blacklisted in the fifties, he did pen hit The Defiant Ones for Stanley Kramer). More appealing for horror fans was the presence of Dwight Frye as Elwyn's Renfield-like assistant Zolar, bringing his accustomed craziness to a role he could have played in his sleep by now. Frye lamented the fact he was typecast in Hollywood where what he really wanted to do was play comedy, and he would not live long enough to see that dream realised, passing away the year after this was made, but he was such a memorable performer in chillers that his fans were pleased he was able to offer such dedication to the maniacal sidekick contribution. Otherwise, this was painfully creaky, though did have a decent fiery finale with Zucco v Zucco, nobody's idea of a classic, but for addicts of this material, irresistible. Music by Leo Erdody.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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