I Walked with a Zombie

Everything seems beautiful because you don’t understand. Those flying fish, they’re not leaping for joy, they’re jumping in terror. Bigger fish want to eat them. That luminous water, it takes its gleam from millions of tiny dead bodies. The glitter of putrescence. There is no beauty here, only death and decay.

From time to time I like to revisit the films of Val Lewton, those nine macabre tales he made as head of his own production unit at RKO and upon which his reputation rests. I can’t say it’s ever an especially arduous task, they all have brief running times and I rank them among my favorite works since I first made their acquaintance as a young boy, alternating between fascination and fear during those late night TV screenings. One of the first I saw was I Walked with a Zombie (1943), a title guaranteed to fire the imagination of any young viewer. As with all of Lewton’s pictures, it’s not so much a shock-filled horror film as a dreamy study of unease and dread, where suggestion and atmosphere creep up behind you and softly whisper “Boo” in your ear.

It all starts out bright and crisp, like the snow falling outside the window of the Ottawa office where Betsy Connell (Frances Dee) accepts the job of nursing an invalid woman on a West Indian island. It’s only when she’s aboard the ship that will transport across the sea to her new appointment that Betsy’s new employer Paul Holland (Tom Conway) makes that little speech which I used as an intro that darkness, along with its faithful companions doubt and suspicion, extends its shadowy fingers. Holland owns a sugar plantation and shares his home there with his half-brother Wesley Rand (James Ellison) and his wife Jessica (Christine Gordon), the zombie of the title. Jessica exists in a semi-catatonic state, awake but no longer aware of the world around her, apparently the result of a bad bout of fever. Holland is keen to impress on Betsy the melancholy history of the island, a place where the inhabitants, all descended from slaves, still live in thrall to the Voodoo religion. She finds herself fascinated by the reserved and withdrawn Holland, sympathetic to the hard-drinking Wesley, and simultaneously repelled and intrigued by the shattered beauty of the listless Jessica. As her attraction to her employer grows, the young nurse gradually learns more of the tragic history of this family residing on an island which itself is no stranger to suffering. In that contrary way that love often manifests itself, Betsy resolves to do all in her power to haul Jessica back to the living. That will involve putting her faith in the mysterious beliefs of the islanders and taking a nighttime walk through the cane fields that take on an eerie complexion in the twilight cast by a warm Caribbean moon. What she finds at the end of it will answer some of her questions but, paradoxically, raise as many more.

Producer Val Lewton was tasked with running a low budget horror unit at RKO and it’s often said that his low-key approach and reliance on atmosphere and the inherent creepiness of the unknown was fueled by the lack of funds and the subsequent desire to avoid being seen as a cut-price version of Universal with its gallery of monsters and freaks, the only concession being the pulpy and frequently lurid titles of the pictures. I’ve no doubt this played a significant part in the process but I’d also like to think that Lewton’s own artistic sensibility entered into the equation too. For there is a high level of artistry involved in these movies, which beguile and chill the viewer in equal measure. The horror movie can be a rather obvious genre, only rarely restraining itself from the temptation to provide instant gratification via visual shocks and, as time has gone on the audiences more jaded, an over-reliance on gore. But that wasn’t Lewton’s style; he worked with three fine directors over the course of his nine RKO  horrors – Mark Robson, Robert Wise and Jacques Tourneur. All those films are good, but I feel that it’s with the latter that the best work was done. As far as I’m concerned, this is no coincidence as Tourneur was a master of subtlety. He was fully aware of the power of his camera and his compositions and pacing have a smoothness that belongs only to the truly talented. In truth, there’s not a bad shot in the whole movie, but the highlight has to be the trek through the cane fields, the recreation of which is a tribute to the art department, with the sense of dread and foreboding ever present but always that crucial step short of overwhelming.

The cast is led by Frances Dee and her performance hits exactly the right tone, vulnerable enough to make the threatening atmosphere believable yet grounded by a practicality that befits one charged with the task of caring for an essentially helpless woman. The film and role calls for a degree of nobility, or perhaps selflessness is a better term, and that’s not an easy thing to pull off successfully; there’s always the risk of it appearing somehow insufferable and it takes a fair bit of skill to dance around that particular pitfall. In short, it’s a balancing act and one which I feel Ms Dee negotiated with aplomb. Similarly, Tom Conway (who had the distinction of appearing in three of Lewton’s very best productions) plays it cool and keeps away from the histrionics. Like his brother George Sanders, suave and debonair were second nature to Conway and I’ve always enjoyed seeing him work – The Falcon movies are among my absolute favorites when it comes to series detective fare. However, a love story, and this is certainly as much a romance as a horror film, needs some overt passion to be displayed. That is provided by James Ellison as the volatile half-brother, an unpleasant part in many ways but well performed all the same. The supporting players are rounded out by Edith Barrett, James Bell, Sir Lancelot, Theresa Harris and the wonderfully spooky Darby Jones as the sinister, bug-eyed Carrefour.

I Walked with a Zombie is pretty easy to see – I bought it years ago as part of the excellent Val Lewton box set released by Warner Brothers in the US, but there are a range of European editions on the market too. The US version has it paired on DVD with The Body Snatcher, and the transfer is reasonable. RKO titles can prove problematic and there are instances of print damage visible but I can’t honestly say I’ve been overly troubled by them – the film just kind of sweeps you along. The disc also includes a commentary track by Kim Newman and Steve Jones. Halloween is a good time of year to wheel out these kinds of movies but a classic tale like this is really timeless and works its magic regardless of the season – after all, I first saw it and fell in love with it on a July evening way back in 1981. Anyone wondering what to view as the witching hour draws ever closer could do worse than give this a spin, and those who have yet to experience the delightful art of Lewton and Tourneur should rectify that as soon as possible.

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53 thoughts on “I Walked with a Zombie

    • Yes, these movies still don’t have as high a profile as they deserve, even among film fans. It’s actually a pleasure to be able to introduce them to those who are unfamiliar though.
      I hadn’t realized you’d written a piece on Cat People so I’m going to check that out.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I think those nine movies are the finest examples of their type ever made, before or since. The subtle use of lighting in these films plays the biggest part in their success for me. I first saw them (properly anyway) at London’s National Film Theatre and therefore on a big screen sitting in the dark, just as they were meant to be seen!
    I also think Tom Conway was somewhat underrated. He adds considerably to the films he did for Lewton.

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    • Agreed on all points, Jerry. I’ve never had the chance to see any of these on the big screen and I’ve no doubt the proper cinema conditions can only add to their effectiveness. They are all beautifully lit and rely heavily on the use of imagination, both that of the filmmakers and the audience. In fact, I think the way they do assume a considerable degree of intelligence on the part of the viewer contributes to what makes them successful.

      And I have a lot of time for Conway too – he never entered the popular consciousness as deeply as his brother managed but his screen work is just fine for all that – his three movies for Lewton certainly benefit from his presence.

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  2. Great choice for Halloween chum. I know what you mean – the first three of the Lewton cycle, directed by Tourner, are perhaps the most haunting and exotic – though I am always really impressed by the extraordinary bleak THE SEVENTH VICTIM, in its own way the most frightening of the series for me for it seeming every day quality.

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    • Very true. I’m very fond of The Seventh Victim too – and all the films really – but I just thought the ones directed by Tourneur laid down the template and showed the way. Some people regard The Seventh Victim as a kind of sequel to Cat People, partly due to the reappearance of Conway’s character, and I feel there’s something to the theory.

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  3. I remember seeing this for the first time only a few years ago (as part of the Val Lewton box set to which you refer) and fell in love with it immediately. For some reason, although I’ve been aware of Lewton’s work for quite some time, I’ve only caught up with them during the last ten years ago. Working my way though that box set was a great pleasure. I think I’ll follow your example and play this again on Saturday night Colin!

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    • It’s never to late to experience these films, Dafydd. It was purely by chance I caught them on TV all those years ago but they made a deep impression on me at the time and it’s stayed with me ever since. They’re excellent examples of how intelligent horror tales can work even for those who aren’t especially fans of the genre, I think.

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  4. I keep meaning to buy that Val Lewton set, though I think over the years I’ve managed to see just about everything on it. This is a great title, one I watched most recently when the BBC ran a series of late night chillers over Christmas (maybe the same Christmas they scheduled THE RKO STORY). The lighting and mood are everything, quite a culture shock for those, like me, who used to think that classic horror began and ended with the lurid Jack Pierce creations for Universal – instead, subtlety and atmosphere were what mattered. Essential viewing for this time of year, and I’d agree Tourneur was the pick of the directors and really sold the vision these films tried to create.

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    • They’re very different to the Universal horror cycle, aren’t they? I’ve no wish to criticize the Universal movies as I think they’re all quite terrific in their own way, but the Lewton variety takes the genre in a completely different direction and almost qualifies as a sub-genre of its own.

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      • Yes definitely, I suppose mainly down to budgetary considerations and looking to play on atmosphere and tension rather than special effects, which would have only looked cheap. I think this was played up to in THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL to rather lovely effect.

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        • Yeah, Sergio mentioned The Bad and the Beautiful earlier and, as I said to him, I cannot for the life of me recall that sequence in the movie. Will definitely make a point of checking out again though.

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  5. Every film in the series is more than worthwhile but I think “CAT PEOPLE” tops the list for me. The subtle lighting and taut atmosphere are mesmerising.

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    • I can’t argue with that. Personally, I don’t feel I could rank them at all accurately as I find much to enjoy and appreciate in just about every one. I would say though that I found Bedlam a little disappointing, but even that has to be qualified as being relative.

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  6. Great choice for this week. But as you intimate, for any week.

    I too have always loved those nine Lewton films. When the box set came out, it was a chance to watch them all close together over a few months and that was a real treat. Even the least of them (for me that’s ISLE OF THE DEAD, which just doesn’t work perfectly) is still absorbing and strong in the final analysis and holds up to return viewings.

    I sense that like me you are not a great fan of horror movies, at least not as much as some other genres. I do like many classic horror movies but I will no longer go to contemporary ones. After too many attempts to engage them, I know I don’t respond to their too explicit gore and gruesomeness and just don’t enjoy them. For me, of the older ones, the Lewton movies are kind of in a class by themselves. I’m comfortable with considering them horror films but in a way that description is almost limiting. Someone may have suggested “poetic fantasy” once or some such term and for me it kind of evokes them at least as well, especially I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE.

    For me, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE is best of all. It benefits, like the other two Tourneurs, from his direction. Not to take away from Robson and Wise, who did well too, especially in articulating the drama and understanding the ideas in the scripts no less than Tourneur, but they don’t have his gift for atmosphere, his style, sensibility, subtlety–few directors ever have. Given so interesting a script and setting, those things take ZOMBIE to a special place for me. It meditates on life and death, as the Lewton movies generally do, but in a richer, more profound, more allusive way.

    This is one of my favorite movies ever, one I never tire of, always look forward to seeing again, and my appreciation always deepens.

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    • “Poetic fantasy” is a nice term and one that’s wholly appropriate for a number of classic era horror films, especially the Lewton pictures. I think Karloff once said that he wasn’t all that comfortable with his films being described as horror and preferred to think of them as something like fairy tales for adults.

      Blake, you’re quite right that I wouldn’t call myself a horror fan in general, although I do watch and enjoy a number of them. Like you, I’ve essentially given up on the modern variety, and did so quite consciously some time ago; the truth is those films do not speak to me in any meaningful way, and the cheap shocks and excessive gore (and maybe more crucially, the frequent lack of purpose for a lot of it beyond mere exploitation) just doesn’t add up to a pleasurable experience for me. I can find material of interest and worth (to me anyway) up to and including the Hammer era, but I find my interest tailing off sharply from that point on, with only isolated examples that buck the general trend.

      Again, I’m loathe to try ranking Lewton’s works and will confine myself to saying again that I rate the Tourneur films very highly, but there’s nothing especially poor about any of them in my opinion.

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  7. A true and insightful consideration as always from you, Colin. I adore the Val Lewton 9 and cherish my copy of the box-set. I love how Lewton and Tourneur tell a story, relying entirely on the power of suggestion, a potent subtext and visual aesthetics. These are eloquent films none more so than I Walked With a Zombie. Going into it the title sounds like a spoof, but one is quickly seduced by the poetry of the thing.

    Do you think this type of horror film is still viable? Today’s audiences are used to gore, blood letting, shock cuts, dismemberment, barbarism, explicitness. Would a subtle horror film hold the attention of today’s audience, do you think?

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    • It’s hard to say, Richard. I think part of the problem is that audiences now, although this always held some truth to a greater or lesser extent I guess, expect to know exactly what they’re getting before they walk into the cinema. Lewton’s films were nothing if not ambiguous; they can be called horror films in that they featured horrific elements but, as Blake said above, the tag does seem a little restrictive. For the most part, the traditional horror aspects (the involvement of the supernatural, for instance) was not only expressed via visual suggestion, but was also implicit rather than explicit in the writing. As such, you can never be 100% certain whether or not you’re watching an unequivocal horror movie. That’s not an easy trick to pull off, and I don’t imagine it’s any easier to pitch and market either.
      All of which is a long-winded way of saying I don’t know, but I’d like to think it’s possible all the same.

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  8. I never understood why Tourneur never had a better career in the Fifties-his fellow
    Lewton directors Robert Wise and Mark Robson’s careers soared during these years.
    Also Edward Dymtryck who came from the same B Movie background constantly made
    prestige big budget films during these years.
    When Tourneur’s friend Joel McCrea showed him the script for STARS IN MY CROWN
    he asked Who is directing this-McCrea replied some MGM contract director I guess.
    Tourneur so wanted to do the film he agreed to forgo his usual salary.
    Tourneur has often blamed the fact that he directed STARS IN MY CROWN for “scale” or
    no money at all, that no-one took him seriously as a director after that.
    STARS IN MY CROWN which was a huge box office flop became Tourneurs favorite
    of all the films that he made.
    I don’t know how true Tourneur’s version is-he certainly made other hits since-THE FLAME
    AND THE ARROW to name but one.
    Certainly by the late Fifties Tourneur’s career was reduced to more or less programmer fare
    well short of the sort of thing Wise and Robson were doing.
    He still had one masterpiece left as well- NIGHT OF THE DEMON is now rightly considered a
    true classic.
    I might add that John Brahm’s career faltered in the Fifties,especially considering his outstanding
    Forties films.
    Certainly both Tourneur and Brahm should have figured far more in the Hollywood mainstream
    than they did during the Fifties.
    I recently re evaluated Tourneur’s final film WAR GODS OF THE DEEP which generally
    generates lots of flak. The film is now available in a beautiful restored BluRay from Kino-Lorber
    and it looks sensational.Viewed as purely a fantasy it’s not half bad; a beautiful looking film,
    and it’s also good to see Tourneur working with a decent budget and lavish Pinewood Studios
    production values.All in all not a bad swan song for the great director.

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    • Night of the Demon really owes a lot to the Lewton films, doesn’t it? A marvelous piece of work.

      Yes, Brahm and Tourneur really should have been doing bigger pictures during the 50s – it’s not like they were untalented men with little to offer. Having said that, I’m grateful for some of the fine TV work they turned out.
      You know, I really don’t like War Gods of the Deep – it was Tourneur’s last cinema feature and I feel it was a weak way to go out. The script is all over the place and the tone has no consistency. It does look good, the opening scenes in particular are packed wit the mood and atmosphere Tourneur seemed to evoke almost effortlessly.

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      • I don’t quite understand what you guys are saying about Tourneur’s 50s career, nor do I see that he was so different in what he did in the 40s. The Lewton movies were very low budget after all and could not be more artistically purposeful. And he always worked in genres. I don’t see any divide and assume you guys also find much to love in ANNE OF THE INDIES, WAY OF A GAUCHO, STRANGER ON HORSEBACK, WICHITA, GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING, NIGHTFALL, and NIGHT OF THE DEMON, just to name the best among those 50s ones. Personally, I believe there are good things to be said about APPOINTMENT IN HONDURAS and even TIMBUKTU (made after NIGHT OF THE DEMON) even if they don’t seem too promising as projects.

        There aren’t any prejudices against B movies, programmers and genre movies here so why does it matter if Robson and Wise went on to more prestigious A films?–it doesn’t make them better directors than Tourneur; he is surely the best of three by a long way no matter which films we are talking about, and I actually do like both of those other directors within reason, at least for some of their movies. But Tourneur was one of the very greatest, celebrated for his personal gifts so often in this very blog.

        Yes, those last theatrical films tended not to be as sympathetic projects but that doesn’t make his overall career unsatisfying to me. I did like WAR GODS OF THE DEEP when I first saw it, maybe less the second time. The first time it won my good will right away with those opening scenes for reasons Colin described very well and I guess that carried me through. I do feel I want to give it one more time anyway.

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          • I don’t think John was saying the quality of slipped throughout the 50s, that’s not how I take it and I don’t feel that way myself. I agree that the fact Tourneur wasn’t making the kind of A pictures Robson and especially Wise went on to really matters – just that it’s ironic how of the three, the one who was arguably the greatest talent continued to work with relatively small budgets.

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  9. I think nice zombie double bill would be “I Walked With a Zombie” and “White Zombie”. They are polar opposites but very satisfying. Low budget artistry.

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    • White Zombie is a dreamy sort of movie too, but in a different way to Tourneur’s film. It’s been an age since I viewed that one and should really give it a spin again soon.

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  10. I’m sorry my comments have provoked some sort of debate,and thanks Colin for your
    back up on explaining what I intended to say.
    It’s just that I feel Tourneur should have been given more prestige major studio projects
    during the Fifties.That is not to say I have anything against the films Blake mentions.
    Certainly by the tail end of the Fifties,in particular both TIMBUKTU and THE FEARMAKERS
    (a film Tourneur himself considered his worst) are low budget programmer fare.
    The fact that Tourneur could more than handle big budget prestige projects is more than
    proved by his beautiful CANYON PASSAGE a film all three of us admire greatly.
    I also am somewhat disappointed that Tourneur’s relationship with Joel McCrea did not
    continue beyond WICHITA,a film that performed well at the box office I might add.
    It goes without saying that I find Tourneur the most interesting of the other directors that
    I mentioned.
    Unlike many people I really enjoyed WAR GODS OF THE DEEP first time round and I still
    think there are many things to enjoy in the film.I do hope that Colin and Blake at some point
    get the chance to see the new Kino Lorber Blu Ray which if nothing else is quiet a visual treat.
    I do take Colin’s well observed point that the script is all over the shop but it’s one of those films
    that I just intend to run with and take it as it is.
    A most engaging cast,I thought-there’s a nice interview on the Kino version with Tab Hunter
    who explains that when they were not filming Tab and Vincent Price used to go on tours
    of the antique shops of England together.

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  11. OK, thanks for those replies. I understand what you are saying now.

    For me, it’s simply that B movies are not less than A movies. It depends on the movies. Of course, there is a falling off in the handful of Tourneurs after NIGHT OF THE DEMON but it’s just not that big a deal to me. Overall, 40s and 50s Tourneur are equivalent for me.

    No argument that Tourneur was fine with a larger budget, and as you know, I strongly believe that CANYON PASSAGE is one of his best films and one of the greatest Westerns.

    Again, I’m OK with WAR GODS OF THE DEEP and want to see it again. I don’t feel the same way about COMEDY OF TERRORS I must admit. Still haven’t seen THE GIANT OF MARATHON and will hold out for proper anamorphic version.

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    • Actually, I think we’re all coming at this from about the same place, just expressing it in slightly different terms. I don’t think budget in itself can make a movie bad or good, it can draw attention to other deficiencies or strengths of course but the overall quality stems from other factors.

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  12. I remember that at the time the influential Films & Filming magazine thought WAR GODS
    OF THE DEEP was a huge let down after COMEDY OF TERRORS which they considered some
    kind of masterpiece.
    I adore COMEDY OF TERRORS,though I believe Tourneur thought only Rathbone had the right
    approach to the film-he found the other’s performances too broad.
    Again a beautiful looking film with Floyd Crosby’s fine photography-where would American
    International pictures have been without him.
    I saw THE GIANT OF MARATHON at the time and really enjoyed it although I understand
    Tourneur only “supervised” the film,for an Italian director.
    Andre de Toth,I believe had the same deal on MORGAN THE PIRATE and THE MONGOLS,
    both films not without interest I might add.
    It’s strange but these “Peplum” or Sword & Sandal” movies seem to have been generally
    ignored by the re-issue imprints though Warner Archive gave some of them a go a while back.
    I would be very interested to see how some of them stand up these days.
    Apart from the Tourneur and De Toth titles I would love to see REVOLT OF THE SLAVES with
    Rhonda Fleming and I have very fond memories of HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS
    with Reg Park (Arnies mentor!)

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  13. It’s many years now since I saw this, but I do remember its strange atmosphere and how compelling it is. I vaguely remembered that the story was influenced by ‘Jane Eyre’, which is a favourite novel of mine. I’m not a big horror fan either, but the Val Lewton films are very different from most horror.

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    • Yes, IMDb actually credits Jane Eyre as a source, but I think the link is a bit tenuous to say the least – influence is perhaps more accurate under the circumstances.
      One of the great things about the Lewton movies is the way they do have appeal beyond the traditional horror fan base – they’re very sophisticated pieces of work which work on lots of levels.

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  14. Thank you for the wonderful review of this hauntingly beautiful film. I especially appreciate your articulate remarks about the capable and nuanced performance by Frances Dee. She, like her husband Joel McCrea, is an underrated actor.

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    • I pleased you enjoyed reading the piece, Jane. Ms Dee’s performance is one of the reasons this remains such a beguiling movie. And I agree she does appear to be an underrated actress.

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  15. Terrific review here Colin! I am a lifelong fanatic of Lewton’s cinema, and typically I watched each film again this past month leading up to Halloween. I strongly recommend Siegel’s “Val Lewton: The Reality of Terror” which is the definitive scholarly work on his cinema.

    I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE is the producer’s greatest work. The erstwhile set designers of course were up to the task of realizing Lewton’s vision with provocative interior rooms, like Jessica Holland’s bedroom, which is layered in shadows, evoking taste, elegance and loneliness, and is adorned with culture: a harp, glass curtains, and a painting that research reveals is titled “The Isle of the Dead” (the title of a later Lewton film in this series)
    While exhaustive attention was paid to the elegant look of the film by Lewton, Tourneur and cinematographer J. Roy Hunt as well as Lewton alumni like art directors Albert D’Agostino and Walter Keller, comparable attentiveness was lavished on the film’s soundtrack, which was scored by regular Roy Webb, but more evocatively fueled by the songs of Sir Lancelot. These songs, purportedly the first examples of Calypso music ever used in an American film, serve as a Greek chorus, with lyrics that lay bear the troubled family, by way of ominous lyrics that issue proper condemnations. The use of these lyrics were most pronounced in the restaurant scene where they infuriate Wesley, as the sordid lyrics acknowledge both the marital infidelity of Jessica and the horrors that will follow (“pain and sorrow in the family”). Lancelot, an unassuming flesh and blood figure, takes on a spiritual connotation in the film.
    Of course it would be impossible to imagine I Walked With A Zombie even being half as effective as it is without the guidance of director Tourneur. He is the only Lewton director of the absolute top-rank, and it is his talent and inspiration that no doubt contributed to the film’s incomparable wordless sequences. Paramount of these is the centerpiece sequence when Betsy and Jessica walk together to the Homfort, a voodoo outpost thought to be a refuge for those seeking cures. A highly synchronized and lyrical passage follows as the women pass through the reeds and the sugar cane. Tracking shots follow the women in their flowing white and black robes that have a dreamlike and hypnotizing effect, which is accentuated by the sound of gentle wind and shuffling reeds. In typical Lewton fashion, again the use of figures (and metaphors) are used to superb effect as the women float past the decorated skull of a horse, a harp, a human skull and the imposing giant zombie known as Carre-Four. As the entire sequence like the others in the film was shot on a set, it is astonishing how definitive the shoot is, and how perfectly the intended effect is conveyed. The torchlight sequence at the end of the film further illustrates Tourneur’s remarkable gifts; previously in Cat People (1942), and in the 50’s with his non-Lewton horror film, Curse of the Demon, Tourneur exhibited similar talent. But with Lewton, it was surely a match made in heaven..
    The finest cast ever assembled for a Lewton film delivered the best ensemble acting, easily. Tom Conway, Frances Dee, Edith Barrett and Christine Gordon all lent cultural distinction and humanity to this mysterious brood, (regardless of motivational inconclusiveness), while Sir Lancelot and Darby Jones gave the film symbolic depth with intense performances.
    It is altogether fitting that Lewton should try to distance himself from the film’s awful title, forced on him by the studio, who could care less about his delicate artistic sensibilities and intelligence, but were only concerned about box office receipts, by having Betsy speaking off-screen on the soundtrack: “I walked with a zombie…it does seem like an odd thing to say…” As the statement has nothing to do with anything that happens in the story after this point, it doesn’t work at all, and comes off as nonsense, but in retrospect it’s a far better thing to reject artistic blasphemy than it is to fail trying to do it.

    I Walked With A Zombie, a defining moment of film poetry, is Lewton’s masterpiece and one of the most perfectly rendered works of the 1940’s in American cinema.

    Again superlative, fascinating account here.

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    • Thanks for both the kind words and the great comment, Sam – this kind of stuff really makes the blogging business so worthwhile.
      You managed to very eloquently highlight a number of elements I skipped over in the piece here – really enjoyed the comments on the set decoration for the bedroom – and consequently added a great deal to the discussion.
      I think we’re coming at our appreciation of Tourneur’s great talents from pretty much the same place and it’s always a pleasure to read the thoughts of those who hold him and his work in high regard.

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      • You are a gentleman and a scholar Colin. Your site remains one of the most incredibly successful online, a fact confirmed by an amazingly resilient community of erudite bloggers. This place is the answer to those who argue that blogsites are being diminished by Facebook. Of course YOU are the one who must take center stage. Thank you!

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        • Ah, that’s too kind, Sam. I think the blogosphere is healthy still, there are so many fine voices out there drawing attention to a variety of topics and raising awareness. Personally, I’m just pleased to be able to add, hopefully, a little pleasure to one corner of it all.

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