I Walked With a Zombie

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I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

Jan 26, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:cinematography, direction, sets, costumes, score

Cons:romantic leads have dull characters

Between 1942 and 1943, Jacques Tourneur directed three cerebral horror films for RKO studios. They were "Cat People", "I Walked with a Zombie", and "The Leopard Man". While ignored by the Academy Awards, these films quickly developed a strong reputation and a cult following. While "Cat People" is in the National Film Registry, and is the more famous and commercially successful film, "I Walked with a Zombie" may be Tourneur's best effort.

The story has often been compared to "Jane Eyre", but the film's mood is very different. Young nurse Betsy (Frances Dee) takes a position in Haiti, where she lives on a sugar plantation run by unhappy, quarrelling half-brothers Wesley (James Ellison) and Paul (Tom Conway). Her patient is Jessica (Christine Gordon), Wesley's lovely wife who is now in a zombie-like trance. With 'modern' medicine unable to cure her, Jessica is taken by Betsy to the local witch doctor, whose voodoo cult seems to dominate the Haiti culture.

The romance between naive Betsy and gloomy Wesley isn't quite convincing. But while the leads aren't of particular interest, the supporting characters certainly are. Paul is a bitter alcoholic, still in love with Jessica and resentful towards Wesley, whom he blames for her catatonic state. Edith Barrett plays the mother of Paul and Wesley, and her character has the habit of suddenly appearing at the most unexpected moments.

The eerie Black & White cinematography is credited to J. Roy Hunt, who must have seen this film as a welcome change of pace from the usual westerns and comedies. Calypso singer Sir Lancelot has a cameo singing a chilling song about the plantation owners (he would also appear in "Curse of the Cat People" the following year). (88/100)


Recommend this product? Yes


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