Friday, September 12, 2014

Movie Review: Valley of the Zombies (1946)

Valley of the Zombies (1946) directed by Philip Ford

With a title like Valley of the Zombies, you'd expect some tropical adventure where a group of treasure hunters come across a valley filled with undead horror. This movie is not that movie. Rather, it starts in a doctor's office where the younger partner flirts with the nurse while the older partner worries over the mysterious disappearance of blood from their supply. Meanwhile, a creepy, caped figure is crawling over the roof of the building. After the nurse and younger doctor go off to the hospital, the figure shows up in the office. He menaces the older doctor and reveals that he is Ormand Murks, a patient that the doctor had committed to an insane asylum five years earlier. A year later, Ormand died but was resurrected by his brother who had a special voodoo formula from, you guessed it, the Valley of the Zombies. Now he needs blood in order to stay alive (this was before the whole brains thing) and the doctor has just the right blood type for Mr. Murks. Later, the police discover the murder of the older doctor and naturally assume that the younger doctor is the prime suspect since he'd get the medical practice. The doctor and the nurse set off to discover the real killer based on the scant clues that point to the dead man Murks.

The movie has an interesting premise. As long as the viewer goes with the "resurrected madman needs blood to live" idea the story is fairly logical and enjoyable. Ian Keith, who plays Murks, gives a nearly over-the-top performance with a good blend of humorous and menacing elements. On the other hand, the nurse is a bit of a stereotyped female (at one point, she claimed she had the valuable skill of screaming!) which was not so fun to watch. The dialog has a healthy dose of film noir patter which is good and bad--sometimes it sparkled, sometimes it felt dated.

Overall, this is a enjoyable b-movie horror from the 1940s though there is almost nothing "zombie" about it other than the title.

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