I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

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I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

I Walked with a Zombie (1943). 69 minutes. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. Starring Frances Dee (as Betsy Connell), Tom Conway (as Paul Holland), James Ellison (as Wesley Rand), Edith Barrett (as Mrs. Rand), James Bell (as Dr. Maxwell), Christine Gordon (as Jessica Holland), Theresa Harris (as Alma), Darby Jones (as Carrefour), and Sir Lancelot (as calypso singer). Produced by Val Lewton.

I Walked with a Zombie has a sensationalistic title, but don’t let that fool you—this is not a 1950s atom bomb movie about flesh-eating ghouls. The story follows a strange woman living on a balmy island who wanders around in a kind of trance, whether due to tropical fever or vengeance or voodoo (or all three). The true nature of her condition is never made entirely clear, and rather than prove to us definitively that the woman is a zombie, the movie instead cultivates a moody atmosphere where much is unsaid, sorrow pervades, and we are left to draw … Read the rest

Cat People (1942)

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Cat People featured image. Detail from original movie poster.

Cat People (1942). 73 minutes.  Directed by Jacques Tourneur.  Starring Simone Simon (as Irena Dubrovna Reed), Kent Smith (as Oliver Reed), Jane Randolph (as Alice Moore), and Tom Conway (as Dr. Louis Judd).  Produced by Val Lewton.

For a B-grade horror movie about a woman who can transform into an animal, Cat People is a surprisingly sensitive and human story.  This film achieves much more than we would expect from a typical B picture.  In fact, it offers a mixture of subtlety, sophistication, and inventiveness that would be difficult for any movie to achieve.  All throughout we hear the mysterious, part-feline protagonist Irena Dubrovna Reed articulate her loneliness, her need for warmth, and her fear that something evil resides within her.  As she puzzles over her true nature, we watch her marriage to her newlywed husband Oliver deteriorate and see how its demise fuels her longing and isolation.  It would appear that her relationship with Oliver is the only substantial … Read the rest