Dr. Lloyd Clayton (George Zucco) busies himself burning all of his twin brother (also played by Zucco) Elwyn’s books and papers after Elwyn’s death. The topic of these writings? The supernatural.
Elwyn’s assistant, Zolarr (Dwight Frye), grieves the loss of Elwyn and is convinced that his death was no accident. Zolarr is sure Elwyn was murdered by Lloyd. Naturally, his solution to solving this crime is to exhume Elwyn’s body… and revive him, as a vampire.
The same night, Gayle (Mary Carlisle), a lovely woman for whom Lloyd serves as guardian, announces that she is engaged to Dr. David Bently (Nedrick Young). Unluckily for her, she may never see her wedding day, as Elwyn puts her on his list of victims.
Did Lloyd really kill his brother? Will Gayle survive the vampire’s attack? And what will become of the Elwyn’s faithful servant, the hunchbacked Zolarr? These and more questions are answered in Dead Men Walk, a 1943 chiller written by Fred Myton and directed by Sam Newfield.
Dead Men Walk has a great opening — a floating head talks, layered with a shot of a burning “History of Vampires” book.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t live up to the fun opening in any way. There are moments of appropriate atmosphere, some nice use of contrast and shadow in the photography, but the mood isn’t very consistent.
The performances also leave much to be desired. Dwight Frye as Zolarr has a couple of good, creepy moments but is most of the time quite boring for a “spooky” character. George Zucco gives the film’s best performances in his dual role of Elwyn/Lloyd, but even then, a lot of the dialogue is stiff, and the pace quite slow.
With performances that don’t exactly impress and a far-too-simple story, some spooky music and pretty lighting are really all this film has going for it aside from the opening sequence. Running at a little over an hour, it’s sluggishly paced. The tale of the vampire has been more effectively told many times elsewhere. The score: 1/5