The Walking Dead (1936).
This is an unjustly forgotten classic. It could’ve been just another standard 1930s-era shocker which, to today’s viewer, can be an acquired taste. But what raises it above that is the performance of Boris Karloff.
Karloff plays John Ellman, an innocent man framed and executed for murder, who is brought back to life by a scientist Edmund Gwenn’s experimental process. Ellman then uses his new lease on life to solve the crime and bring the real killer to justice. This character is no mere zombie, but a normal man angered by his wrongful conviction, haunted by the memory of his own death and (perhaps) driven by a higher power.
This kind of material should have just been a run-of-the-mill programmer, but it was made at Universal, then at the height of its first era of horror, which meant they could secure Michael Curtiz as director and Karloff in the starring role. Curtiz does a capable job making the potentially bland source material into something compelling, but once again it is Karloff who steals the show. He brings a touching humanity to the role, making this just one of several movies that prove he had what his fellow horror icon Bela Lugosi never did — range.
“Why did you have me killed?”
Upon its original release, “The Walking Dead” was banned in Finland.
“The Return of Dr. X” (1939) and “Black Friday” (1940).
Take a Look:
Back to life: