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I Walked With a Zombie (1943).

November 20, 2009

The Scoop:
This is, quite simply, the greatest voodoo movie ever made. I realize that’s not saying much, given the consistently sorry state of the genre, but even if they weren’t all so bad, this film would stand out above the rest.

One of greatest triumphs of legendary producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur, the story follows Frances Dee as a nurse who travels to Haiti to care for the comatose wife of plantation owner Tom Conway. But the wife’s condition isn’t necessarily medically explainable, and the nurse turns to the local voodoo priest for help.

Lewton was a master at taking lurid b-movie fare and turning it into moody, exciting art. His best work came in a short stretch in World War II during his partnership Tourneur. The pair created a singular aesthetic that seemed to work every time out. “I Walked With a Zombie is a prime example — their trademark creepy atmospherics and a complicated love triangle highlight this classic — but “Cat People,” “The Ghost Ship” or “Bedlam” would work just as well. So just watch them all.

Best Bit:
The first walk across the cane fields.

Side Note:
Very, very loosely based on Charlotte Brontë’s novel “Jane Eyre.”

Companion Viewing:
“White Zombie” (1932), “Cat People” (1942) and “The Seventh Victim” (1943).

The screenplay.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

Roky Erickson’s classic (and much covered) tune, based on the movie:

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