Tagline – See it happen–right before your startled eyes… in the screen sensation that rips the mask from the darkest secrets of forbidden voodoo!
Starring – James Ellison (Wesley Rand), Frances Dee (Betsy Connell), Tom Conway (Paul Holland), Edith Barrett (Mrs. Rand).
Released – April, 1943
Directed By – Jacques Tourneur
Produced By – RKO Radio Pictures
Distributed By – RKO Radio Pictures
Description – See this strange, strange, story of a woman whose lure sent brother against brother, whose love caused hate – and whose beauty bowed to an evil spell whose power we must refuse to believe – Even If It’s True!
Canadian nurse Betsy Connell is hired by Caribbean sugar plantation owner Paul Holland to care for his wife Jessica.
Upon Betsy’s arrival she is taken to the Holland residence and during the trip is informed about the history of the island of Saint Sebastian and how the Holland family brought the slaves to the island.
That night at dinner, Betsy meets Paul’s half-brother, Wesley Rand, and learns that they both have the same mother, Mrs. Rand. Later that evening, while preparing for bed, Betsy hears the cries of a woman across the courtyard.
Her investigation leads her to a tower stairwell where she encounters Jessica Holland who approaches her, almost ghost-like, causing her to scream. Jessica’s zombie appearance is explained as a tropical fever.
During a visit to town Betsy learns that Wesley and Jessica had an affair and that Paul may be the cause of Jessica’s state-of-mind. Wesley believes Paul is trying to drive Jessica insane as a result of the affair.
The locals believe that Jessica has been cursed and is now one of the living walking dead. As some time passes, Betsy finds herself attracted to Paul and is more determined than ever to help cure Jessica.
When all conventional treatment fails, Alma, the maid, suggests that Betsy bring Jessica to see a Voodoo priest.
Voodoo and black magic follow in an attempt to cure Jessica. The locals feel that Jessica is evil and must be held accountable to their beliefs and practices regarding the undead.
Tension builds between the locals and the white settlers as a cure is hoped to be found before the bloodshed begins.
NOTABLE: Producer Val Lewton’s creativity is clearly evident here as this is one of those classic horror films he produced where he was given only the title of a film and had to create a story around it.
I Walked with a Zombie had a “fun” disclaimer at the end of the credits that stated: “The characters and events depicted in this photoplay are fictional. Any similarity to actual persons, living, dead, or possessed, is purely coincidental.”
Personal Note: If you are not familiar with the classic horror films produced by Val Lewton and directed by Jacques Tourneur, take note. They are some of the best ever made in the genre.
Modern zombie fans may be disappointed in the depiction of zombie’s in I Walked With A Zombie. They are not the flesh eating version so popular with today’s audiences. Rather, they are unfeeling, unthinking, and unresponsive, traditional zombies.
This is one of the best, with great atmosphere, and a surprising, and very satisfying conclusion.