I Walked with a Zombie - 1943

This 1943 Val Lewton produced effort from RKO stars James Ellison, Frances Dee, and Tom Conway. The excellent visuals are from director Jacques Tourneur.

In contrast to the Universal horror films of the era (which had built an audience that RKO was trying to appeal to with these mid-budget horror-exploitation projects), the Val Lewton motion pictures resisted most (though not all) opportunities for gore and flash, and instead present a mood-soaked melodrama with a melancholy bent.

I Walked with a Zombie has a laughable title (and Frances Dee's first scene has her laughing just at the mention of the word, an example of Lewton's script steering into the skid), but it has an obvious reason for being: there was a famous article on the subject of voodoo that appeared in American Weekly Magazine and a desperate RKO was just trying to climb onboard. In the gap between exploitation and horror-movie expectations, Lewton grafted in Jane Eyre by way of the 1932 film White Zombie then had Curt Siodmak and Ardel Wray craft the script. But the final script edit was Lewton's (which contain numerous detailed notes on art direction and visual ques, showing how much Lewton was searching for a total effect upon the audience). This combined with Jacques Tourneur's visual sense make I Walked with a Zombie the rare cinematic item that it is.

There's a lot of information about this film at Val Lewton Org

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