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I walked with a zombie

"I walked with a zombie" is a title that we have always liked a lot. Because it opens to an infinite imaginary, which brings a lot of questions about who, when, how and why, someone has walked with a zombie.
It must be said that the vision of this film of 1943, softens in a certain sense the expectations of horror fans, because we are very far from the icon of the rotting zombie we know. In any case, this is a masterpiece, which is a part of more psychological zombie movie with little horror, more thriller and with a bit of melodrama.
So the zombies, which are still present (one or two, depending on how you want to see things), are not the strong point of this film. What drives "The Walked With A Zombie" to success is a perfect realization, very elegant, with some exceptional directorial ideas, like the zombie in the field under the moon, and with a script that keeps the tension high and with dialogues always incisive.
The latter, the dialogues, bring the viewer right from the start in an atmosphere of mystery and part of decay. The nurse who is the protagonist of the story is asked, as the last question of a job interview, if she believes in witchcraft. Then when she is traveling to the West Indies, dreaming on a ship between fish jumping and  moon reflecting on the sea, her future employer breaks down the romantic scene telling her that everything is cloaked by death. A nice way to start a job and phrases that are part of the decalogue of "things not to say to a woman", but that make it clear where "The Walked with a Zombie" is headed.
This climate of psychological destruction and the aura of tragedy are the carpet on which this work of Jacques Tourneur moves, characteristics to which must be added a war, which has neither winners nor losers, between beliefs (the vodoo of course) and scientific logic. A dualism also represented in words between those of the doctor, who defines the patient a zombie, alive, without will and able to respond only to simple commands and all the magical rituals of the inhabitants of the island.
The producer Val Lewton, whom we will talk about later and the director Tourneur to tell the truth catch a lot of ideas and stylistic choices from their previous work, "Cat People", a b-movie that became a fundamental film in the history of cinema. They change the location and a little 'concept, but in the same way, they leave the viewer between the imagination and reality, the trying to scare the audience.
The nurse who is asked if she believes in witchcraft, is called Betsy Connell and from the cold Canada moves to the island of San Sebastian in the West Indies to care for Jessica the wife of the rich landowner Paul Holland, who after a violent fever, is in a catatonic state. An easy job, if you do not find out that maybe the woman is a zombie (maybe, must be reiterate) and that probably she is(always probably) in that state for a strange love plot involving Paul and his half-brother Wesley, whose mother is, among other things, the island doctor.
Betsy to please Paul, who falls in love, tries to heal Jessica in every way, both with medicine and with the voodoo.
The Russian naturalized American Val Lewton (born Vladimir Leventon) is one of the two cornerstones of this film. Learned producer, writer, he was hired by the legendary "RKO" in 1942 to produce low-budget films. The first is "Cat People" and the second is this one. And it can be said that it was not a bad start at all. "I walked with a zombie", was commissioned with the title and story set, taken from a newspaper article. The title is ok, but Lewton doesn't like the story. He then asks screenwriters Curt Siodmak and Ardel Wray to rewrite it, based on the novel "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte.
The director is Jacques Tourneur, French-American director who for the "RKO" directs low-budget horror under the production of Lewton, the success of these films, then enter Tourneur in the leading directors of the production company, that entrusts him with several other jobs. Later he became a "freelance" director, Tourneur closes his career in the sixties by shooting a few episodes for television series.
Here he works with a series of actors who perform their duties well. All the characters of "I walked with a zombie" are very successful, credible and everyone brings their own depth into the story. Frances Dee is the nurse Betsy, a charming actress who has come to success after the classic ranks between extras and the even more classic thing to be noticed by a director. A career made up of numerous films, but very short over time. Frances Dee acted until the mid-fifties and then devoted herself to her family and returned to video at the beginning of this century with a small with a small part. With her Tom Conway, who plays the sad philosophical Paul Holland. English actor, for the "RKO" he has made famous horror films and has had a rather important career as a radio actor. James Ellison instead who is the young and exuberant Rand was a famous actor more for the many westerns.
"I walked For a Zombie", was not very popular at its release, also has a series of curiosities that cannot miss in cult movies. Edith Barrett who plays the mother of the two brothers was actually three years older than James Ellison and two years younger than Tom Comway. But the most interesting thing is related to the song in the film. "Shame & Scandal". A passage that tells the story of the film, based on "calypso" song by Sir. Lancelot, well-known musician of the time. This piece is the inspiration for the song "Wau Wau" by Lord Melody another Caribbean artist, who in the sixties takes up the melody and the scandalistic concept of text, veering towards humour. It is no coincidence that "Wau Wau" is known worldwide with the title "Shame & Scandal" A great success that was then repeated over the years by an endless series of musicians.