I Walked With A Zombie (1943)

A Canadian nurse moves to the West Indies to look after a sick woman, but finds a world filled with voodoo and zombies!

Frances Dee plays Betsy, the nurse brought to the West Indies to look after the wife of Paul Holland. After suffering a terrible fever, she seems to have dropped into a zombie-like existence. Her husband Paul, of course, doesn’t believe that voodoo is to blame, that she is just ill. His step-brother believes differently and warns Betsy of the dangers to be found here.

Betsy, begins to fall in love with Paul, and believes that what he really wants is the return of his wife. Betsy plans to help her anyway she can, even if she has to delve into the world of voodoo.

There were a lot of things I really liked about this film, the story is engaging, and a plausible take on the actual idea of zombies (in a manner to be revisited by Wes Craven in Serpent and The Rainbow), before the concept gets shaken up in  a couple of decades by Romero.

There a couple of spooky moments, and they all tend to center around the zombie character played by Darby Jones, Carrefour.

He’s not someone you would like to stumble upon in a cane field.

Oh wait… that happens!

His shuffle, slow and unstoppable, is the precursor of a lot of the zombies we see later (“They’re coming to get you Barbara!”), and the sound of it is kind of disturbing. Put to great use in a scene where a couple of characters are engaged in conversation and then in the background, both you and the characters realize they can hear something odd. Yup, it’s Carrefour!

One of the things I did like, is the appearance of a Calypso singer, as played by Sir Lancelot (not the Arthurian knight, but an actor/singer who used the name). He wanders about with his guitar and sings tunes, it’s rather disconcerting to hear troubling verses set to such a happy, relaxing beat. That and Carrefour are the most troubling aspects of the film.

The ending is far from your typical Hollywood finale, and could be seen as really dark, or a release.

It’s nice to see a film about zombies of this nature (also seen in White Zombie) make the list, before we get weighed down with all the flesh-eating zombies to come in the future (though those are fun too!).

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