The Unrivaled Canon of Val Lewton.


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[You may recently recognize Adam Charles from around the HND comment section, but here he is to contribute, in my opinion, the best editorial this site now knows.  Hopefully it is the first of many.]

CAT PEOPLEI WALKED WITH A ZOMBIETHE LEOPARD MANTHE BODY SNATCHER

When you hear films titled such as these, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  For me, when I bought the Val Lewton DVD collection, put out by Warner Brothers initially back in 2005 and then re-released in 2008 with a documentary featuring Martin Scorsese discussing Val Lewton, I expected to see films similar to those of the classic horror pictures of Universal Studios.  Films like those in the Dracula and Frankenstein series’.  In fact, I expected something much “cheesier” as these titles sound straight out of the Ed Wood filmography.

The closest thing I had to any knowledge of any of the pictures was a friend’s write-ups on the CAT PEOPLE and THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE.  So, my expectations weren’t exactly set low, but I wasn’t intending to watch anything that would affect me any differently than any of the other horror pictures of the 30s and 40s.

Chronologically I should have begun my viewings with CAT PEOPLE, but since I was somewhat aware of what to expect I wanted to save those films for the end.  So, I left it up to chance and the first DVD I grabbed was I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and THE BODY SNATCHER.

Photographically opulent.  Atmospherically eerie.  Psychologically complex.  Intelligently written.  Professionally performed.  Well constructed.  Unquestionably, and assuredly frightening.  These aren’t things that are normally associated with classic horror films, and certainly not associated with B-horror films prior to Romero’s landmark NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.  By all accounts and purposes, I should not have seen what I saw.




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