The Canadian nurse Betsy Connell (Frances Dee) is hired to travel to St. Sebastian, in West Indies, to work at Fort Holland nursing Jessica Holland (Christine Gordon), the wife of the sugar plantation owner Paul Holland (Tom Conway). Betsy meets Paul in the ship and is welcomed by Paul's estranged half-brother Wesley "Wes" Rand (James Ellison) in the farmhouse. During the night, she overhears a woman crying and she believes that might be Jessica and goes to her room. She finds a creepy mute woman and she learns that Jessica had a mental paralysis after a severe tropical fever and is a hopeless case, unable to speak or have power. Soon Betsy falls in love with Paul and she decides to help Jessica to be cured to make Paul happier. She suggests an experimental treatment with shock to Dr. Maxwell (James Bell) but it fails. While talking to the maid Alma (Theresa Harris), she discovers that another woman was cured in a voodoo ceremony by a voodoo priest and she decides to use witchcraft to cure Jessica. However the natives believe that Jessica is a zombie that cannot be cured. When Betsy meets Paul and Wesley's mother Mrs. Rand (Edith Barrett), she finds that Jessica was the pivot of a fight between Paul and Wes and she believes that her daughter-in-law is a zombie.
"I Walked with a Zombie" is an ambiguous zombie movie directed by Jacques Tourneur. The plot is a family drama and the zombies in this movie are not like in George Romero's trilogy or "The Walking Dead", but related to voodoo in a Caribbean Island. There is a creepy atmosphere with a beautiful cinematography, the non-stop voodoo drums and the native Carrefour, but no gore, violent death or scream. The conclusion is ambiguous after the revelation of Mrs. Rand. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "A Morta-Viva" ("The Living Dead")
Reviewed by Coventry8 / 10
Not your usual brain-eating corpses...and that's a good thing!
First of all: PLEASE don't let the misleading, rather silly sounding title discourage you! I walked with a Zombie is another brilliant result of the collaborations between producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur. Released one year after the simply astonishing movie 'Cat People', this is yet another intelligently elaborated and genuinely original genre-masterpiece. The solid screenplay contains a rarely seen before amount of eeriness and handles about a young ambitious nurse who goes to San Antonio in order to take care of Jessica. Jessica is the wife of plantation-owner Paul Holland and she suffers from a bizarre mental paralysis, supposedly caused by a tropical fever. She is in fact a zombie only not the type of walking corpse you usually expect in horror movies. Betsy, the nurse, is somehow convinced that Jessica may still be cured and turns to the Voodoo-community that is living on the island as well. Just like he pulled it off in Cat People, Tourneur manages to bring suspense in a subtle way. Without bloody images but with a unique photography and efficient set pieces! I walked with a Zombie contains great dialogs, intriguing characters and mind bending plot-twists. This is an intelligent and demanding film, especially made for people who take this genre serious! It ranks slightly under 'Cat People' but light-years above most other horror films. Check it out!
Reviewed by bkoganbing6 / 10
Mood it has, weird it is
After watching I Walked With A Zombie I was shaken a bit, a little unnerved as it were. But when I started to analyze the film I was wondering just what did I see?
Frances Dee has been hired to look after Tom Conway's wife Christine Gordon who is in a coma, but this is the sleepwalking type of coma and the natives have identified here as a zombie. Here illness whatever it is has cast a pall on the household. Conway and his mother apparently make a nice income which is half brother James Ellison drinks a lot of it away.
One thing that was interesting and highly unusual. The natives are the descendants of escaped slaves and the heritage there is one of reverting back to their tribal beliefs as an act of defiance. Slavery with few exceptions is rarely dealt with from the slave or former slave point of view.
Edith Barrett plays Conway and Ellison's mother. She likes Dee and views her as an ideal daughter-in-law for one of her kids. She also has another role on the island, one I can't reveal here.
Val Lewton produced and Jacques Tourneur directed I Walked With A Zombie. It's not great, I think it was butchered in the editing department. But the mood that is created will linger with you. And the ending is decades ahead of its time, something you might see in a Stephen King work.