This piece is edited from a post that originally appeared at www.jabootu.net. It has been reprinted here with the kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg.
CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD (1964)
“A doctor reanimates the corpse of his mad scientist grandfather, THEN figures out it was a bad idea!”
Even for the dedicated genre movie fan like myself, Jerry Warren
movies are often a challenge to watch, and few of them warrant repeat
viewings. His actual ‘movie’ movies are better than his imports,
although I know I’m getting into a dangerous area if I note that his
cheap yeti movie Man Beast wasn’t bad (though it probably remains his best work).
Risking even more attack from my fellow B movie fans is that I admit to enjoying the tepid The Incredible Petrified World, if for no other reason than I dig the cast. I enjoyed Teenage Zombies because stuff was happening in that one. Frankenstein Island is just too goofy not
to enjoy on some level!
Beyond that, however, I find it hard to muster much praise for Jerry
Warren. Except, maybe, to note that, like Sam Sherman, Warren must have
known what he was doing. His patchwork anti-epics became drive-in
standards and it seems obvious he made some profits (not that it would
be hard to do, given how cheaply he made his films). Warren’s real movies were often murky and listless, but his imported
movies are what he really remains known (and despised) for!
comes to imported Mexican horror films, Jerry Warren and K. Gordon
Murray are the names that spring to mind. K. Gordon Murray scooped up seemingly hundreds of Mexican and German
genre and kiddie films and released them to American theaters (to, it
must be admitted, generally good box-office) and television. Murray’s
films are noted for being directly translated from the original language
scripts, resulting in some odd and often rushed spoken lines and songs.
Warren, on the other hand, did everything he could to get around
dubbing. He tended to rely on narration from one of his characters,
often describing the very scenes we’re watching. If he couldn’t cut out a
scene the plot required that featured characters having a conversation,
he’d leave it in silent and have the narration tell us what the
conversation was about!
To fill in the screen time missing from the excised footage, Warren
would shoot new scenes of characters reportedly related to the original
film. If a monster was on the loose, a new segment could be worked in
showing the police department talking over the case and filling us in on
whatever happened off screen because Warren’s cuts to the original film
removed something important. (Here, for example, a girl suddenly pops
up and a half hour later we learn who she is when the American footage
shows her friend coming to the police to report her missing.)
These scenes are noted for their static camera angles and endless
yakking from peripheral characters. I believe the liner notes for Invasion of the Animal People (the Something Weird Video release on double bill with the original Swedish version Terror in the Midnight Sun,
which isn’t a bad little movie) described Warren’s films as being an
alternation of scenes with people saying too little with scenes of
people saying too much. That’s a pretty apt description of a Jerry
Warren import, they change pace in such a way as to make them
uncomfortable to watch.
One can see what attracted Jerry to the source movie for Creature of the Walking Dead.
It has a fairly simple and easy to follow plot. It features long
periods without dialog. It has handsome production values for a Mexican
movie, featuring some impressive sets, good monster make-up, and some
unusually fluid camera work. (There are a few scenes that look SO
polished as to make me think they were pulled from yet another movie,
since we don’t see the faces of any cast members.) While repetitive, the music is also pretty impressive for something
Who knows. Had Warren simply had the film dubbed and released
as is, it might have been a pretty decent pic. Then again, there would
have been plenty of goofy elements left over. We can’t blame all the
film’s silliness on Warren, although he does his part!
In short, a turn of the century scientist, Dr. Malthus, has developed
a means of prolonging his own life and youth by means of blood
transfusion experiments where he removes the blood of attractive women
and pumps it into his own heart.
The authorities finally catch him (apparently on tax evasion or
something, since they never find his secret lab or the victims he is
holding there!) and sentence him to hang. In the 20th Century, the
monster’s grandson, another Dr. Malthus, inherits the old estate. In a
nice touch, there have been legal disputes over the property to explain
why no one has entered the structure since 1881.
Younger Malthus finds the old lab and his grandpappy’s notebooks.
Infected with scientific curiosity after reading these notes, he breaks
into the local crypt and makes off with the mummified body of his
ancestor and then brings him back to life using the transfusion machine.
Too late, Younger Malthus sees the folly of his actions. Too bad for
him that the Elder Malthus looks just like him and takes his place in
society, even wooing Younger Malthus’ fiancee, Ruth! The only way to
tell who is who, is that Elder Malthus has a scar on his neck from the
hangman’s rope and must wear an ascot (a plot thread that really doesn’t
go anywhere, at least in Warren’s version). Whenever the transfused blood begins to break down, Elder Malthus
turns into a monster-y fellow and must find a new victim to lock in the
dungeon where he is housing Younger Malthus. Eventually, Ruth finds
herself Elder Malthus’ chosen victim…..
The Warren touch in action:
- Our lead actor has been renamed “Rock Madison.” This name was given to one of the minor actors in Man Beast,
who was then given top billing! It has been suggested Warren came up
with the name to cash in on the popularity of Rock Hudson and Guy
Madison. Odd that he would only use the name twice, once in 1956 and
again in 1964.
- Katherine Victor has been given a scene in some of the new footage.
Here she plays a psychic who tries to help the police find the missing
girls. (I think, since there’s another small part that could be her as
well, and a really terrible actress plays Dr. Malthus’ secretary in an
added clip. All three are brunettes who look slightly similar and it’s
been a while since I’ve watched a Katherine Victor movie. Since she was
married to Warren for a spell, it seems I heard, I assume she has the
larger part here.) This subplot eats up some running time but adds
nothing and goes nowhere.
- Visible jumps in the action due to removed dialog. In the flashback
sequence, Dr. Malthus is about to give himself a transfusion when he
hears a knock at the door. He leaves the room. Upstairs, he is hauled
away by the police without incident. If you’ve watched enough movies you
can tell they’ve snipped a bit where the authorities confront Malthus
with the goods they have on him and he calmly admits to his sins.
woman providing the transfusion, by the way, is left to die. Younger
Malthus later finds her dried corpse on the operating table. More
disturbing is that the dungeon contains the remains of three young women
who starved to death in their cells!)
After bringing home Elder Malthus’ corpse, Younger Malthus suddenly
has a young woman on the other table acting as blood donor. She pops up
from nowhere, and only after the operation when the sheet covering her
is removed do we learn that she is the maid. One assumes she is Dr.
Malthus’ live-in maid, but then we learn in another added scene that she
commutes to work from like a block away. All the abductions will take
place within the same general area, so neither Malthus comes off as a
criminal mastermind. The lab also mysteriously cleans itself once
Younger Malthus decides to use it.
- Our first exposition scene features Bruno VeSota. The acting in
this scene is pretty good, but we watch the camera hold position for the
longest time as we watch him receive a massage which is limited to his
left shoulder. Its the cinematic equivalent of a stare-down contest. By
the way, Bruno doesn’t have his mustache in this one. He looks better
with the lip cover, we discover.
- Almost every dubbed line is spoken when someone has their back turned or is off camera.
- Almost every synced line is spoken in blandly framed new footage.
- There are visible lines spoken in the original Mexican version that are seen here minus sound.
- There are dubbed-in lines over people who clearly aren’t speaking.
- There are a couple of scenes showing people engaged in
conversations where its obvious what's going on, yet everything is filled
in via narration. Said narration is often breathlessly rushed to match
the beats where the same information would be if it were a normal dialog
scene. The effect is so surreal it makes your head hurt.
(By the way,
the last few points should drive home the fact that when people say
something about bad dubbing in an old Godzilla movie, they should more
rightly be referencing a Jerry Warren import. Prior to the International
prints that got released in the 70′s, most Godzilla movies enjoyed very
slick professional dubbing, most often from Titra sound studios. They
never would have let anything as sloppy as this get released. In fact, before tiny studios took over, the American distributors dubbed over their own Jap imports because
the international dubs were so bad. Let us be thankful that Warren was
never the domestic distributor for a Godzilla movie! It would seem the
Mexican stuff came cheaper.)
- A 70 minute movie feels like three hours. (And that right there sums up a Warren import better than anything else I could say.)