I watched the 1946 Republic movie Valley of the Zombies on Netflix. It was actually quite good, despite the fact that there really is no valley or any zombies to speak of. The valley of the title was only mentioned by the villain of the movie, Ormond Murks, played wonderfully by Ian Keith. He is a zombie, but only in title. He claims to have discovered a potion in the aforementioned valley that made him virtually dead, but he needs blood transfusions to continue to survive.
Murks isn’t a post Night of the Living Dead zombie, of course, since this was made over twenty years prior. But he’s not the Voodoo zombie of films like The Zombie King or White Zombie, either. In fact, there is really nothing zombie-ish about him at all. Despite that, he steals the movie with his almost, but not-quite over-the-top escaped mental patient role (an escaped mental patient “zombie”).
Clocking in at only fifty-six minutes long, his is a B-movie in the classic sense, and has all the elements that make B-movies great. The use of shadow and light is wonderful, and one of my favorite line deliveries is in the beginning when Murks tells one of his former doctors, “My wants are simple, Dr. Maynard. Very simple…blood.” There are also some nice details. For example, when the male and female leads, played by Robert Livingston and Lorna Gray respectively, enter a supposedly abandoned house, one of them lights a candelabra and there are only two candles intact, one worn down more than the other – instead of three fresh candles just waiting for the intruders.
Yes, there’s the typical scene of a hand emerging from the shadows, flexing menacingly about to grab the unaware heroine by the neck, but no! The male lead turns to face her just in time, and the hand retreats, unseen by either of the leads. Then, when the male lead turns his back to the female again, out comes the hand…but no! Male lead turns just in time, hand retreats, and the two leads are still none-the-wiser.
Of course, given the time the movie was made, the female lead has typical lines like, “You might need help, and I’m good at screaming.” And even though she plays a nurse, she gets squeamish at the sight of a dead body.
But if you want a good, classic B-movie to watch late at night, try this one out. I bet you won’t be disappointed.