In comparison with the decades that bracketed it, the 1940s was a fallow decade for horror. Universal’s Classic Monsters of the 1930s spent the decade criss-crossing sequels and being lampooned by Abbott and Costello, while the Atomic Age giant bugs and Communist/McCarthy parallels of such flicks as INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS weren’t yet a twinkle in any director’s eye. An analysis of what lie in between yields some matter of interest. Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi would also remain prominent through the 40s, though not in the roles that brought them fame. Some of their output would be through low budget studios such as Monogram and Republic, the “Poverty Row” outlets, known for their cheapie knockoffs of Universal’s higher minded films. Meanwhile, the low-key, psychological horror of Val Lewton’s films made him the genre’s producer of the decade, with flicks such as CAT PEOPLE and I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE well-regarded to this day.
Underneath all that, a proliferation of modest horror flicks made the scene, many of which are forgotten today; some deservedly so, some regrettably. They run the traditional gamut of creatures, with vampires, zombies and body snatchers among others. Even the bad ones have their inherent charms.
In the coming weeks, I’ll take a look at a number of these here at Death Ensemble. I’ll start with two drastically different zombie films, Jacques Tourneur’s aforementioned I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, and Jean Yarbrough’s KING OF THE ZOMBIES.
So join me as I take a look at the dismembered destiny of the 1940s, a decade which produced the Wolf Man, and a whole lot more.