Dead That Walk, The

Rating: 
4
The Dead That Walk
Review by The Werewolf of London, submitted on 19-Jul-1991

Author:Halliwell, Leslie
Title: The Dead That Walk
Publisher: Grafton Books, London
Date: 1986
ISBN: 0-246-12834-8

Writing a book review is never easy; but when the book is itself a collection of reviews and commentary it reminds me of the difference between physics and meta-physics, of mathematics and meta-mathematics: you *think* you're talking about the same kind of thing, but you're not. There's no plot, no characters, nothing traditional to discuss. What there is, is Leslie Halliwell's opinions and encyclopedic knowledge of film, applied to the genre of classic horror.

To be specific, to the Universal and Hammer films which were inspired by just three "monster" movies -- in more than one sense of the word: Dracula (1930), Frankenstein (1931), and The Mummy (1932). These and their spawn have shocked movie-goers for six decades. Halliwell tells us when, who, why and how.

As Halliwell writes in his introduction: No matter now many new concepts are added to the remoter galleries in the cinema's chamber of horrors, affection and admiration still vividly linger for the original three mythic figures exemplifying various forms of the walking dead: Dracula, the Mummy, and the Frankenstein monster. These living corpses, having transfixed two or three more naive genera- tions, are now accepted ... as amiable eccentrics who have a perfect right to their peculiarities. They may have been dead to begin with, but the public does not insist that they lie down; and so this is the story of how they originally came to exist on the printed page, of how the cinema taught them to walk if not talk, and of how, having once been reanimated in the public imagination, they refused to die again.

In three separate essays, Halliwell traces these myths of the undead. In each the literary sources come first, followed by their treatments at Universal in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, and at Hammer until their demise in the 1970's. The most noteworthy cinematic additions since then are also mentioned. In a brief appendix, he also catalogues films about zombies and similar animated undead.

Yet this is no mere catalogue, no dry-as-dust unearthing of films ancient and modern. Halliwell's keen insight into the personalities behind the films, his analysis of how each basic storyline grows and expands, and his dissection of every flawed remake leaves one breathless with their clarity, humour and wit. The text is fleshed out with dozens of black-and-white stills and excerpts of various shooting scripts, including some scenes cut from the original films.

Any devotee of the classic horror films will treasure this book. My only wish is that I didn't have to return it to the library tomorrow.

Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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