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The Walking Dead (1936)

Posted on December 19, 2015

The Walking Dead (1936): Revenge and Zombies

Dawn Keetley

In 1936, Warner Brothers released a (now) little-known film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Boris Karloff, the title of which is nonetheless very well-known: The Walking Dead. I watched it recently because . . . well, because of the title! It turned out to be pretty interesting—and actually quite relevant to fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead and zombie fans in general.

Karloff plays John Ellman, a man who is framed by a group of corrupt city leaders for the murder of a judge. Two witnesses of the murder come forward to clear Ellman in the minutes before his scheduled execution—but, they’re too late. It turns out, however, that they work for a man, Dr. Evan Beaumont (Edward Gwenn), who just happens to be able to reanimate the dead, and who is desperate to find out what secrets lie beyond the grave. Beaumont brings Ellman back to life in a process that involves the standard test tubes and jolts of electricity. Although apparently alive, Ellman has virtually no memory—indeed little consciousness at all. But he does seem uncannily able to recognize the men who framed him. He sets out on a course of revenge.

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