Up until this point The Dead Don’t Die plays very much like a film noir. It is a murder mystery where the cops have already punished the man they think is responsible for the killing. Here is where things get interesting thought. When Don starts to dig he is approached by a mysterious woman named Vera who warns him to leave town. Almost immediately after that he chases a man that looks just like his dead brother into a nearby antique shop and accidentally kills the proprietor in a scuffle. He wakes up in Vera’s apartment and starts to piece together the mystery. Turns out it was his brother, who is now a zombie, and that there is a zombie master plying his craft in the city! Yeah, it went from mystery to horror just like that. All of this leads to a big finale where Don faces the man who framed his brother and has been trying to kill him.
I can’t say much more than I have without spoiling things. I loved this movie, so I really don’t want to do that. The story is quick paced clocking in with a seventy four minute runtime that was typical of made for television projects like this. There isn’t a wasted scene as we start with the brothers in the jail cell and quickly move to Chicago and the zombie plot line. Characters pop in and out of the story but none seem throwaway and all move things along. This is a well written script, which considering it was from the legendary Robert Bloch isn’t that surprising. When you have Psycho and The House that Dripped Blood I guess you know what you are doing.
Finally the cast is excellent. Our main character is the always reliable George Hamilton who we just saw in The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver. Here he is solid as the brother trying to unravel the mystery of his brother’s framing for murder. The filmmakers double down with an excellent supporting cast as well. Ray Milland (The Uninvited) is helpful dance hall owner and ally Jim Moss. The always welcome to see Ralph Meeker (The Food of the Gods, Without Warning) is the local policeman. Hollywood legend Joan Blondell and genre favorite Yvette Vickers (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Attack of the Giant Leeches) have supporting roles. We even get a pre-Kurt Barlow Reggie Nadler. There is a lot of talent in front of as well as behind the camera.
I could keep gushing but is it necessary? This is why I love these made for television flicks. They allowed creative folks to cast old school actors and because they had to work within limited budgets and under the watchful eye of television censors, they had to lean into quality writing and acting. I highly recommend The Dead Don’t Die.
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