Sunday, January 6, 2008


Zombie movies are...flawed at times. Even the best of them have their weaknesses. I must be truly winding down the list of partial-zombie movies because these movies just keep getting worse and worse and worse. Sometimes, however they are unforgivable. Nearly every bad horror director in the last 75 years has had his say in the zombie genre and I'd go so far as to say one can judge the career of a director by the quality of his zombie movie (Vampire movies often get away with much more than other genre flicks and Mummy movies are nearly impossible to make better than average). Jesús Franco, Joe D'Amato, Danny Boyle, John Gilling, Umberto Lenzi, Ed Cahn, George A. Romero. All these men performed at their absolute best and worst while making their zombie movies and one can get a sense of exactly the kind of filmmakers they were by watching them. This principle is given fresh, terrifying life when you watch a truly risable piece of trash like The Living Ghost and are able to sum up the career of it's director in a few swear words. William Beaudine was one of the worst directors to hold a megaphone and his refusal to shoot more than one take of any scene earned him the nickname "one shot"; Now there's a legacy a man can envy. For everyone who thinks that Plan 9 is the worst movie ever made, let me point you in the direction of Billy The Kid Versus Dracula and you'll see what it looks like when a real shithead got near a camera. Beaudine's ability to crank out westerns for 7 dollars and his zenlike ability to not give a good goddamn how his movies looked places him in a vangaurd of terrible directors few will ever know. If you have any trouble with this idea check out The Living Ghost without the aid of drugs or alcohol.

The Living Ghost
by William Beaudine

This review will be short as it mostly serves to prove a point more than anything and I had a hard enough time getting through this one to linger too long over it's dead body. The Living Ghost starts with the disappearance of an eccentric millionaire and the bickering family left behind. Things go as routinely as could be expected of a rich, snotty movie family from the 40s (Like an even more unbearable version of the family from My Man Godfrey) but any hope of a decent outcome is shot to death when someone suggests seeking the help of an even more eccentric detective to help in the search. To make an unreasonably long story (for a 61 minute movie) short they discover somebody had turned the missing millionaire into a zombie the reason for which is explained in the lame conclusion. But between conflict and resolution we are treated to the most annoying fast-talking detective and naive society girl plot one could fit into such a small space. The movie feels twice it's length because of the stupid blathering, witless name-calling, and horny sub-antics of James Dunn's investigator praying on Joan Woodbury's dim rich girl (she did roughly the same thing in King Of The Zombies, another winner). In the reviews of most 40s horror films, people will tell you about the annoying appearance of the comic relief and how it detracts from the plot; In this case it seems to be the plot getting in the way of the driest, most painfully unfunny comedic dialogue screenwriter Joseph Hoffman could think to give Dunn. That Beaudine had no concern for how this movie was going to turn out and seemed content to let James Dunn chew the scenery with a knife and fork shows clearer than the fact that this movie had no hopes of being even nominally frightening. The Living Ghost is just annoying from start to finish, so much so that I wish it on my enemies.

Watching The Living Ghost will give you a more in-depth look at Beaudine's career than if you read a biography or tribute. He was and shall remain a lazy son of a bitch, the John Carradine of the camera and the sheer volume of his body of work means that there is much more evidence of his tragic career than Ed Wood, Coleman Francis, Al Adamson, & Bert I. Gordon combined. Let this serve as a warning: Don't assume you've hit rock bottom until you know you can't sink any lower, because undoubtedly people will watch Attack Of The Giant Leeches or Zombie 3 and assume things can't get any worse. It can always get worse. Also, when you get it in your head to watch all of a kind, you are undertaking something far greater (and in many cases far, FAR worse) than yourself. Rest assured, I love zombie movies, but, I can only imagine if instead of seeing Dawn of the Dead in the third grade, I'd seen Black Christmas. I'd have a much more arduous task ahead of me than I do now.

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