Ironically there are no zombies in this film, but that shouldn’t keep audiences from enjoying it. VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES is one of Republic’s more entertaining B-horror films. It starts when a man in a black cape climbs on top of a roof where the office of Dr. Rufus Maynard (Charles Trowbridge) is located. He soon enters the doctor’s office and asks for blood, because he is desperately in need of some. We learn he’s a former mental patient named Ormand Murks (Ian Keith) who died in 1941.
Murks had a brain disorder and while he was locked up he would request blood transfusions. Apparently his death has not curbed his appetite for such things. It is suggested that Murks is a zombie, but he’s probably a vampire. Since Dr. Maynard has no more blood in the refrigerator Murks gets it from the next available source– the doctor himself. The scene where he approaches Maynard in order to extract blood from him is quite horrifying. It isn’t shown how he takes the blood, just that he takes it. The weird “transfusion” results in Maynard’s death.
Maynard’s handsome young assistant, Dr. Terry Evans (Robert Livingston) tries to figure out what happened. Evans is in love with an attractive nurse (Adrian Booth). Despite there being no discernible motive, a dimwitted police detective thinks they teamed up and killed Maynard. There’s a great interrogation scene when the nurse and young doctor are questioned at the local precinct. They’re released due to lack of evidence, but decide to solve the murder to clear themselves of any suspicion.
Livingston, who normally starred in B westerns at Republic, is quite good as the innocent doctor in this suspenseful tale. Booth (sometimes billed as Lorna Gray) worked across genres and seems to enjoy playing a woman scared of her own shadow. Together, the leads are very appealing. Philip Ford’s direction gets the job done, and the story is aided immeasurably by Reggie Lanning’s chiaroscuro lighting. In fact Lanning’s skill as cinematographer reminded me of John Alton’s work from this period.
There are haunting images and eerie music, along with plenty of ironic dialogue and jolts to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. The story’s running time is only 56 minutes so it all moves rather quickly and there are no dull moments. VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES was made during a time when horror seemed more innocent but was just as deadly and gruesome as ever.