The Dead That Walk
By Leslie Halliwell
Published by Continuum Publishing Company, 1986. 262 Pages.
Hold on to your seats, folks, this is going to be a long and bumpy ride. The main thing I really learned from this book is that the author Halliwell doesn’t seem to like most of the movies that he writes about here. So I’m not really sure why he would have spent the time writing a book on movies that he didn’t care for. I mean, wouldn’t you figure out halfway through that it just wasn’t a subject you wanted to pursue any further?
There are multiple occasions where he points out the plot point mistakes of several of the Universal films of the 30’s and 40’s, where the sequels don’t start up where the last one left off exactly. I don’t think Universal was that worried about too much, since most of their audiences were probably young kids anyway. But he makes this point with just about every movie sequel, including the Hammer films as well. Which I did find strange since Hammer seemed like they really did try to line up their series pretty well.
There’s a quote on the back calling Halliwell “The world’s foremost encyclopedist”. Well, I found several times where there was incorrect information in this book. While some of these psycho-babble books see more hidden messages in the movie, Halliwell also sees visual things in the movie that isn’t there. For example, he states that in the beginning of Hammer’s Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, that the girl stuffed into the bell is naked. Sorry folks, as much as I’d would have preferred that, she’s not naked. But there are other errors. In his synopsis of Brides of Dracula, he describes the original ending, where Van Helsing uses black magic to kill the vampire Baron Meinster. But this was never filmed, mainly due to Peter Cushing not wanting the character of Van Helsing going to the dark side, even to battle the vampire. But no where does Halliwell state that this is from a screenplay or original storyline, but describes it as if it was actually filmed. Then when talking about Hammer’s Kiss of the Vampire, he describes the ending, he says that it’s a “virtual reprise of The Brides of Dracula“. That’s because that original ending for Brides was finally used for Kiss, not re-used like Halliwell states. So in other words, his “encyclopedic” memory is missing a few pages.
But there’s more. In Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, he says that Peter Cushing’s Dr. Frankenstein is the director the asylum where Shane Briant is sentenced. Wrong again. He is the resident doctor after blackmailing the director. When Halliwell talks about the 1972 film Tales from the Crypt, he says that Cushing “came back from the grave on Valentine’s Day to give his wife a unexpected present.” Right there tells me he’s never seen the film. And while on the subject, there is a photo of him from the movie and the caption reads, “Peter Cushing returns for vengeance after some months underground. Some audiences wished that he had phoned in his message.”So we already know that he’s either never seen the film, or wasn’t really paying attention to it, but yet he is still going to criticize Cushing’s performance??? That’s the funny thing. Had he actually watched the movie, he would see, and I’m sure most fans would agree with me here, that not only is the Cushing segment probably the best in the film, but that his performance is one of his best in his career!
He states that Hammer’s first jump into the ‘muddy pool of female vampirism” was with Countess Dracula. Actually, that would have been Vampire Lovers that came first. And speaking of that film, Halliwell says Vampire Lovers was “found by most audiences to be too distasteful.” Then the part that really lost me was when he says “where was the fun in women loving women? Only a very small percentage of the audience could get any vicarious enjoyment out of that.” At first, I thought he was joking. But since the tone of the review was somewhat negative, I think he was serious. How could 14 and 15 year old boys get any enjoyment out of women loving women??? Good Lord.
Most of the book is filled with either plot synopses, or large chunks of literary stories that are reprinted. To me, this seems to waste a lot of space. But I will say that there are some screenplay text that is re-printed, showing parts that were never filmed. This is interesting since it shows us what was originally written, but never made it to the final print.
So overall, I really didn’t come away from this book learning any new, other than Halliwell needs to pay attention to more of what he’s watching and maybe only reviewing movies that he’s actually seen. It’s very disappointing to find so many errors by someone who is apparently held in such high regard when it comes to film reviews. Then again, maybe because he’s talking about the horror genre, he doesn’t think anybody is really going to care. Well, here at the Krypt….I damn well care!