The Dead Don’t Die is a 1975 made-for-television neo-noir American horror film set in the 1930s directed by Curtis Harrington (Night Tide; Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?; The Killer Bees) from a screenplay by Robert Bloch (based upon Bloch’s story of the same name that first appeared in Fantastic Adventures, July 1951).
Bloch’s opinion of the movie is given in his autobiography, Once Around the Bloch: “The Dead Don’t Die. Maybe they don’t, but the show did. Despite Curtis’s casting of accomplished character actors, their supporting roles couldn’t prop up the lead. And Ray Milland, who had given such a deftly paced performance in my script for Home Away from Home, merely plodded through his part here like a zombie without a deadline.”
The film stars George Hamilton (Love at First Bite), Linda Cristal, Joan Blondell, Ralph Meeker (The Food of the Gods; Without Warning), James McEachin, Reggie Nalder, Ray Milland (The Uninvited; The Premature Burial; Frogs), Jerry Douglas, Milton Parsons, William O’Connell and Yvette Vickers (Attack of the Giant Leeches).
Director Curtis Harrington, commenting in his autobiography Nice Guys Don’t Work in Hollywood, said: “I chose Reggie Nalder to play the zombie at the center of the film. Reggie’s strange and pockmarked face limited hi to playing such sinister roles. Both Hitchcock and Fellini had used him, so I was in good company. The network executives, with their usual lack of judgement, had someone else in mind who would have brought nothing to the part. Fortunately, [producer] Doug Cramer agreed with me , and he fought the executives and won.”
1934: Don Drake (George Hamilton), a sailor, is called back to Chicago only to discover that his brother is on death row for murdering his wife. Unable to save him from the electric chair, Drake is nonetheless convinced of his brother’s innocence and is determined to clear his name. His searches lead him to the Loveland Ballroom, where his brother was involved in a dance marathon run by Jim Moss (Ray Milland), and where the murder allegedly happened. Soon, the pursuit turns supernatural, as Drake begins seeing his dead brother walking the foggy streets and a man (Reggie Nalder) Drake seemingly killed climbs out of a coffin and attacks him…
“Like most of the TV films of the 70s, it’s not very long, but in it’s brief running time manages a few creepy moments and the climax in a meat storage facility is brilliant and atmospheric, with a nice twist in the tale.” The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth
“… as charming as the precision-timed fade-outs are – lingering shots of an actor’s face wearing the expression of shocking, new information, meant to cue intrusive commercials – The Dead Don’t Die is far more than just a piece of retro TV ephemera.” Cullen Gallagher, Not Coming to a Theater Near You
“As a whole, The Dead feels like a film noir’s themes had stumbled into an RKO horror movie that for its part has found itself inexplicably entwined with the visual and emotional world of the melodrama.” Wtf-Film
“It’s surreal within its perpetual-night atmosphere, with everyone behaving sinisterly.” John Stanley, Creature Features
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