The Living Ghost/A Walking Nightmare/Lend Me Your Ear (1942)

The_Living_Ghost_(1942)‘Why is it there’s a butler in every murder mystery?’

A rich businessman disappears overnight from his mansion and, with the police baffled, the family hire an ex-detective to track him down. The plot thickens when the missing man turns up as a living zombie. Medical experts agree that his condition has been induced, but why? And who is responsible?

Fairly typical low budget murder mystery from Monogram Studios. lt’s essentially an ‘old dark house’ set up with plenty of suspects amongst the rich man’s relatives and domestic staff. Detective Nick Trayne clashes with the old man’s feisty young secretary before the two team up to tackle the case. lt’s a love-hate relationship, of course, and the banter is surprisingly witty for this level of production with leads James Dunn and Joan Woodbury striking some effective sparks. Woodbury was obviously the right girl for the job, having previous experience with ‘The King of the Zombies’ (1941) as well as a couple of the Charlie Chan films. She was also one of Dr. Praetorius’ experiments in miniaturisation in ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935).

The_Living_Ghost_(1942)

After failing her trial for Queens Park Rangers, Joan decided to try out for the Ghostbusters…

The mystery itself is nothing too remarkable really; remove the ‘zombie’ angle and there’s really nothing left. Some medical types give us some meaningless jibber-jabber about all that; apparently it’s all down to ‘freezing brain cells’ which can be done with a machine. And, what’s more, this remarkable piece of equipment is available by mail order— no questions asked! The plot doesn’t really hang together particularly well but, as things move so briskly, it’s not an overwhelming problem.

As per usual, the prolific William ‘One Shot’ Beaudine (he didn’t believe in re-takes!) directs with brutal efficiency and, to be fair, achieves an end product far better than his wretched horrors with Bela Lugosi: ‘The Ape Man’ (1943) and John Carradine: ‘Billy The Kid Vs. Dracula’ (1966).

Leading man James Dunn had an interesting career. After a sudden breakthrough as a juvenile lead in Frank Borzage’s ‘Bad Girl (1931), he appeared singing and tap dancing alongside Shirley Temple in her first three films. Unfortunately, issues with the bottle followed and by the late 1930s, he had a reputation as unreliable, leading to his exclusion from the major studios and appearances in poverty row pictures such as this. An unlikely comeback followed courtesy of a Best Supporting Oscar win for Elia Kazan’s ‘A Tree Grows ln Brooklyn‘ (1945) where he played an alcoholic, appropriately enough. A new film career did not take, however, and he finished as a familiar face on TV in dramas and comedies throughout the 1950s and the 1960s until his death.

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