I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE

 


 

 

 

About the director

Jacques Tourneur

"...A horrible title for a very good film - the best film I've ever done in my life."

 

Born November 12, 1904, in Paris, France. Died Dec. 19, 1977 in Bergerac, France.

Tourneur became involved in film thru his father, the director Maurice Tourneur. Using the pseudonym Jack Turner, Jacques Tourneur began directing short films after a time of apprenticing as a script boy and editor for his father. Val Lewton hired him as a second-unit director for the Selznick film A Tale of Two Cities in 1935.

There has long been debate about how much Tourneur versus Lewton is responsible for the moodiness and the high quality of the appearance of the Lewton RKO "B-films." Mainstream filmographers tend to credit Tourneur for this as it corresponds to the film-school rule of thumb that the director originates the identity of a film overall. On the other hand, Lewton was not the usual producer of films, and though his involvement was rarely obtrusive (Lewton is summed up as a "benevolent David O. Selznick" in Scorsese's A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies), it is still evident that Lewton contributed in a number of ways, besides the frequent last-drafts he would work on his film scripts.

Perhaps the best approximation of this is the characterization given the team of Lewton/Tourneur in Banzak's book Fearing The Dark: The Val Lewton Career:

...one can only wonder why Tourneur's ghostly hand seems so prevalent in the Lewton films made after his departure from the unit. It is entirely possible that "the Tourneur touch" and the "Lewton touch" were but fragmented halves of a single phenomenon.

 

Tourneur went on to direct "noir" classics like From Out Of The Past (1948) and the highly esteemed British/American horror film Night of the Demon (USA title: Curse of the Demon)(1958). Tourneur's visuals for the Lewton films, and others, like Demon, have long been imitated by other directors. Kept from having full control over his films, Tourneur often found himself prevented from making final edits, or in the case of Night of the Demon, even suffering scenes reshot and inserted by the producer after completion (Hal E. Chester inserted explicit shots of the demon creature into the final print, something both Tourneur and the writer Charles Bennett argued against, such to an extent Bennett wanted his name pulled from the credits after seeing Chester's edits. Dana Andrews, the star of the film, remembered in a 1973 interview that Chester was a "little son-of-a-bitch" and resented his meddling with the film, which he had taken on in order to work with Tourneur.)

 

 

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"Tourneur's tendency to chronicle the exploits of an outsider trying to cope within a foreign environment provides a continuous thread that runs through most of his work. [Jean-Pierre Coursodon, in American Directors, Vol.1]...notes that though Tourneur's protagonists may "have conspiratorial motives of their own, [they] nevertheless fall prey to larger and more unpredictable conspiracies.'"

From Ed Banzak's Fearing the Dark: The Val lewton Career, McFarland and Company, 1995.

 

"We complemented one another, never argued. We sailed together often but nothing extraordinary ever happened; we just relaxed and made a point of never discussing films. Usually he was easy-going and between pictures tended to put on weight. He never got drunk or arrested or ran around or did anything crazy. We worked so well together. At the time it apeared beneficial for both of us to split up but now I realize that it was a mistake."

Jacques Tourneur, as quoted in Joel Siegel's Val Lewton: The Reality of Terror, The Cinema One Series, The Viking Press, 1973.

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