Brain Waves
Brain Waves
John Carradine: B-Movie Man

surfzombie When I was doing research on early zombie films, I noticed how often the name of John Carradine kept popping up, and I decided to look more into the career of this prolific actor. It turned out that he has been in over 200 films, many of which were in the horror genre. Used mainly as a character actor, he had very few starring roles in the films in which he appeared, but the horror genre seemed to be where he had the highest percentage of leads, and he was making horror movies long after he stopped work in other genres.

He was billed in his first film at the age of 26, in Tol'able David (1930). In the 30's, his films were mainly in genres other than horror, although he appeared in The Invisible Man in 1933. In the early to mid 30's he had very small roles in all the genres he was involved in. As the end of the 30's drew near, he finally began to make a name for himself. The decade ended with a larger role in The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1939.

In the 40's, as his roles got bigger, the number of movies he was in grew smaller, but the majority of them were still not in the horror genre. The horror movies that he was in were mainly the sequels of the classics from the 30's, but he did make his first appearances in zombie films in this decade. Starting with Revenge of the Zombies in 1943, in which he starred, he went on to also star in Voodoo Man (1944), billed only after Bela Lugosi, and Face of Marble (1946). These three were probably his best zombie film efforts.

In the 50's his output dwindled and his starring roles began to decrease again, but he kept accepting roles, no matter how small, and no matter how poor the movie budget. He graced several B-movies with his presence in the 50's, including Invisible Invaders in 1959, where he plays a dead doctor reanimated by aliens.

In the 60's, his horror movie output finally exceeded his output in other genres. Ironically, his movies and his number of starring roles increased again, but only because he appeared in so many terrible films. Zombie films in this decade were the much ridiculed Dr. Terror's Gallery of Horrors (1966) and The Astro-Zombies (1969).

As the 70's rolled around, Carradine was churning out schlock with renewed vigor despite his advancing age. (In 1970 he would have been 64.) Working almost exclusively in horror films, Carradine was in three more zombie movies, Blood of Ghastly Horror (1972), The House of Seven Corpses (1974) and Shock Waves (1977). Shock Waves was his last entry in the zombie genre.

Because of his increasing frailty, the 80's were a slow decade for Carradine. The last movie that he appeared in, Jack-O (1995), was released seven years after his death. Up to the end, though, he was accepting roles in movies that were undistinguished except for his presence.

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