The Face of Marble (1946) 1 brain1 brainhalf brain

Where would mid-20th-century zombie films have been without John Carradine? He seems to have been destined to play the obsessed scientist trying to bring the dead back to life, at least in this genre. Face of Marble is one of his earlier zombie outings, nicely illustrating the transition of the public from fear of the mystical unknown of folklore to fear of the even more mystical nuclear-age science. The 1940s saw the rise of Scientist as Bad Guy, riding the images of mechanized horror from World War II. Even well-intentioned scientists became figures of suspicion, dabbling in powers that they ultimately could not control. The 1940s weren't a sharp division, of course, with Frankenstein being the obvious exception, but the general trend is there.

In Face of Marble, Dr. Charles Randolph (Carradine) is experimenting with his assistant Dr. David Cochran (Robert Shayne) on ways to bring the dead back to life. They live and work in a remote beach house, with other members of the house including Randolph's young wife Elaine (Claudia Drake), Elaine's faithful servant Maria (Rosa Rey), and the butler Shadrach (Willie Best). Elaine has fallen in love with David because he pays more attention to her than Charles does. Maria has noticed this, and plans to use her voodoo powers to somehow bring the two together.

The first experiment with reanimation has only limited success, and the subject is unaccountably hostile during the brief time he is animate. Undaunted, Charles kills Elaine's Great Dane, Brutus, and persuades David to help him revive Brutus, this time with somewhat better success. Brutus is still hostile toward the two men, but this time he stays animated. In addition, he seems to be able to become immaterial at will, walking through closed windows and doors and letting bullets pass through him, but still able to physically attack things. Brutus runs off into the night.

As Elaine is wondering where Brutus is, David's fiancee Linda (Maris Wrixon) shows up, muddling Maria's plans for love. It turns out that Maria can use her voodoo to control Brutus, and she uses him to try to get rid of Linda. It's interesting that this movie shows more faith in magic than in science, in that Maria can control what the scientists can't, even though they created it.

One could argue over whether the movie is dealing with zombies, ghosts, or some hybrid, but the key elements of the zombie film are there: voodoo, bringing the dead back to life, and the undead being hostile because, well, they're undead. Regardless, this is a passable little budget film with an interesting place in zombie film history.