Among the Living is a nifty B picture from Paramount that, while not a horror film per se, has a lot of connections to the horror genre. In it, a man returns to his hometown to bury his recently-deceased father and take over the family business. While there, he finds out that his crazy twin brother, whom he and everybody else had believed to have died when he was ten, is actually still alive and being clandestinely kept and cared-for in a hidden basement room of the family mansion by the loyal family servant. As luck would have it, the insane twin kills the servant and escapes only minutes before the good brother goes to retrieve him. The rest of the film deals with the good twin trying to find the mad twin before the police find out about him and/or he kills again. Let’s just say that he isn’t entirely successful in his endeavor.
Now, about Among the Living’s horror connections: director Stuart Heisler made Among the Living for Paramount right after finishing The Monster and the Girl (also for Paramount); top-billed actor Albert Dekker had played the titular role in the previous year’s Dr. Cyclops (at Paramount, of course); and fourth-billed Frances Farmer was just two years away from beginning her real-life horror story. The strongest link to the horror genre, however, is provided by the writers. Brian Marlow, who co-wrote the story of the film, had written Supernatural, the Halperin Brothers’ follow-up to White Zombie. Lester Cole, who co-wrote both the story and the screenplay, had written The Invisible Man Returns for Universal the previous year. The real star of the writing staff, though, was co-screenwriter Garrett Fort. Fort had a hand in writing some of the ultra-classics from Universal’s so-called “Golden Age of Horror,” including Frankenstein, Dracula, and its sequel, Dracula’s Daughter. He also wrote MGM’s The Devil Doll for Dracula director Tod Browning. So, with all that horror-associated talent both in front of and, especially, behind the camera, Among the Living easily earns its spot in the Psychotronic Encyclopedia.
Here are a few things to look for as you watch the film: Susan Hayward shows up in an early role as a girl with questionable motives (a film noir staple– this is another of those films that definitely qualifies as a proto-noir) who befriends the crazy twin; you might recognize Maude Eburne, who plays Susan Hayward’s character’s mother, from The Vampire Bat (and then again, you may not); and last and most definitely least, if you look closely when the insane twin walks by a movie theater, there’s an ad outside the theater for one of director Stuart Heisler’s previous films, The Biscuit Eater.
Among the Living is a largely forgotten film from the heyday of Hollywood, and it’s a shame that more people don’t know about it. It’s even more of a shame that nobody (and by nobody, I mean Universal Studios, which owns most of the pre-1948 Paramount films) has ever seen fit to release it to the home video market in the United States (although I’m willing to bet that tripe like the Olivia Newton-John stinker Xanadu has never been out of print since its initial release over 30 years ago). But that’s a rant for another day.
Since the only way to currently watch Among the Living is via awful 3rd- or 4th-generation bootlegs, you might as well not have to pay for that privilege–since it’s on YouTube for you to enjoy for free! I can’t embed it, but you can still check it out here:
Up next: a Russian guy with gills!