Sunday, 10 June 2012

White Zombie

"White Zombie" (1932, Victor Halperin, United Artists) is credited as the first 'feature length' zombie movie and is the inspiration for the band, White Zombie, 's name... clearly!

It stars Béla Lugosi as Murder Legendre, a Voodoo witch doctor, on Haiti.

Neil Parker (John Harron) and his beautiful fiancé, Madeleine Short (Madge Bellamy) arrive in Haiti in order to be married. They are invited to the home of a rich plantation owner named Mr. Beaumont (Robert Frazer). Unbeknownst to them, Beaumont plans to turn Madeleine into a zombie slave for himself, using the powers of Legendre.

Beaumont's plans go awry, however, when Legendre changes his mind and opts to keep Madeleine for himself! Can Parker and his friend, Dr. Bruner (Joseph Cawthorne) save Madeleine from a fate worse than death?!

A silverscreen original, in the typical Lugosi style; lit up eyes and over dramatic posturing. But I love it!

This film did terribly in its original box office ratings, as it was released at a time when other movies of a similar genre were flooding the market and it used many props from other films in order to keep the costs down.

The acting was criticised at the time, but I find it to be typical of the 1930s horrors. Again, if you're not a fan of old, creaky horrors, this film is not for you! It's long and quiet and you can see where the scenes have been edited in the cutting room. Also the screeching of the vultures become monotonic and annoying after a while! I find this quaint and interesting, but it may just distract you from the story.

The makeup is impressive for the time, I especially enjoyed the zombie chauffeur!

All in all, it's an old movie, and its charms are only valid to enthusiasts like me. "White Zombie" is a traditional zombie movie; no infected monkeys, no solanum virus, no Umbrella Corporation, no running zombies, just plain old walking undead under the control of a ruthless Vodun priest.

"With these eyes he rendered her powerless!"
[Picture: United Artists]