WHITE ZOMBIE (1932)

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White Zombie CoverCome, my child. Come lay your hands upon thy keyboard thusly. And prey -- PREY! -- for a decent 68 minute movie made in 1932. For it will be Directed by: Victor Halperin; and will star such Actors as: Béla Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, John Harron, with Robert Frazer. Amen. And may thy Lord have mercy on your soul!


White Zombie


THE STORY:
Forgive me, Madeleine (Madge Bellamy). Please forgive me for doing what I had done to you. It was merely a few days ago when I first went to visit the well known Haitian witchdoctor, 'Murder' Legendre (Béla Lugosi), with the intent of stopping you from marrying your fiancé, Neil Parker (John Harron).

But alas. It didn't turn out like this, did it, my beloved? After you tied the knot with your intended spouse, Murder suddenly killed you and then he brought you back to life, only to transform you into a soulless and lifeless zombie I see before me today.

Yet please remember, Madeleine, it wasn't meant to be like this! Please. You've got to believe me. I never meant you any harm, or for Neil to turn into a mindless drunk after your demise.

Then again, that's most probably why what next transpires gets rather lifeless when Murder taps me on the shoulder and says, 'Don't worry, Lord Beaumont (Robert Frazer), because the best is yet to come!'. As a bereaved fiancé travels to the badlands - a Haitian witchdoctor keeps on playing with his hands - a group of zombies won't sport a quiff - and at the end of the day, most of the cast jump of off a cliff.




THE REVIEW:
Essentially I'd say 'White Zombie' is one of those old black and white films where a pious Lord tries to stop the love of his life from marrying someone else. But instead of him putting a stop to these nuptials on his own -- Ha! Fat chance of that happening -- what he ends up doing is going to a Haitian witchdoctor -- as played fabulously by Béla Lugosi -- who eventually takes matters into his own hands and, well, blah-blah-blah.

White Zombie Starring Madge Bellamy with Robert Frazer
Now please don't take what I've just said the wrong way, dear reader, as I did like watching this movie an awful lot. Even though the story-line in itself was nothing new compared to today's standards -- although it could have been in 1932 -- what I found most surprising about it was how well composed it was on screen.

In some scenes you were able to see the actors in the background through objects or well placed ornaments artistically placed in the foreground. Where as at other times there were these rather pithy transitional effects placed over the film, where you could see tight close-up shots of Béla's luminous eyes, or maybe a blurred hypnotic effect that could easily put you to sleep.

No. I wasn't put to sleep whilst watching this flick, folks. If anything it had a real spring in its step. As if it's overall well-polished ambience was somehow able to overpower the somewhat staged acting on show.

Well. Let's face it. This piece was made in the early thirties. So you have to expect some sort of dated performance, as well as the fairly mumbled sound design as well. What's more, considering its age, this adventure wasn't that bad when you compare it to some of the zombie films you have on offer today. For instance, you have the simple premise anyone can follow. You have a cast of nicely archetypal characters. And you have the oldie-worldie style of setting, comprising of stone-built castles, leafy meadows, plus elegantly lavished ball rooms and grand halls.


White Zombie Starring Béla Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, with Robert Frazer



White Zombie Starring Béla Lugosi
Yeah. That's right, movie mates. This film has it all. Including the following filmic-facts! (1) 'United Artists' first released this $50 thousand dollar production in America on the exact same day 'The Bonus Army' invaded Washington. It was on the 28th of July, 1932. (2) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'March Of The Living Dead' in Finland; 'The Walking Dead' in France; and 'White Ghosts' in Sweden. (3) The majority of this movie was shot at 'RKO-Pathé Studios', Washington Boulevard; 'Universal Studios', Universal City, as well as Bronson Canyon, Griffith Park; all situated within the American state of California. (4) This film was loosely based on a Broadway play developed by Kenneth Webb entitled 'Zombie'. However, Kenneth never discovered this fact until after the event, and successfully sued the production company accordingly. (5) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, was, 'The Dead Walk Among Us!'. (6) According to the musician, Rob Zombie, he named his very first heavy metal band after this very same movie. Can't remember the name of them though? Can you? Ha! (7) To cut down on production costs, this flick reused the 'great hall set' from the 1931 Bram Stoker classic, 'Dracula', the 'hanging balcony set' from the 1923 Victor Hugo drama, 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame', the 'dark corridors' seen in the 1931 Mary Shelly opus, 'Frankenstein', and the chairs from the 1927 silent film, 'The Cat and the Canary'. (8) After this thriller punched an albino in the face, Béla Lugosi starred in the fantasy-adventure, 'Chandu the Magician'; Madge Bellamy starred in the crime-drama, 'Riot Squad'; and John Harron starred in the musical-comedy, 'Love Me Tonight'.


White Zombie Vintage 1932 Film Poster


Overall I'd say 'White Zombie' is a very nicely staged, composed, and thought out horror movie for any of your zombie fans out there. So if you're ever in the mood for some Béla Lugosi action, or the sight of a group of Justin Beiber fans jumping off of a tall cliff, here, try this one on for size. As you never know, you might like it. I did.

Nuff said.

THE RATING: B+