HOME |  JOIN |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Shock Wave
Mom and Dad Save the World
Leatherface
Grimsby
Caniba
Bedroom, The
Dark Tower, The
Better Watch Out
Beguiled, The
Year of the Comet
Levelling, The
Dog Days
Annabelle Creation
Once Upon a Time in Shanghai
Sssssss
Woman in Question, The
Atomic Blonde
Doulos, Le
Okja
Bob le Flambeur
Wedding in White
Léon Morin, Priest
Napping Princess, The
Scorpions and Miniskirts
Berlin File, The
Beaches of Agnès, The
Blue Jeans
Garokawa - Restore the World
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Gleaners & I, The
   
 
Newest Articles
Music, Love and Flowers: Monterey Pop on Blu-ray
The Melville Mood: His Final Two Films on The Melville Collection Blu-ray
Always Agnès: 3 from The Varda Collection Blu-ray
Re: Possession of Vehicles - Killer Cars, Trucks and a Vampire Motorcycle
The Whicker Kicker: Whicker's World Vols 5&6 on DVD
The Empress, the Mermaid and the Princess Bride: Three 80s Fantasy Movies
Witching Hour: Hammer House of Horror on Blu-ray
Two Sides of Sellers: The Party vs The Optimists
Norse Code: The Vikings vs The Long Ships
Over the Moon - Space: 1999 The Complete Series on Blu-ray Part 2
   
 
  White Zombie Dead AliveBuy this film here.
Year: 1932
Director: Victor Halperin
Stars: Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, Joseph Cawthorn, Robert Frazer, John Harron, Brandon Hurst, George Burr Macannan, Frederick Peters, Annette Stone, John Printz, Dan Crimmins, Clarence Muse
Genre: Horror
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: An engaged couple, Madeleine (Madge Bellamy) and Neil (John Harron), have travelled all the way from a voyage to New York to stop off at Haiti, persuaded by someone they met on the journey, Beaumont (Robert Frazer). However, he has ulterior motives for coaxing them to this island community, the main one being that he has fallen in love with Madeleine and wishes to prevent the marriage going ahead. The couple are unaware of this, believing it will be a charming place to be wed, yet once they reach it they are disturbed by what they find: especially a local plantation owner called Murder Legendre (Bela Lugosi)...

After his role in Dracula made him a star, Lugosi quickly found his brooding, exotic European looks and strong accent typecast him as the bad guy, something that would colour practically every role he would take afterwards. He had made his name in Europe as a skilled performer of Shakespeare, but for ever more he would now be the "heavy" as he termed it, and White Zombie did little to help him escape that straightjacket. Such parts kept him working, certainly, but were also his professional undoing as he drifted into lower and lower budgeted films.

And yet, when you watch Lugosi in an effort such as this you're reminded what a vital presence in horror movies he was, even when they were not doing him any favours. As with his other endeavours, you cannot imagine anyone else playing his role, and Legendre is used by director Victor Halperin as an almost unknowable evil, weighed down by mystery about how precisely he came by his powers and how far he will go to exercise them. His motives appear to be financial at first, but as the story progresses you're not so sure and he seems to be putting victims in a trancelike state purely for the feeling of power it gives him.

Reputedly the first film to use the word "zombie", this was no George A. Romero gorefest, rather the more traditional voodoo-infused living dead of yore, so the zombie characters are more an extension of Legendre's personality as they do his bidding. He needs them as what is more or less slave labour to work on his plantations and in his mills, and in an eerie scene they are depicted turning huge wheels, oblivious to the fact that one of their number has fallen into the machinery to be crushed. Beaumont asks Legendre to help him out in winning Madeleine away from Neil with his sorcery, apparently unaware this will mean she becomes one of the undead as well.

The bride-to-be's death is staged and she is buried on the island, but it's all a hoax and she is removed from her coffin by Legendre's lackeys to live in his clifftop castle (are there many of those in Haiti?). She cannot speak, barely interacts with anyone, but she can play the piano, one of many curious details about this which offer it the atmosphere of a dream. But maybe not a nightmare, as while it may be a narrative concerning itself with the supernatural, it all comes over as being at some distance from its characters and their concerns; it's difficult to be anything but the detatched observer here, not least because the surviving prints are in such terrible shape, with a hissing and crackly soundtrack and murky look. In spite of that, Lugosi's otherworldliness, emphasised by the closeups on his eyes and hands, is the main boost to the sleepwalking pace and the best reason for watching.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 2107 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Who's the best?
Robin Askwith
Mark Wahlberg
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
Andrew Pragasam
Keith Rockmael
Paul Shrimpton
Ian Phillips
Jensen Breck
   

 

Last Updated: