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James O. (jimbo84) from FERGUS FALLS, MN
Reviewed on 4/16/2011...
I LOVE BELA Lugosi. Zombie movie fan? Then you should definitely check this out. An amazing movie!
One of Lugosi's better films as another master of the undead
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 08/28/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In many ways "White Zombie" is not only the first zombie movie it is also the last film in the baroque horror tradition of the silent films. This 1932 film directed by Victor Halperin was made for practically nothing even though is starred Bela Lugosi as "Murder" Legendre, in his first big role after the gigantic success of "Dracula," as the master of a different type of undead down in Haiti. The story is also that Lugosi apparently directed some of the retakes as well, so he may well have had more of an impact than usual on this one.
In "White Zombie," Monsieur Beaumont (Robert Frazer) convinces a young couple, Madeleine Short (Madge Bellamy) and Neil Parker (John Harron) to get married on his Haitian plantation. Amazingly enough, he does this so that he can convince Madeline to run away with him. Needing help, Beaumont turns to Legendre, who runs his mill with zombie workers. Legendre carves a voodoo doll and with Madeline's scarf turn her into a zombie as well. Neil thinks that his wife is dead and gets depressed, sinking into a world of hallucinations and fevered dreams, while Beaumont quickly discovers that he is dissatisfied with Madeline's soulless husk and wants her turned back (even though this will undoubtedly do nothing to improve their relationship). Instead, the fiendish Legendre turns Beaumont into a zombie as well, which actually makes the couple compatible for the first time in the film. Meanwhile, Neil is convinced by a local priest that maybe he is not a widow after all and he goes off to play the hero.
"White Zombie" never really frightens its audience, but instead sustains a high level of downright eeriness throughout, achieving its effect by taking such simple objects as the scarf used to wrap a voodoo doll or a rose containing poison and making them important elements in Lugosi's evil machinations. This film might be a talkie, but its sensibilities are those of the silent era, which actually works in its favor, even with Lugosi's distinctive accented voice. The result is a rather creepy film that ends up being an above average effort in Lugosi's career that I would put in his top five films."
What's in your head?
Andrew McCaffrey | Satellite of Love, Maryland | 11/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"WHITE ZOMBIE is credited as the first ever zombie movie, which makes it one of those films that inspired countless, paler imitations. I'd previously seen many of the lesser derivatives, but this was the first time for me to see the instigator. I hugely enjoyed it, which surprised me as I was watching, because I generally don't care much for zombies and this movie is generally weak in a lot of areas. But it has great atmosphere and the positives more than outweigh the negatives.
The characters are cleanly defined and don't vary at all from their introduction. We have the young couple. We have the young, selfish plantation owner. There's the friendly older doctor. The only character any way interesting is Bela Lugosi's witch doctor. And he absolutely steals the show.
The story is very simple. A man and his fiancé are due to be married in Haiti. While on the island and on their way to the church, a rich man invites them to stay at his mansion before the ceremony. Ostensively, the invitation is given because he claims to like the pair. But it turns out that his real motive is to steal the heart of the woman. But when she turns down his offers, he turns to a witch doctor to bend the laws of nature so that he can get some.
At this point, I offer a quiet word of advice to you, gentle reader. If the woman of your dreams rejects your advances and instead falls for another: move on. Get over it. It may take a few years, a few drinks and a few tears, but you'll be okay. It happens to all of us. Whatever you do, do not kill the woman and then try to make love to her reanimated corpse. It may have worked at your prom, but trust me, it won't work at anybody else's.
I've known a lot of zombies in films and TV shows over the years. These reanimated corpses have had a lot of work in the decades since their inception, but this is the first time I've ever actually found them creepy. Perhaps this is because they're less over-the-top here than they would become later. Since this is their first cinematic outing, maybe the filmmakers went gently with the concept to allow audiences to become familiar with the idea of the walking dead. In any case, they're very restrained here, which makes them extremely unsettling.
The film was made in 1932 and the production is relatively stagy and occasionally static. It's not a silent film, but it definitely looks like one. Indeed, it even sounds like one: the best moments come through great visuals rather than staggering dialog (and the scant dialog is weak at best). And there are some very effective scenes. Take the part where Bela Lugosi steals the woman's light scarf... and then later uses it in a voodoo spell. Or the genuinely spooky scenes of the zombies walking in long shot -- evil shadows slowly ambling across the darkened skyline. Or the zombie coach driver, adorned with a German Iron Cross (giving a fascinating hint at the previous life of this particular corpse).
Or take what is arguably the most unnerving scene in the film -- the sequence where the rich man visits the witch doctor and finds an entire factory (the actual purpose of which isn't explained) full of toiling zombies. I kept being reminded of the factory scenes in METROPOLIS only using zombies instead of proletariat. You really get the sense here that these are the living, walking dead instead of just underpaid extras with white makeup on. There are a number of great moments like this, virtually all atmospheric based on strong cinematography and solid acting (usually from Lugosi).
On the other hand, the audio is surprisingly good in a few places. Not necessarily with the dialog, but with the initial background music. There's a good deal of atmospheric chanting from the natives of the island of Haiti. I have no idea if this is authentic or merely some white person's idea of what such things should sound like, but in the context of the film it works extremely well. It's fantastic as far as establishing the setting and creating a mood.
The video picture and audio aren't great, but this is the Digiview Productions, one-dollar a pop version of the film, so I'm just happy I can see or hear anything. There no doubt exist more expensive versions of the film (and a quick search reveals several "restored" versions which I imagine are far superior in terms of image quality and sound), but this is a great way to see the film for the first time.
I don't usually like zombie movies, but I liked this one. So if you too dislike such films, you might want to give this one a try anyway. This is my favorite kind of horror film, where the menace comes more from mood and tone than from visible blood and gore. It's very good at what it sets out to do. I recommend this."
"15 Frightful Horror Films ... Bela Lugosi ... Passport Vide
J. Lovins | Missouri-USA | 10/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Passport Video presents "The Bela Lugosi Box - 15 Frightful Films" (1942) --- (Dolby digitally remastered) --- Béla Lugosi was the stage name of actor Béla Ferenc Dezs Blaskó (October 20, 1882 - August 16, 1956) --- Lugosi was born in Lugos, Hungary, at the time part of Austria-Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania), the youngest of four children of a baker --- best known for his portrayal of "Dracula" in the American Broadway stage production, and subsequent film, of Bram Stoker's classic vampire story.
Late in his life, he again received star billing in movies when filmmaker Edward D. Wood, Jr., a fan of Lugosi, found him living in obscurity and near-poverty and offered him roles in his films, such as "GLEN OR GLENDA?" (1953) (in which his role made no more sense than the rest of the movie) and as a Dr. Frankenstein-like mad scientist in "BRIDE OF THE MONSTER" (1955), during post-production of the latter, Lugosi entered treatment for his addiction, and the premier of the film was ostensibly intended to help pay for his treatment expenses. The extras on an early DVD release of "PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE" (1959) include an impromptu interview with Lugosi upon his exit from the treatment center, which provide some rare personal insights into the man --- this was one of Lugosi's most infamous roles was released after he was dead. Ed Wood (Director) features footage of Lugosi interspersed with a double --- Wood had taken a few minutes of silent footage of Lugosi, in his Dracula cape, for a planned vampire picture but was unable to find financing for the project --- Wood later conceived of Plan 9, Wood wrote the script to incorporate the Lugosi footage and hired his wife's chiropractor to double for Lugosi in additional shots --- notice however the "double" is thinner than Lugosi, and covers the lower half of his face with his cape in every shot --- Leonard Maltin (Famous Film Critic) was quoted - "Lugosi died during production, and it shows."
Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956 while lying in bed in his Los Angeles home. He was 73 --- Bela Lugosi was buried wearing one of the many capes from the Dracula stageplay, as per the request of his son and fifth wife, in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California --- Contrary to popular belief, Lugosi never requested to be buried in his famous cloak; Bela Lugosi, Jr. has confirmed on numerous occasions that he and his mother, Lillian, arrived at their decision independently.
1. Bela Lugosi (aka: Béla Ferenc Dezsõ Blaskó)
Date of birth: 20 October 1882 - Lugos, Austria-Hungary. [now Lugoj, Romania]
Date of death: 16 August 1956 - Los Angeles, California
2. Edward D. Wood Jr. (Director, Writer and Producer)
Date of birth: 10 October 1924 - Poughkeepsie, New York
Date of death: 10 December 1978 - North Hollywood, California
This collection of "The Bela Lugosi Box - 15 Frightful Films" (1942) --- still has the magic that we remember from those bygone years --- but as long as we have the labels and networks who play and show these wonderful films of yesteryear, they will never be forgotten ... Plus the half-hour tribute "100 Years of Horror: Bela Lugosi", hosted by Christopher Lee --- and a great job by Passport Video for this release --- looking forward to more of the same from the '20s and '50s vintage...order your copy now from Amazon or Passport Video, stay tuned once again for more remarkable films from the vaults of classic television and Hollywood during the Golden Era of Entertaiment.
Total Time: 1034 mins on DVD ~ Passport Video #5260 ~ (9/05/2006)"