White Zombie

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy Directed by: Victor Halperin

Zombies.  Often associated with the zombie apocalypse, the result of some horrific virus, or Night of the Living Dead.  Few connect them to Voudou, or to the casual scholar, voodoo. Probably even fewer have seen White Zombie, the 1932 film starring Béla Lugosi (aka Dracula) and some fake facial hair as the evil Murder Legendre, zombie master.

White Zombie, wasn't that a metal band?  Yep.  Lead singer Rob Zombie, who now makes horror films himself, names his band after this movie.  Now on to the plot.

Nearly-weds Neil (John Harron) and Madeline (Madge Bellamy) are to be married in Haiti.  The sound quality of the movie was pretty terrible, so I'm not entirely sure why they were there or why Madge and Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer) travelled on the same boat and met.  The short version is that Chalres has fallen in love with Madeline, and is willing to take some drastic measures to take her away from Neil.

Even though the local Hatians are terrified of Legendre and his legion of shuffling, unblinking zombies, Charles approaches him and asks for a solution to his romantic dilemma.  Legendre gives him a potion – probably the same stuff Friar Laurence gave to Juliet in ye olde Verona – and tells him to give a few granules to Madeline either in a flower so she will inhale it, or in a cup of wine she will drink.

Madeline gets a whiff of the potion, then goes to tell her new hubby's future in a cup of wine later that evening.  At which point she's confronted with the creepy eyes of Legendre.  Staring at her in a cup of red wine.  Which really isn't a bad special effect for 1932.

This “living dead girl” is buried (without even getting for formally consummate her marriage, poor thing), though spirited away by Legendre and Charles shortly thereafter.  Is Charles happy now?  Um, no.  Though she still can wander about Legendre's castle (conveniently located on a cliff high above some point rocks and rough water) with a vapid stare and play "Libestraum" on the piano for everyone's enjoyment, Charles is not satisfied.

While Charles whines, Neil and the local minister (Joseph Cawthorne) hatch a plot to go rescue Madeline (given she is squirreled away in Legendre's castle).   When they get there, many shenanigans ensue.

Is the movie kind of goofy?  Of course.  Does it seem like the only requirement for playing Madeline is to have huge eyes?  Sure.  Does is appear that Mr. Lugosi has furry caterpillars masquerading as his eyebrows and a very strange beard?  You bet your bottom dollar.  Is this a decent way to spend an hour?  Oh yeah.

If you:

  • Like film history
  • Need something to discuss with Rob Zombie, should you even meet him
  • Are a little bit obsessed with zombies/necromancy

Put it in the queue!

However, if you:

  • Think zombies need to be half rotted and hungry for brains to be entertaining

You may be right.  But that doesn't mean you shouldn't put it White Zombie in the queue anyway.  It's only an hour long!!

Written by Jennifer Venson