White Zombie (1932)

It’s a swing and a miss from 101 Horror Movies, this was the first film in their recommendations that just couldn’t hold my interest and attention, though there were a number of things I did like about it.
Karloff is always enjoyable, and in a film like this there are lots of close-ups on his intimidating, hypnotizing eyes as he seeks to control and dominate those around him.

Also of interest was the fact that these zombies are more in keeping with the voodoo belief of zombies – living dead servants, and not the flesh-hungry ones that would later populate popular culture.

The story is set in the West Indies, following a young couple Madeline and Neil as they arrive at the home of an acquaintance, Monsieur Beaumont. Beaumont has arranged for their marriage to take place on his plantation, with the ulterior motive of trying to win Madeline over for himself.

She refuses him, intent on marrying Neil.

Beaumont turns to the wickedly named, suitable for a Bond villain, Murder Legendre (Lugosi) who runs his mill with those he has turned into zombies.  Legendre supplies Beaumont with his potion to turn Madeline into a zombie, convincing Neil that she has died, and then keeping her for himself.

Neil is completely heartbroken, and wallows in pain and booze, but when he finds her body missing from its resting place, he begins to fear the worst, and sets out to save his love.

I can’t speak to why I wasn’t as completely engaged in this film as I would have liked, I just couldn’t find a way into it.

For a film that was barely longer than an hour, I found it rather slow.

One moment that stands out for me, was when our hero, Neil is wallowing in drink. He’s dressed in a white suit, surrounded by dancing and drinking dark shadows of the rest of the bar. I liked the concept of him losing himself, until real life around him became nothing but a shadowy realm, it also of course serves as an entry into the shadowy realm of the supernatural and the zombies that Legendre uses.

I found the ending a little dubious, and won’t give it away, but I simply wonder what it means for Neil, and his ‘rescued’ bride Madeline.

So not the strongest entry in the films I’ve seen so far, but, also, not the worst film I’ve ever seen, and it’s also the first appearance of zombies in this list of 101 titles.

And you and I both know there will be more in the future… Romero is on the horizon!


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