"White Zombie (1932/Blu-ray/Kino Lorber)" Review

While traveling to New York, the young couple Madeleine Short Parker and her fiancé Neil Parker are convinced by their new acquaintance Charles Beaumont to stay in Port Prince and get married in his mansion. However, Beaumont felt in love for Madeleine and his real intention is to convince her to call off the wedding. When he realizes that the time is too short to seduce her, he visits the local warlock Legendre (Bela Lugosi) , who gives him a drug to transform Madeleine into a zombie. She dies immediately after the wedding, and her corpse is disputed by Beaumont and his sick love for her; Legendre, that wants her for his team of zombies; and Neil, who is convinced by the local missionary Dr. Bruner that she might be alive. In the end, true love wins...?

 Review: White Zombie is a film that I have always held in high regard as one of Bela Lugosi's best films. Most people remember Lugosi from his role as Dracula which was a great film as well. Being someone who has seen a million zombie films that are about nothing but the dead coming back to life and eating people this film takes the old story of the Haitian zombie and brings it to film. For anyone who does not know about the Haitian zombie please go and look it up, it's quite interesting or follow this link to a Youtube video from Vice (click here). To most modern horror fans that can't stand black & white films or anything that is not filled with constant blood and action will probably not dig a film like White Zombie.
Like I stated before that I think is one of Lugosi's best films I refer more to his character than the actual film not to say that the film isn't great as well. Lugosi plays a mill owner who has an army of zombies working for him, some were people who tried to harm him before that he has now enslaved. The most haunting part about his character is his eyes and eccentric eyebrows, I would have to say his Hungarian accent as well. He really helps to make this film what it is, a haunting atmospheric tale of love, death, and zombies. The rest of the cast is quite small, but each do their character quite good. Aside from the zombies and Legendre (Lugosi) there is a soon to be married couple Madeline (Madge Bellamy) & Neil (John Harron), Dr. Bruner (Joseph Cawthorn) and Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer).
If you read the synopsis above you will already know that the plot is quite simple, but great. Now they only had a budget of an estimated $50,000 which was even low for the time it was made, but they did the most they could with such a restricting budget. The parts of the film I kept finding myself loving is when Lugosi would be on screen and haunt the scene with his presence. Also I really liked the optical effects they used, from the floating Legendre eyes in the beginning to Legendre showing up as a reflection in liquid. These type of effects simply cannot be beat, by even the most lifelike computer effects in my opinion. I think all horror fans should really give this film a chance because I think they will see why it made such a good impression on singer Rob Zombie that he named his first band after it!
Now when it comes to the presentation of this film on this release I can say it looks great. The print they used looks beautiful and does the film justice. Along the side of the cleaned up version you also get a "raw" cut that is not enhanced or cleaned up in any way, it has the heavy layer of grain and film damage all still intact and also the audio is un-messed with also so you get dips and spikes throughout. After seeing this film so many times damaged I really enjoy seeing it cleaned up. Also you get a very cool 6 minute interview with the legend Bela Lugosi which is a treat to any fan of his work. The other special features include audio commentary by film historian Frank Thompson, Still Gallery, and 1951 theatrical re-issue trailer. Fans of this film need to get this release because it is worth every penny spent!

-Daniel "Damnation" Lee

Director: Victor Halperin
Genre: Horror
Blu-Ray Release Year: 2012
Theatrical Release Year: 1932
Time Length: 67 mins.

Company: Kino Lorber 
Website: www.kino.com