Directed by Victor Halperin - MPAA Rating: Unrated
"White Zombie" is a 1939, independent, black and white film starring Bela Lagosi (of "Dracula" fame) as an evil voodoo zombie master named Murder Legendre! Madeleine Short (Madge Bellamy) and Neil Parker (John Harron), an engaged couple, are in Haiti to visit a friend’s plantation with the hope of being married there. The plantation is owned by Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer) who has more on his mind than helping out with the wedding! Beaumont is secretly in love with Madeleine and becomes increasingly desperate since the event is fast approaching. Beaumont seeks out Murder with the idea to change Madeline into a zombie so he can control her mind and make her love him. Things do not progress as nicely as Beaumont had hoped however, and he soon regrets the decision. Unfortunately for him, Murder is now in control of much more than Beaumont had hoped for, and Neil is not about to let his fiancée go that easily!
This film has always been met with mixed reviews. Even though it is regarded as a classic, and the first full length Zombie film, it seems to have a “love it” or “hate it” response from its viewers. There are several aspects of this film that are desirable. For this reviewer, the sets, music, and general atmosphere create an almost dream like state that makes you excited for the next scene to come. The wonderful set pieces as well as the painted backgrounds create an odd and enticing feeling. One of the most breath taking scenes is inside of Murder’s castle. It is amazing to look at the amount of effort put into creating illusions of depth and distance, especially since we are now in an age where computer generated graphics have lowered our standards with what we think is acceptable in films. On the negative side, the film’s acting is par to the era it was filmed in, which to many viewers, seems substandard in comparison to modern acting talents. It is not the worst acting this reviewer has witnessed, not
even close, however it does have a very dated feel to it.
Overall this is a film that is highly recommended. Bela Lagosi is
classic in his role as Murder and gives a compelling and creepy performance similar to that of his more famous film at the time, "Dracula". The story is romantic, suspenseful, and intriguing. Make sure to check out this film today! Another public domain classic featured here on openfilmden.com!