- Bela Lugosi in a 1932 Intimate Interviews short
- 1952 Trailer in sepia tone
- A segment from the early fifties television program Ship's Reporter, featuring another Lugosi interview
Special Edition, DVD Video
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A voodoo master of sugar-mill zombies holds another man's bride in his Haitian castle.
Bela Lugosi followed up his star-making role in Dracula with this ambitious low-budget horror film from the Halperin brothers, who effectively transplanted the misty gothic mood of the Universal horror films to their poverty-row studio. White Zombie drips with atmosphere from the opening, as eerie chanting accompanies the credits and Madeleine (Madge Bellamy) arrives at midnight to witness a mysterious burial before coming face to face with the satanic looking Murder Legendre (Lugosi with goatee and searing eyes), a hypnotist and voodoo master who has been supplying the local mills with an army of zombie laborers. Madeleine's nightmare is just beginning. Having landed in a world of almost perpetual night, where hollow-eyed zombies lumber through the sugar mill and the ghostly town is eerily bereft of living souls, she becomes the object of desire for Legendre, whose plan to possess her involves her initiation to the world of the undead. This first zombie movie is also one of the best, with Lugosi's archly sinister performance dominating the film (thankfully obscuring a lot of overacting by supporting players), and astounding sets and gorgeous matte paintings creating a wondrous sense of poetic doom. --Sean AxmakerSee all Editorial Reviews
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This movie was both fun and sinister (thanks entirely to Bela Lugosi who could do creepy like none other). I also have to applaud the cinematographer Arthur Martinelli for composing some of the best shots seen in film at that time. He employed a lot of interesting techniques to get the point across (love the shot of the grave robbers seen from the point of view inside the niche of the crypt).
I thoroughly enjoyed this old, much maligned film.
Madeline is about to be married to her fiancé Neil. She met this guy on a boat who turns out to be a rich fella who happens to own a spooky castle in the Mountains of Haiti, a land filled with zombies and such. This guy Beaumont falls for her and does not want her to go through with the marriage. He gets the help of a zombie master, Legendre, who has other plans. He already has an army of zombies working the sugar plantation. Why not a cute girl who wears veils? Why not indeed!
The story is slow-paced, but is filled with the occasional shocker. The zombies in this film are not of the "Romero" clan, but are actually living people, who through hypnosis and drugs, find themselves under the thrall of Legendre. Legendre's motives are not that clear, except perhaps he just likes to play games and wants to create horror just because he can.
I also enjoyed the character of Dr. Bruner, played well by Joseph Cawthorn. He plays the wise man to the naïve fiancé, Neil, who is grieving over the death of his new wife. Except, as the good doctor expounds, "she's not dead!"
The sugar plantation plant with the zombies in tow, the clear sounds and clearly contrasted black & white, make a great film. The only real complaint is that vulture: quite a screech!
The DVD has an interesting interview with Lugosi at his house, which is scripted and makes for some fun yet insight into Lugosi at the height of his career. There is a gallery of colored movie lobby cards and the usual language and chapter features. I especially enjoyed comparing the "Raw" version to the cleaned-up version of the film.
Bottom Line: Great horror for the time, has some corny moments, but overall a great product by Kino Classics. Definitely recommended, especially for the Lugosi fan.
Bela Lugosi - 'Murder' Legendre
Madge Bellamy - Madeline Short Parker
Joseph Cawthorn - Dr. Bruner
Robert Frazer - Charles Beaumont
John Harron - Neil Parker