White Zombie (1932)
Director: Victor Halperin
Staring: Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, Robert Frazer
Despite a significant spike recently in the zombie genre the quintessential grandfather of all zombie movies "White Zombie" remains seemingly unrecognized and underrated. "White Zombie" is the first zombie movie and along with George Romero`s "Night of the Living Dead" one of my favorites. It has a haunting atmosphere, disturbing allusions to such things as necrophilia, and has Bela Lugosi in one of the best roles of his career.
I am aware though of the argument over "White Zombies" actual quality; you have people like myself who find it to be a absolute classic and phenomenal early 30`s film. Then on the other hand you have people who don`t see the value in it and think its a dull and slow movie. I can see they`re argument but I completely disagree. I think those people come from the more modern mindset were zombies are nonstop action and filled with vicious zombies who eat the living alive. No, this is the classic sense of zombies were its all voodoo and the zombies are controlled through the voodoo priest. So don`t worry the zombies still kill people just not by eating them.
The films plot is about a young man obsessed with a girl so badly that he goes to a voodoo priest Murder Legende (Bela Lugosi) to lure the girl away from her fiance and make her fall in love with him, but instead basically turns her into a soulless zombie slave. Bela Lugosi`s character the wicked voodoo priest Murder Legendre is really what makes this movie so great. He looks intensely evil and can just feel the eerie atmosphere radiating off him ever time he`s on screen. For me its his hands down best performance after Dracula.
There is one interesting rumor about this movie were evidently director Victor Halperin stepped down from the movie for some reason and Lugosi actually stepped up into the directors chair and finished directing the movie for him. I haven't had that information verified and even if its true it doesn't answer the question why Lugosi never directed again? Since this movie was really good as well as a huge box office success.
Altogether "White Zombie" is a really creepy, atmospheric, and artistically done horror film. The sets are fantastic, especially considering this was an independent film at the time and didn't have the massive studio bucks to fiance itself. Plus with Bela Lugosi in one of his greatest roles you have nothing to lose with watching this movie. Yet I still feel that this movie is underrated, but it has had a noticeable cultural impact the most obvious being Rob Zombie named his first band "White Zombie" specifically after this movie. Then there's the great tribute made to this movie in Tim Burton`s "Ed Wood". Finally of course there's my theory that Ra`s Al Ghul from the Batman comics was inspired by or at least partially inspired by Lugosi`s character Murder Legendre. For awhile there was talk of Tobe Hooper remaking this movie but it all fell apart back in like 2006 and there haven't been any plans or talk of trying again since, meaning more then likely well not see a remake for a very long time if ever. Anyways "White Zombie" is a great zombie film that I would highly recommend to anyone.