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      White Zombie

      Released Aug 4, 1932 1h 13m Horror List
      86% Tomatometer 22 Reviews 58% Audience Score 5,000+ Ratings Murder Legendre is the menacingly named zombie master of Haiti. Charles Beaumont goes to him when he needs help for a twisted plan. Spurned in marriage by Madeline Short, Beaumont has decided on a simple solution: kill Short and bring her back as a zombie. Then he can be with her forever. The only problem comes when Legendre keeps the fetching girl for himself -- and her new husband comes to Madeline's rescue. Read More Read Less

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      Critics Reviews

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      Anton Bitel BFI Victor Halperin’s melodramatic feature introduces the zombie to cinema, with Bela Lugosi hamming it up as sinister mesmerist and vodou practitioner ‘Murder’ Legendre Oct 22, 2022 Full Review Matt Brunson Film Frenzy The supporting cast is awful and the low budget dictates a few moments worthy of MST3K ribbing. But the atmosphere of dread is pungent, the use of sound is inspired, and the makeup by the great Jack Pierce and Carl Axcelle is minimal but effective. Rated: 3/4 Oct 26, 2021 Full Review María Luz Morales (Felipe Centeno) La Vanguardia (Spain) Unpleasant, macabre, absurd, and without the flight of a liberating imagination. [Full Review in Spanish] Feb 29, 2020 Full Review Daniel Barnes Dare Daniel Lugosi's legendarily mesmeric glare is used to stunning effect here, but every other actor is a total stiff, and the tone and pace feel incredibly uneven. Rated: 3/5 Sep 29, 2019 Full Review Mattie Lucas From the Front Row Lugosi is always fun to watch, and he's at his hammy best here. Rated: 3/4 Aug 6, 2019 Full Review John Beifuss Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) It leads the viewer inside a fairy tale, not a slaughterhouse; it's expressionistic, not extreme. It affirms the power of the gesture, the shadow, the shudder. In other words: Who needs blood-red cannibalism when you've got a black-and-white Bela Lugosi? Rated: 3.5/4 Mar 29, 2013 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

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      Monsol E A bit of a slow watch, even for early horror standards, but still fun. The story is imaginative, " *kill* the girl who's about to be married to another man, and the bring her back for yourself! Creepy and clever. The take on zombies is more like hypnosis than what we have today, which is also neat. The sets are beautiful, and Lugosi chews the camera with his stares...I also liked the old doctor, and his frequent "do you have a match?". It has a surprisingly silly "power of love" ending, that wrecks the creepy tone, but is kinda cute. This has a lot going for it, but feels much longer than it actually is. If you're a vintage horror fan, you''ll probably like this, but I don't know if it will be one of your favorites. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 10/12/23 Full Review Matthew B White Zombie occupies a curious position in movie history. In some respects it might be said to be a reactionary movie. The Halperin brothers were obliged to work in the new medium of talkies, and made some good use of sound here. A sense of horror is created by the eerie background music, and the unnerving croaks and screams that emanate from a vulture. However, the Halperin's style clearly hearkens back to the days of silent movies. It focuses on achieving effects through visual storytelling, Expressionist images and stylised acting. Most of the cast began their careers in silent movies, and this showed in the stilted manner in which they delivered their lines. Whilst the style of the movie may be backward-looking, this is regarded as the first zombie feature film, and the content helped to set the template for future zombie movies for many years to come. The story is set in the West Indies, and we hear the background noise of voodoo drums. The dead are brought back to life by black magic, and forced to perform tasks of manual labour. The zombies have a sickly pallor, unseeing eyes and a clumsy shambling gait. They show no flicker of interest or amusement in life, and move around in a trance. They are impervious to injuries such as bullet wounds. While there would be a respectable number of zombie movies to follow, this particular sub-genre of horror did not capture the imagination for many years, and produced few classics. There were limits to what moviemakers could do with slave-like undead creatures. The need for a West Indies setting further limited the possibilities. Such movies also could be seen as racist. They associated black people with superstition and voodoo, and usually relegated black actors in the movies to supporting roles. In fact virtually all of the Haitians in White Zombie are white. The exception is the rolling-eyed, easily-scared coach driver, and he hardly serves to challenge the stereotype. It is intriguing that ‘Murder' Legendre's zombies are slave labourers, and it seems likely that the men who work for Beaumont are the descendants of former slaves who were brought to Haiti to work on the plantations. Legendre seems to be almost seeking to re-establish slavery, but with the ideal workforce – unquestioning, untiring and uncomplaining automatons. The scenes of the zombies working in Legendre's sugar mill is hypnotic – expressionless faces on men bent double as they carry out their work, indifferent to their surroundings, not even noticing when one of their number falls from a height. Legendre joking tells Beaumont: "They work faithfully; they are not worried about long hours. You could make good use of men like mine on your plantation?" The story is dominated by "Murder" Legendre, the evil and powerful voodoo sorcerer (Bela Lugosi). Earlier in the film we see a close-up image of Lugosi's menacing eyes superimposed over the landscape. The eyes are lit up against a dark background, and the image makes him look seemingly omnipotent and omniscient in his powers. This is a hauntingly famous image that was imitated by Francis Ford Coppola in his adaptation of Dracula. White Zombie was filmed in 11 days on a low budget. It was shot in a Universal Studios back lot, using leftover props and scenery from other horror movies. The capabilities of camerawork were limited in the early 1930s, and this was complicated by the fact that the movie could only be filmed at night. Curiously these limitations strengthened the movie. The gloomy cinematography adds a sense of brooding menace, and the sparse sets lend a dreamlike quality to some scenes. In one scene the newly-widowed Parker is in a bar getting drunk when he sees a ghostly vision of Madeleine in his thoughts. The bar is captured in a close-up by nothing more than a curtain with the shadow of a table and chair behind it, yet the very bareness of the room makes the scene more intense and concentrated. Whatever its technical flaws, White Zombie is one of the best of the old-school zombie movies. It may not have the professional ease and range of Universal's more famous horror flicks, but the Halperins created an atmospheric and original film that made full use of spellbinding imagery, and the power of suggestion. I wrote a longer appreciation of White Zombie on my blog page if you would like to read more: https://themoviescreenscene.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/white-zombie/ Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 09/28/23 Full Review Lucas C White Zombie is a fantastic film. Bela Lugosi is great as Murder. its a underrated classic and I highly recommend this movie! Rated 4 out of 5 stars 08/09/23 Full Review Audience Member LOL, the funniest Bela Lugosi movie ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 01/28/23 Full Review Audience Member So there is that couple and they want to marry in the Caribbean. However their host wants the bride for himself, so he talks to the local voodoo priest who turns her into a zombie. This is definitively a "should see". Of course the movie is, well, old, for example the running gag is a man who smokes but never has matches on him. Yes, about 90 years ago people were still smoking on the screen, and a man without matches was an incredibly funny screwball. And yet this movie is a classic that you may not want to miss, and I give you three good reasons: The music is super, one of the best horror scores ever. Bela Lugosi is in it. This is the first zombie movie ever. Zombies back then were voodoolated slaves and it took more than 35 years until George Romero invented the modern zombie, so this is a priceless historic document. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/17/23 Full Review Audience Member We see the soon to be wed Madeleine and Neil being driven by horse drawn carriage to the house of plantation owner Charles Beaumont. They pass by a man named Murder (a red flag) Legendre played by the one and only Bela Lugosi. His evil face is another red flag. This isn't a good man as is obvious for any sane person. Beaumont is also in love with Madeleine and goes to see Legendre to enlist his services so that Madeleine will marry him instead of Neil as Murder is a master of voodoo. He even has zombies that he has created as workers at his sugar cane mill. Legendre states that the only way for Charles to get Madeleine to love him is to turn her into a zombie also. But will his dastardly plan work? White Zombie was one of the films on the list I have labelled in my head as 'Horror Films That I've Heard Are Really Influential But Haven't Gotten Around To Watching Yet'. That is until now. And I'm so glad that I finally have. It's a fantastic film that still holds up as an experimental piece of cinema with superimposed images, the use of shadows and is perfectly framed. It's a joy to watch. And the plot and subject matter is far from conventional for horror in the 1930's. But best of all is to see horror maestro Lugosi at the top of his game. He can say more with his eyes than most actors could even dream of. I'm so glad that someone who was destined to star in some of the genre's very best works actually ended up doing just that. And by the time he starred in White Zombie he was already a star of the genre through his starring in Dracula and Murders in the Rue Morgue. If I had to compare this film to any other it would be to the equally experimental (and brilliant) Vampyr. This is compliment in itself. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/19/23 Full Review Read all reviews Post a rating

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      Movie Info

      Synopsis Murder Legendre is the menacingly named zombie master of Haiti. Charles Beaumont goes to him when he needs help for a twisted plan. Spurned in marriage by Madeline Short, Beaumont has decided on a simple solution: kill Short and bring her back as a zombie. Then he can be with her forever. The only problem comes when Legendre keeps the fetching girl for himself -- and her new husband comes to Madeline's rescue.
      Director
      Victor Halperin
      Producer
      Edward Halperin
      Screenwriter
      Garnett Weston, Garnett Weston
      Distributor
      LS Video, Sinister Cinema, Liberty Home Video, Englewood Entertainment [us], The Roan Group, Joseph Brenner Associates Inc. [us], United Artists, Screencraft Pictures Inc. [us], Admit One Video, Mars Distribution
      Production Co
      Halperin Productions, Victor & Edward Halperin Productions
      Genre
      Horror
      Original Language
      English
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Aug 4, 1932, Original
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Aug 7, 2015
      Runtime
      1h 13m
      Sound Mix
      Mono
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