Rev. Warlock DRACONIS BLACKTHORNE (dblackthorne) wrote,

White Zombie

White Zombie
{1932 c.e. Directed by Victor Halperin. Written by Garnett Weston. Starring Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, Joseph Cawthorn, Robert Frazer, John Harron, Brandon Hurst, George Burr Macannan, Frederick Peters, Annette Stone, John Printz, Dan Crimmins, Claude Morgan, John Fergusson, Velma Gresham. Genre: Horror.}

Gaze into the eyes of The Warlock...

Beautiful Madeleine Short and her fiance' Neil Parker travel the twisting roads of Haiti to acquaintance Charles Beaumont's plantation in a cortege' to be wed, when they briefly meet one Mr. Legendre {Lugosi} along the way, who absconds with her scarf, a remnant of her person, and the horror begins. The carriage driver regails them with the local legends of zombies, and when a group of these living dead amble about Legendre down from the black hills, they are struck with an uneasy terror and speedily make their way to Beaumont's plantation, where they are met by a pipe-smoking Dr. Bruner.

However, seems the cleverly traitorous Beaumont essentially made a deal with The Devil by employing the necromantic services of Legendre, to possess Madeleine for his very own zombie love slave. But in order to achieve this end, she must 'die' first, or enter into a narcoleptic coma with her mind in a spell.

Beaumont gets to see the secret caverns where Legendre keeps his native slaving zombies at the creeking mill reminiscent of the proles from Metropolis, and is also introduced to Legendre's various primary zombies: There's Chauvin the executioner {who almost executed Legendre}, a large monster of a man with a piercing glare; Ledot, Legendre's former instructor still in ceremonial attire; Von Gelder, the former tyrannical dictator of the isle; and Silver the zombie butler.

Quite remarkably, Legendre works his dark art by fashioning a waxen fetish figure carved right from a candle, wrapped in her scarf, and improvisationally burns it in a lantern's flame. Here is where Lugosi gestures that infamous hand gesticulation to gain control of her consciousness.

Meanwhile, Parker plunges into despair and becomes enebriated at a local bar, eventually stumbling over to her grave while she is being extracted by Legendre and his zombies. Upon discovering her body missing, he screams in anguish. Now seeking the aid of Dr. Bruner {who really should invest in a lighter}, a sort of Van-Helsing type, he becomes elucidated about the zombie tales, and prepares to visit Legendre at his magnificent cliff-side castle.

When Beaumont is taken aback by Madeleine's condition, recognizing no personality behind her blank stare, he regrets his decision and begs Legendre to reverse her somnambulism, to his lethal misfortune. Now it is he who ingests the zombie powder, while Legendre ghoulishly savors each moment of his degeneration, even fashioning the effigy right in front of him - the only one among all the zombies who actually realizes what is happening to him.

For a brief moment, Madeleine seemingly recognizes Beaumont through the haze, but Legendre regains control. Unfortunately, while she walks outside, Beaumont summons one last vestige of effort and takes Legendre with him over the cliff's edge, followed by his other zombies [1]. The spell is broken, and the fiance's are reunited. Lesson: always leave someone in charge of whomever is in the next room!

Subsequent to Dracula, Lugosi played a remarkable role with this remarkable character, which also remains an inspirational model of deportment and determination. A veritable 'devil as a gentleman'.

White Zombie is replete with splendid camera angles {inclusive of mesmerizing close-ups}, lambent and contrasting lighting techniques, morbid, shadowy sets, striking vistas, eerie orchestration [2], and memorable scenes sure to secure a treasured spot in one's collection, as well as in one's mind.


[1] Here one will recognize a scene from Speak of The Devil during 'Battle Hymn of The Apocalypse' wherein during the enunciation of "...let the zombies grope for light...", the bodies plunge over the edge.
[2] It should also be noted that at times, silence itself is ingeniously utilized to intensify the forboding atmosphere this film manages to create.

Tags: horror, multimedia reviews, spechtreum

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