This week's VHS is Victor Halperin's 1932 film White Zombie.
A wealthy plantation owner's plan to steal a young woman from the arms of her fiancee backfires when he enlists the help of an evil witch doctor.
Making my way through the second season of Luke Cage and its use of black magic (the show doesn't call it voodoo or obeah so it won't either) I was reminded that my White Zombie VHS still remained un-watched. This was a title I was obviously aware of being a fan of the band that took its name in the late eighties, but never had the inkling to watch it until now.
White Zombie was a pretty cool watch. I found it a bit less substantial than RKO's similarly themed 1943 picture I Walked With a Zombie, but there was still a lot of interesting stuff in here. As I stated with that film, there was something really disturbing about those pre-Romero shamblers. Being a reanimated corpse is one thing, but the indignity of being a soulless slave is quite another. Starring in this vehicle (one year after his turn as Dracula) was Bela Lugosi, as the subtly monikered villain Murder Legendre. Lugosi really did have one of the best glowers in the business.
|Bela Lugosi in White Zombie.|
Like a good number of the silver screen horrors I've been acquainting myself with over the last decade, this one also used shadows to great effect most notably the bar scene where our drunken protagonist Neil (John Harron) plays against other patrons represented only as specters on the wall behind him. I noticed several cool in-camera tricks as well that likely would've been quite dazzling to American audiences back when this was released. Most impressive though was the pretty spectacular scene in the mill where Legendre's drones monotonously work the machinery. Sequences like that make me wonder how this film could've been shot in just eleven days, even if did filch a bunch of stuff from previously shot Universal productions.
|John Harron in White Zombie.|
White Zombie was another black-and-white classic that I was glad to cross off the list. It featured Lugosi at the height of his fame and some devilishly stark visuals that explain why it has persevered through the ages.