Thursday, April 28, 2011

White Zombie 1932: A Photo Review

I hope everyone is ready for another photo review! I'm going to work hard to get one of your suggestions done before the Blogathon but hopefully you'll enjoy this one in the meantime.

Fair Warning: This review contains spoilers and hopefully a few laughs.  In addition I just finished watching it so I feel a bit like a zombie myself so if I wander off on this review don't blame me and I'll try to re-write it once I've started to get feeling back into my limbs.

White Zombie
Bela Lugosi as 'Murderer' Legendre
Madge Bellamy as Madeline Short Parker (M)
Joseph Cawthorn as Dr. Bruner
Robert Frazer as Joseph Beaumont (B)
John Harron as Neil Parker (J)
Directed by Victor Halperin

We open to a lovely couple enjoying a carriage ride through a dark and desolate area of Haiti. It's precious that they're so focused on one another that they don't see the zombies stumbling around. 

The carriage suddenly comes to a halt for Murderer Legendre to make his grand entrance. Not only the leader of his own Zombie army but sporting every facial hair the prop department could find. I'm just afraid to tell him that the eyebrows were applied upside down.  You look fantastic Bela, go nuts!

J: Don't look now sweetheart but I think we took a wrong turn and ended up in the bowels of hell!  M: I wanted to go to Aruba, eat prawns and work on my tan. J: Quick! Roll up the windows and hide your purse. M: We're in a 1910 carriage WITHOUT windows being driven by a slow horse.

I told you back at the dock to upgrade your honeymoon package to the Haiti Dark Night Special which included a map, mosquito spray and a faster horse.  Have the carriage back before daylight if you want your deposit back. I'm out of here!

M: I hear strange moaning but we'll be okay now that we've arrived at Mr. Beaumont's.  J: Yes, it really was a grand idea to come across a stranger and except an invitation to wed at his home in the middle of nowhere. M: You know, I didn't mention it before but he kept staring at my breasts and calling me the future Mrs. Beaumont. Oh, I'm sure it's nothing.  

The Zombies in the distance marching along like worker ants.  No, absolutely nothing to worry about. 

I think theres something wrong with my hearing aid because I keep hearing low moaning  Well anyway I'm Dr. Bruner and I'm here to welcome you to the bowels of hell! It really is a pity you couldn't afford the honeymoon upgrade.

J: Well we're all here now so we might as well enjoy a cocktail and a few laughs before our souls are stolen. M: Yes, I'm parched and thankful that I didn't wear white, the brochure said Zombies attack anything in white.  Sweetheart did you happen to sign those life insurance papers before we left New York ?

Good Eeeeveeennninng! (I hope Bela eats your face off! Thats his line)

Boy these New Yorkers are gullible! And that guy in white, he's toast!

Hello Mr. Beaumont! You have a lovely home here, just perfect for a wedding but we need to talk about the fellow who stopped us on the road. I think he might be a bit unhinged and in need of man scaping.

Oh, thats just Murde..ehuh Lenny who's a nice man who had a rough childhood with the hair issue and all. Surely you can understand.  I'm sorry he took Madeline's scarf but you should have upgraded your package which includes a faster horse. 

B: This feels a bit awkward with everyone staring and all but I fancy you and it's the kind of adoration that one must present in circus pants while sporting a paleness only found in Vampires. M: Well, this special adoration, is that included in our package because my fiancée is cheap and we spent our lot on the Beach Combers Clam Bake?

Later that evening once everyone is safely locked in their rooms, John wanders out on the balcony to catch the brazen host getting into a carriage.  J: Hmmm, theres something off about that driver and the butler and Mr. Beaumont. Then theres Madeline constantly asking about insurance. Who keeps moaning?

The moon is full but you'll have to read my mind since I'm a Zombie, you won't get any conversation out of me. And no staring please, I'm sensitive.

You're also ghoulish and you smell like moth balls!

We  arrive without conversation to the Zombie run sugar mill.  The finest sugar in all of Haiti. (I'm guessing the other sugar mills were mysteriously torched or worse.)

B: Oh crap! I'm wearing white pants...stay're evil and also on a mission.  

Nothing to see here other than sugar made by Zombies wearing burlap sacks.  

The grinder looks pretty empty then theres a bit of straw but this is a horror film so perhaps the budget went into eyebrows and dungeons.

Ooops. Zombie down!....You were wearing white buddy.

The Donkey Wheel Zombies haven't noticed that the wheel is suddenly harder to turn. 

We need to have a talk about boundaries and your cape! I'm really quite fond of it.

I understand you wanted to see me? 

Mr. Barely Human wants some advice about stealing Madeline from her fiancée. He's in love and she just happens to be clueless and betrothed to a cheap nitwit.

You'll have to excuse me for looking this way. I was hoping to star in Scarface so I've been practicing Paul Muni's facial expressions in the mirror.  Do you happen to have any fake scars and a wig with a cow lick?

NO! Now stop wasting my time, I've got a Zombie down in the grinder and Rick's Cafe has requested 30 lbs of sugar by noon.

I've got a potion that will turn your inappropriate obsession into the perfect wife.  Just think of it like a Stepford Wife with a low battery.  Zombies aren't known for their speed. Then theres the fact that she won't love you, know who you are or ever get rid of that pale complexion.

I've got a walk on role in "Freaks" so kill it or free it Bela!

Heeey! I get that you would make a great Vampire but there won't be any neck biting. You're starting to make me feel uncomfortable.  Go tend to your zombies, they're dropping like flies.

Use this potion at your own risk.  It's also illegal in five parishes so if you get pulled over going back, you weren't here! A few of my zombies don't have proper paperwork then theres the fact that they've been missing for centuries. 

Oh and if you happen to cross paths with that Lon Chaney character tell him to go wrap himself in some gauze. A thousand faces my arse! (Does anyone have the guts to tell Bela that it was Boris in the gauze?)

It's my wedding day and I've found the perfect underwear. They blend into my pale skin and could fit Fatty Arbuckle. Perfect for holding on to my virtue. My fiancée is worth a fortune and the dimmest bulb on Staten Island you know. Which reminds me, you had better make sure he's let out of his room.  

Perhaps you should come outside and get some fresh air. You smell like rice pudding and desperation.

Nothing says a cheap wedding like giant palms and an organ that would make The Phantom of the Opera blush.  Who wants cake ? 

B: I don't mean to be rude but do you have a vitamin deficiency?  M: You really should know your place! I'm a delicate flower AND Madge Bellamy and YOU my dear are no Paul Muni.  B: I guess this is also a bad time to ask why you smell like tapioca?.  M: RICE! It's rice pudding.

Please take this piece offering of a dead rose then smell it until your knees feel weak. 

The bowels of hell never looked so lovely as when a wedding takes place.  Wow, the brides pale!

We have a wedding crasher! 

Bela has a candle and Powder's scarf so at least he followed wedding etiquette and brought gifts.

Oh wait! We've got some fancy candle carvin goin on in the courtyard. 

I've been wearing this same cape, hairstyle and expression since Dracula so don't mess with me buzzard!

It's not my fault Lon Chaney has a 1,000 faces and you will be using that one your entire career.   Stop being weird and get in there, the butler is stealing the movie.

Lets toast to naivety, wrong turns, blood red sugar and that constant moaning outside!

Uhmmm, that sounds swell!  But lets hurry this dinner up. My bride is wilting and her eyes are glazing over.

Oh, this is all so overwhelming! I've been drugged, insulted, then placed into this veil that's choking me. If I didn't know any better I would think we've been set up for something sinister.  Elsa Lancaster gets all the good roles!

Powder obviously hasn't noticed that the dining room table looks like a coffin and that the flower arrangements were stolen from Grossman's funeral parlor on Gotcha Lane. Cheers! I love weddings.

Bela used his fancy candle carvin to make a nifty voodoo doll and now Powder has even bigger problems. I wouldn't recommend these caterers. 

Don't try this at home without supervision kids!

It's a good thing Bela is a student of  Vincent Price's school of wax otherwise this could go south. 

J: Powder you don't look right and you're all Stepfordy...I've never been married before so hopefully you came with a manual and an emergency switch.

B: Why don't you give her mouth to mouth or something  J: For Christ sakes man, she's eaten her weight in rice pudding! B: Do you think you two could check out early  I've got a nice couple from Boca Raton arriving early tomorrow

Bela is still outside twisting his candle and Madge is really starting to make me feel uneasy as she finally goes limp. I think you better cancel the clam bake John.

The evil plan to turn Powder into a zombie is complete. Who wants cake?

The zombie pallbearers have carried Powder out of her tomb and up to Bela's for safe keeping. 

John made his way down to Rick's Cafe to tie one on. Stay clear of the sugary drinks buddy.

Powder appears in a vision and she's also gone to pieces, literally!

The zombies meet up to get their paychecks after lugging Powder up a mountainside. Bela is dressed like a Quaker for some reason but sporting the same face. 

B: Why are we still standing around when I should strangle you for stealing my bride and crashing our wedding?  Bela: I've closed down the sugar mill so we're working out details on making well crafted fireplaces made purely by hand.

I'm not dead! I'm just a zombie who really needs her veil loosened.  Work it Madge! Elsa may need a stand in one day.

Johns really drunk and staggering around the edge of cliffs in white so he should be fine. 

Not one to catch on quickly, Beaumont finally realizes Powder will never be the same so he resigns himself to Bela's evil plans (I just watched the film and I barely know what they are) She's pale and now a zombie so follow along with the plot Not Paul Muni!

All zombies but I still don't know who's been moaning. It's like an inside Zombie joke.

John finds his way to Powder's tomb but realizes she's been a victim of a grave robbery.

You have such beautiful slender fingers, perfect for carving ornate fireplace mantels.

John, still completely wasted finds his way over to the witch doctors office to fill him in on the wedding from hell.  (Unless the office is next door to the graveyard this film has no sense of time but I'm just being petty and rude because I thought we would get more zombie action.)

The doc explains to John that Powder isn't dead but she was buried alive, well not alive but kind of undead. John wants to know exactly how to word that on her life insurance claim. 

I've never been to Haiti but I've seen enough footage to know that THIS castle doesn't look appropriate to the landscape. I'm guessing Lugosi requested it anyway because it's quite frightening. 

We get to check in with Beaumont, content to listen to Powder play the piano while staring straight ahead freakishly 

A closeup of your White Zombie! I've never been so frightened! I mean I've never wanted so much to be frightened and let down by a horror film. Go murder something non dead Madge.

I've bought you a beautiful necklace darling, which looks stunning against your ice cold skin. Now lets wind you up so we can go for a nice walk in the garden.

She's a zombie ya dolt! 

Lets get you drunk so I can bite your neck! (Okay, Bela doesn't actually say that but at this point it would really liven things up) No offense to anyone engaged to a zombie, or a really lethargic human!

I think the zombie potion has made a comeback! Either that or Bette Davis just walked on set as Queen Elizabeth. It's Fright Night.

And the nightly zombie walk off!

I'm rooting for Moses Zombie for the win. 

Why are you here I thought you were headed over to the "Freaks" set?

The butler is finally getting his! I told you not to steal Bela's lines.

Skeptics! I needed this large castle with gigantic doors so the zombies don't bump into things. Are you feeling dizzy yet? You're starting to crowd me.

The butler is tossed into the sea. 

Hello, I'm looking for Tippi, have you seen her?

Never quite getting the old saying "Beer before liquor, never sicker" John is still in bad shape as they make their way to Powder. 

They make their way to the edge of the blue screen.  I mean the castle's edge.

John's never going to sober up so he gets left at base camp to rest, rehydrate  and kick himself for meeting his fiancée in Transylvania For Singles magazine. 

Powder roams out onto the balcony to send signals to John. Such a beautiful view down below of floating butlers and drunken fiancées. Too bad she's a zombie with one facial expression and the inability to function.

John, still stumbling about, feels Powder calling to him so off he goes! He really should look into suing Rick's Cafe for making him perpetually-drunk.

The non zombie maids are a bit freaked out about grooming Powder. I hope you don't have a rice allergy.

John manages to storm the castle and somehow avoid falling into the giant water hole. 

Beaumont is now a blubbering idiot zombie. Left at the table to stare at Bela doing arts and crafts.

More voodoo wax carving.

John is now hugging the walls and stumbling down stairs. I'll be glad when he gets where he's going, he's making me dizzy and wanting to never touch alcohol again.

He finally arrives inside the castle and I feel a rescue coming. 

Well, okay he needs to lie down awhile first. You're an embarrassment to all of New York!

Bela and Droopy hear something upstairs.

Bela has a special hand squeeze to summon the zombies..

And enough hair on his face to make Yul Brynner a toupee and a cod piece.

Undead needed a nap after walking around zombie like and sending out distress signals with her mind.

She's been summoned downstairs again.

This one is useless and should be tossed out to sea.  

He can't even see straight! 

Powder reaches down for the knife and off she goes!

John's in trouble but I don't feel bad at all.

This is sign language for stab your husband in the throat.

Please do it Madge we are begging for some horror!

Stay out of this Bela! 

She hesitates then gets grabbed by a hand behind a curtain.

A quick check-in with Beaumont who's a drooling stump.

John is back up! This guy could sleep through anything and he really needs to have some lab work done. I'm no expert but I would imagine this is how it would feel to be roofied.

Oh Madge, go back inside. The lighting out there is terrible, making you look like Bette Davis after a 40 year career.

I'm not getting my hopes up with these two but they might actually embrace or accidentally knock each other over the ledge. Who's with me on rooting for the latter?

J: I'm not feeling so hot Madeline. M: Well, I'm a zombie and I've got a steadier gait and clearer eyes John.  J: Well at least I'll eventually sober up but you'll still be a zombie.  M: Tous Chez!

The lovebirds are interrupted by Bela and his zombies.

John's gone all Tom Mix which would be an amazing ending if Zombies weren't already dead.

Bela gets knocked over the head by the Doc then the zombies tumble over the cliff into the ocean. Don't worry, it's not as exciting as it sounds. I've seen bigger scuffles in the grocery store checkout line when someone tries to use outdated coupons during a double coupon sale.

The witch doctor works his magic on Powder. I can only assume she's less dead but who can tell with her. 

J: This may not be the best time to tell you but I made my mother the beneficiary on my life insurance before we left New York.  M: Thats okay John, I'm actually still married to this guy named Quasimodo who I met two years ago while on a singles cruise down the Amazon.  

This movie isn't over yet you idiots! 

The buzzards back and he's so over this nonsense that he turns on Bela and sends him into a crazed frenzy.

Bela takes a slow fall into the sea  I don't think Lon Chaney has ever gone out so weakly but I still love you Bela..

J: What do you say we go slap Beaumont around then pillage this old Castle for some vitamins.  M:  Sure, right after you've had a couple of Rum Runners sweetheart.

If you'll excuse me I'm going to go see if theres a part for me in "The Ghoul"

Well this certainly was a fun little movie with some stunning cinematography.  It seems like a longer photo review than normal and I even excluded major scenes as not to spoil it for anyone wanting to watch it for the first time.

White Zombie Trivia:

It was filmed in just 11 days with a budget of $50,000..

After realizing what a huge box office success the film was, Lugosi regretted asking for a mere $800 salary for making the film.

The movie was considered lost until the 1960's when it was discovered that the estate of Stanley Krelberg had possession of the film..

Director/Writer and Musician Rob Zombie named his first band White Zombie after the film.

Thanks for joining me for this review and please feel free to leave a comment on your feelings about the film, review, Bela, the other actors, creepy weddings or whatever else you want to discuss.  The more the merrier.

Sleep well tonight, non Zombies,


  1. Now that one was definitely snarky!

    I hate the ending but have always otherwise had a soft spot for White Zombie. Bela's look creeps me out as does the general atmosphere.

    Had no idea it was lost into the 60's, seems amazing in that I'm assuming it's public domain now since I've seen it all over the place (PBS and a seeming million different video releases) my entire life!

    Thanks for the laugh ... Moses Zombie was my favorite!

  2. Cliff,
    Other than the ending I was pleasantly surprised with the film. Visually appealing with a great cast! I do know after a lawsuit the film was open for distribution in the 60's.
    I'm glad you got a couple of laughs out of this one.

  3. Page, I am SO impressed with this fabulous snark of one of my favorites! This HAS to be your best, and I want to see you submit it for the next CMBA awards. I mean that! It was so hilarious I can't even pick out a favorite part! I was laughing so loud my eyes were leaking and the neighbors probably think I've lost it. You have really out-done yourself on White Zombie. KUDOS!!!!

  4. Becks,
    Whew! I'm relieved you found it funny because to be honest I had the hardest time on this one and reworked it 3 times.

    Considering you really like this film it means a lot that you could see it reviewed this way with a few jabs and enjoy it. I will keep your suggestion in mind when the Awards come around.

    And most of all I'm so happy that I could make you 'cry laugh' because THAT is the best kind.

  5. As always, Page, a delight! You always find one nickname that's classic to your reviews. This time it's "Powder." Perhaps you could write an original screenplay -- When Powder Meets Scarfalfa.

  6. Page, Wonderful review. I feel like I just watched the film, White Zombie, for the first time..

  7. Cfb,
    You're cracking me up! I'm glad you enjoyed this one too.

    I hope you'll still watch White Zombie since I replaced the plot with insanity. The film is worth watching even if the ending is a bit of a letdown.
    I'm glad you liked my take on an early classic.

  8. Hilarious review, Page! This was one of the first movies I reviewed on my blog, but it's such a clunker! I really wanted to like it more but you're right, it made ME feel like a zombie after it was over! But you made an otherwise dull and disappointing film hilarious and fun. Magnificent, as always. :)


  9. Caroline,
    I was so excited to discover you reviewed this one. I can't wait to go check it out.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I was looking for films and this one jumped out at me as one that deserved a re-write.

  10. Page, you've done it again! Thanks for the link to WHITE ZOMBIE! Vin and I both loved it, but in particular, I laughed so hard I got a headache -- but it hurts so good! :-) *BRAVA* for your zany genius!

  11. Team B,
    I'm glad you haven't passed out from getting through all of these photo reviews. I got scolded for making light of headaches so I won't mention it! Oh, dang I just did.

    Thanks for the nice comments and for taking the time to go back and read these photo reviews. I now owe you fresh material.