Every October we here at GeekTyrant try to do something fun for the Halloween season. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, it’s just a fun season of the year, and I love horror movies! Our first year we focused on Italian Horror films, the next year we focused on the classic Universal Horror Monster movies, This year we are going to put a focus on Zombies! Why? Because we love zombies! I also thought it would be a cool and fun lead-in to AMC’s new zombie TV series The Walking Dead which will be released Halloween night.
We will kick off our October Zombie Fest with the film....
This is the zombie film that started it all. The 1932 American horror film was brought to life by brothers Victor Halperin and Edward Halperin. White Zombie is the first feature–length Zombie film ever made.
I found that the film is eerie, inventive, and suspenseful, and they made it without all the blood and gore that we see in zombie films these days. It set the mythos for zombie films for years to come, The movie just got a lot more bloody.
The film tells the story of a young man who turns to an evil voodoo master to lure the woman he loves away from her fiance, but instead turns her into a zombie slave. Classic horror film icon Bela Lugosi stars in the film as ‘Murder’ Legendre, with Madge Bellamy appearing as his zombified victim. Other cast members included Robert W. Frazer, John Harron and Joseph Cawthorn.
When the film opened up in theaters it didn’t go over to well with the critics. They thought the story was over-the-top and it had weak acting. I will agree that the acting really isn’t all that good, but the atmosphere the film creates is fantastic. As for it being an over-the-top film, most films being made these days are over the top. Personally, I think the movie was just ahead of it’s time. The film did pretty good at the box-office for an independent horror film, but it didn't do as well as the other big horror film being released during that time.
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, I think it's worth your time. You can actually watch it on Instant Netflix.
Here are a few little trivia bits about the movie for you:
The film was thought lost until its rediscovery in the 1960s. A court battle was fought between film distributor Frank Storace and the estate of Stanley Krellberg, the copyright owner of the film. Storace had wished to produce a restored version of the film but the estate refused him access to original footage in their possession. Storace gave up the court battle and did not win his access to his original footage.
Rob Zombie named his first heavy metal band, White Zombie, after this movie.
According to friends of Bela Lugosi, the actor always regretted that he had taken the role of "Murder" Legendre for only $800 while the film was quite successful at the box office for the Halperin brothers.
Most of the film was shot on the Universal Studios lot, and it used a lot of props and scenery from other horror films of that era. These sets included the great halls from Dracula, pillars and a hanging balcony from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), the dark corridors from Frankenstein (1931) and chairs from The Cat and the Canary (1927).
This film was shot in only eleven days, completed March 1932.
Here's the trailer for the film:
Here’s a more detailed description of the story.
On arrival in Haiti, Madeleine Short reunites with her fiancé Neil Parker, with imminent plans to be married. On the way to their lodging, the couple's coach passes Murder Legendre, an evil voodoo master, who observes them with interest. Neil and Madeleine arrive at the home of the wealthy plantation owner, Charles Beaumont. Charles' love of Madeleine prompts him to meet Murder secretly in Murder's sugar cane mill, operated entirely by zombies. Charles wants to convince Madeleine to marry him and solicits Murder's supernatural assistance. Murder states that the only way to help Charles is to transform Madeleine into a zombie with a potion. Beaumont agrees, takes the potion, and surreptitiously gives it to Madeleine. Shortly after Madeleine and Neil's wedding ceremony, the potion takes effect on Madeleine, who soon dies and is buried. Murder and Charles enter Madeleine's tomb at night and bring her back to life as a zombie. In a drunken state, a depressed Neil sees ghostly apparitions of Madeleine and goes to her tomb. On finding it empty, Neil seeks out the assistance of the local missionary, Dr. Bruner, who recounts how Murder turned many of his rivals into zombies, who now act as Murder's closest guardians. The two men journey to Murder's cliffside castle to rescue Madeleine.
At the castle, Charles has begun to regret Madeleine's transformation and begs Murder to return her to life, but Murder refuses. Charles discovers he has been tainted by Murder's voodoo and is also transforming into a zombie. As Neil enters the fortress, Murder senses his presence and silently orders Madeleine to kill Neil. She approaches Neil with a knife, but Bruner grabs her hand from behind a curtain, making her drop the knife and walk away. Neil follows Madeleine to an escarpment, where Murder commands his zombie guardians to kill Neil. Bruner approaches Murder and knocks him out, breaking Murder's mental control over his zombies. Undirected, the zombies topple off the cliff. Murder awakens and eludes Neil and Bruner, but Charles pushes Murder off the cliff. Charles loses his balance and also falls to his death. Murder's death releases Madeleine from her zombie trance, and she awakens to embrace Neil.