1 hour, 7 minutes
White Zombie is the first feature film about zombies. What better way to start my week of zombie goodness than with the one that started it all?
While visiting Port-au-Prince, lovebirds Madeline (Madge Bellamy) and Neil (John Harron) are befriended by the wealthy Monsieur Beaumont (Robert Frazer) who invites them to be married at his plantation. Little do they know he seeks to woo Madeline from her betrothed. When his attempts fail, he enlists the witch doctor Legendre (Bela Lugosi, Dracula) to make her magically swoon. Legendre, with his own schemes, transforms Madeline into a zombie. Her undeath mortifies Beaumont, just as her death crushes Neil; that is, until a local priest convinces Neil she may not be lost to him.
I'm usually not one for movies made before the sixties, but White Zombie is pretty damned spiffy. First off, the zombies of this film aren't what is typically pictured when you hear the word. The zombies of White Zombie are labeled the walking dead, but they are actually people who have been placed under some sort of mind control by the local witch doctor using Haitian voodoo, which is a combination of a potion, his zombie eyes and his zombie grip. That may sound preposterous, but when you see Lugosi's Legendre assume his menacing zombie stance, it does seem plausible
Dirty UndiesSeeing Madeline in her silk undergarments as she dressed for her wedding may have been a bit taboo for the time, but we see far more skin on ABC Family nowadays. The zombie cast assembled were a pretty creepy gaggle of guys,especially the former executioner, Chauvin (Frederick Peters). From what I've read, the most frightening concept in White Zombie, aside from the ambling, blank-eyed undead, is that these creatures cannot be stopped by a bullet!
The Money ShotWhite Zombie is far from a cinematic masterpiece, but considering it was filmed in just 11 days using borrowed props from other horror films, it's damn good. I'm glad I can now say I have seen the originator of the zombie genre. It may not be the best of the bunch, but it kick-started an undying genre.
(Sorry, I couldn't help myself!)