Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Phil's Horror Watch: Phil reviews WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) Blu-Ray From Kino Lorber-February 3, 2013

WHITE ZOMBIE Blu-Ray Cover (2013)
Starring Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, Joseph Cawthorn, Robert Frazer, John Harron
Written by John Harron
Cinematography by Arthur Martinelli
Produced by Edward Halperin & Phil Goldstone
Directed by Victor Halperin
Originally released by Untied Artists
Distributed by Kino Lorber

Hello my faithful readers and welcome to Phil's Horror Watch! The purpose of this brand new series is to show all of you horror fans out there that you don't need to wait for October to watch horror movies. With the recent wave of classic and forgotten titles being released at a rapid pace, horror fans around the world can celebrate Halloween ever day! Today I will review the horror classic WHITE ZOMBIE, starring the great Bela Lugosi, which was just released by Kino Lorber as part of the "Kino Classics" label.

The film's synopsis: Young couple Madeleine (Bellamy) and Neil (Harron) are coaxed by acquaintance Monsieur Beaumont (Frazer) to get married on his Haitian plantation. Beaumont's motives are purely selfish as he makes every attempt to convince the beautiful young girl to run away with him. For help Beaumont turns to the devious 'Murder' Legendre (Lugosi), a man who runs his mill by mind controlling people he has turned into zombies. After Beaumont uses Legendre's zombie potion on Madeleine, he is dissatisfied with her emotionless being and wants her to be changed back. Legendre has no intention of doing this and he drugs Beaumont as well to add to his zombie collection. Meanwhile, grieving 'widower' Neil is convinced by a local priest that Madeleine may still be alive and he seeks her out.

The film was shot in eleven days on the Universal Studios lot as well as and Bronson Canyon, which is located in Griffith Park (which I've been to) in Los Angeles. The sets for the film came from other Universal films, such as the pillars and a hanging balcony from 1923's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, chairs from 1927's THE CAT AND THE CANARY, the great halls from 1931's DRACULA, and the dark corridors from 1931's FRANKENSTEIN. And if that wasn't enough, the make-up artist for Lugosi was none other than Jack Pierce, the man responsible for creating the make-up for several other famous Universal horror films like FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, and THE WOLF MAN.

Lugosi gives another hair raising performance in the film. Much like his other famous character Dracula,  Legendre's suave demeanor hides his true side; that as an evil voodoo master. With his piercing, hypnotic eyes, his double jointed hands, and his thick Hungarian accent, Lugosi embodies the look and sound of the bogeyman; an evil that will terrify people for generations to come.
Original Movie Poster (1932)

When the film was released in 1932, it was met with negative reviews. Many press articles and reviews stated that it featured poor acting, no scares or thrills, and its over-the-top storyline. There was some positive reviews for the film, but those were few and far between. At the time of its release, Universal's FRANKENSTEIN was garnering all the acclaim, as well as all the boxoffice receipts. Over the years the film fell into the public domain and soon there were several video companies selling poorly transferred versions of the film.

The Kino Classics Blu-Ray (and DVD) boats a Hi-Def transfer from a 35mm grain master of the film (there were some missing scenes from the film that were filled using a 16mm source. Those scenes are easy to spot since they were in really poor shape and were cleaned as best they could.), a raw, unenhanced version of the film complete with all the wears and tears, audio commentary by film historian Frank Thompson, stills gallery, the 1951 theatrical re-release trailer, and an "Intimate Interviews" short from 1932 that features a 6 minute interview with Bela Lugosi himself! This is a very rare interview and is a real treat to Lugosi fans as well as horror fans!

WHITE ZOMBIE has been given the prestige of being considered the first feature length zombie film and has been described as the archetype and model of all zombie movies. It also helped spread the folklore of Haiti's black magic and voodoo practices. In the years that followed, numerous horror films have borrowed themes from the film, such as people returning from the dead and other elements of zombie mythology. The film has been referenced in other Hollywood films and was even the name of the popular 1990's heavy metal group White Zombie, featuring future horror movie director Rob Zombie, who has publicly stated his affection for the film. The Kino Classics is by far THE best version of the film to ever be released since its premiere back in 1932! If you're a horror fan, you need this movie!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

WHITE ZOMBIE is avalable on both Blu-Ray and DVD and can be purchased at your local retailer as well as the Kino Lorber website. To purchase a copy, please visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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