White Zombie (1932)

white zombie poster 1932 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

First zombie film, Bela Lugosi

Weak story, poor acting

Movie Info

Movie Name:  White Zombie

Studio:   Victor & Edward Halperin Productions

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s):  July 28, 1932 (Premiere)/August 4, 1932 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

white zombie bela lugosi murder

I’m Dracula…wait…I mean Murder!!!

Madeleine Short Parker (Madge Bellamy) travels to Haiti to be with her fiancé Neil Parker (John Harron).  When her beauty strikes the fancy of Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer), he is unable to convince Madeleine to be with him.  Turning to a local voodoo practitioner named “Murder” Legendre (Bela Lugosi), Charles is given a potion to make Madeleine a zombie.  After her wedding to Neil, Madeleine falls ill and appears to die…only to be revived as a zombie.  Murder has other plans for Madeleine and Charles, and only Neil and a local doctor named Bruner (Joseph Cawthorn) have the hope of stopping his evil.

Directed by Victor Halperin, White Zombie is a pre-code horror movie.  The movie is based on the 1929 William Seabrook novel The Magic Island.  The film was poorly reviewed upon its release but has gained a large following since its release (including Rob Zombie who named his band after the film).  The film is in public domain and readily available online.

white zombie bela lugosi madge bellamy robert frazer

Hey…she might not be a ton of fun, but you got your lady

When I was young and could occasionally get my hand on monster books at the small library we went to, they were always about classic monster movies.  White Zombie frequently popped up in the books, but pre-internet, you were lucky to find something like this even on a bootleg VHS tape.  It was public domain but public domain meant that you had to find a video copy somewhere…now White Zombie is everywhere.

White Zombie is widely considered the first real zombie movie.  It isn’t a zombie movie in the modern sense (aka flesh eating zombies…that really developed with The Night of the Living Dead).  Instead, it takes the idea of the voodoo style of zombie who are essentially thralls of a master hovering between life and death.  This is almost an entirely different genre of picture and it would be nice to see more zombie movies of this style, though I doubt audiences could return to it.

white zombie monster undead

No…I’m good. Why do you ask?

The acting of White Zombie is questionable.  It is a rather early talkie so I sometimes feel with movies like these, that some of the actors are still left over from stage and silent pictures.  The acting becomes a bit overdone and overly dramatic.  White Zombie is like this, but of course Bela Lugosi (for horror fans) makes this worth the trip…he’s essentially Dracula as Murder, but it is still fun to watch.

Visually White Zombie is pretty impressive.  The movie used a lot of other sets from the time period (like Dracula).  It is a bit a hodgepodge in that sense, but the result is a classic looking horror movie on par with other films of the time.  For a movie that only took eleven days to shoot, that’s an accomplishment.

White Zombie is a must see for fans of zombie films since it is the first. It also is a must for fans of Bela Lugosi and classic horror.  It isn’t very long and not much of a commitment, so seek it out.  There was a half-way sequel called Revolt of the Zombies. No characters returned, but images of Lugosi’s eyes from White Zombie reappeared…It also is an easy find so you can make it a double feature.

Related Links:

Revolt of the Zombies (1936)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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