I’ve been making it a point recently to watch more horror films during the month of October. I admit that I haven’t watched many films starring Bela Lugosi (other than the popular ones he made) so it is with delight that I say that I watched White Zombie (1932) and thoroughly enjoyed every second of it!
Filmed over only 11 days, White Zombie tells the story of a young couple, Madeline and Neil (played by John Harron and the lovely Madge Bellamy) who have fallen in love and plan to marry on a plantation in Haiti owned by Charles Beaumont. However, the jealous Charles Beaumont (played by Robert Frazer), who is himself in love with Madeline and was spurned in marriage, decides to concoct a horrific plan: kill Neil Parker so he can have Madeline all to himself. In order to accomplish such a plan, Beaumont turns to the evil voodoo master “Murder” Legendre (played by the terrific Bela Lugosi) and enlists his help. Legendre himself uses mind control to run a sugarcane mill filled with zombies that he has under his control. Legendre tells Beaumont that the only way he can have Madeline is to use a potion that will transform her into a zombie slave. At first reluctant, Legendre eventually convinces Beaumont to take the potion.
On the night of the wedding, Beaumont attempts to convince Madeline to run away with him but she declines. He then gives her a flower with the potion in it which she at once she smells and then puts in her wedding bouquet. After the wedding, the potion finally takes hold and Madeline dies. Legendre and Beaumont then steal her coffin and take it to Legendre’s castle.
Back at the castle, Legendre revives Madeline. After a while of seeing Madeline lifeless and emotionless, Beaumont instantly regrets his decision and begs Legendre to revive Madeline. Legendre refuses and poisons Beaumont with the potion, thus turning him into a zombie slave. Meanwhile, Madeline’s husband, Neil, believes Madeline to still be alive as he returned to her tomb to find it empty. With the help of a Dr. Bruner (Joseph Cawthorn), they seek out Legendre’s castle. Neil enters only to be almost killed by Madeline herself after Legendre orders her to stab him with a knife. However, Madeline initially hesitates and after she is stopped by Dr. Bruner, she runs away.
Legendre orders all of his zombie slaves to kill Neil which ends up with a stand off between Neil and the zombies on the edge of the castle’s cliffs, overlooking the sea. Dr. Bruner sneaks up behind Legendre and momentarily knocks him out which ends his hold over the zombies and they unknowingly walk off the cliff. Legendre then wakes up and is able to seize control over Madeline again but a surprise Beaumont pushes him off the cliff. Beaumont loses his balance at the same time and perishes in the sea below.
With Legendre dead, Madeline reawakens and reunites with her love, Neil.
With a great amount of fun, horror, and fantastic cinematography, White Zombie is a must see for any horror fan.