Sunday, January 17, 2010

White Zombie

Zombie movies have been a popular staple of the horror genre since George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) shambled onto the screen.  The visceral fascination induced by watching a few isolated survivors fight off hordes of undead spawned a host of imitators.  Like the zombies themselves, zombie movies seem to multiply until it's hard to keep track of them all.  I'll be reviewing some of the most obscure, unique, or just plain odd.

White Zombie (1932) has a place in cinematic history as the very first zombie movie.  No Romero-esque rotting ghouls here- these zombies are the traditional sort, entranced by a magic powder to do the bidding of the sinister Haitian planter Legendre (Bela Lugosi).  When Legendre becomes enamoured with a young American, Madeline (Madge Bellamy), he uses his powder on her, tricking her fiance Neil (John Harron) into thinking she is dead.  Can Neil discover the ruse and rescue Madeline from Legendre's evil clutches?  Many viewers will find White Zombie overly melodramatic, but the dreamlike chiaroscuro images and Lugosi (thoroughly enjoying playing evil) make the film a pleasure to watch.

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