I love Bela Lugosi. He’s one of my favorite horror icons of all time. Any movie he’s in he just commands it. His presence is unmatched. Lugosi has these hypnotic eyes that put you in a trance. You can’t look away. I figured today would be a perfect day to watch some classic Lugosi. White Zombie came out a year after Dracula so Lugosi is still at his best. The screen on Netflix before hitting play already has me excited to watch. This is another running commentary, so I’m calling it as I see it. This is a Halperin Production. The title screen is all kinds of awesome. I like this tribal music. It’s setting the mood for me. I’m expecting some sort of voodoo magic or something. I am familiar with this film, but it has been awhile since I have acquainted myself with the material. The film quality isn’t that great, but I like it for that reason. So it’s a funeral that is going on. This couple is in a carriage driven by a black man. He tells them some quick information about why these other African Americans (I think) are chanting. They ride past this man with a hat and it’s fucking Lugosi! He looks like the fucking Undertaker. It’s creepy and awesome at the same time. The give us a closeup on his eyes. There’s those eyes I was talking about. Chilling! He touches the girl, and the black man gets that carriage out of there. The driver also sees some zombies. I’d hightail it too. Lugosi grabbed the girl’s scarf too. Thief!
The man complains to the driver about his driving. He said he saved their asses because of the living dead. They come out at night. They are still coming. He’s getting his carriage the hell out of there. Some man comes up asking for a smoke. Our lead male tells him what the driver said, but this guy doesn’t believe it. I guess this guy is a doctor and he’s supposed to marry these two people. The girl is named Madeline and the guy is Neil. They are waiting for a Mr. Beaumont with Dr. Bruner. Dr. Bruner has only met Beaumont once or twice. Bruner tells the couple to get the hell out of dodge after they get married. He believes it is not wise to stay there. They meet Mr. Beaumont. I like that he has a butler named Silver. He sends them up to their rooms. The quality of this film has a very loud static sound. I like it for some reason. Mr. Beaumont gets on a carriage with a really freaky looking dude. He must be one of those zombies or something. He was white. I guess he’s the “white zombie” of the film. He’s taken to this weird place where all these people are working. Lots of things are being moved around. It’s really creepy.
Mr. Beaumont meets up with Lugosi. He has that shit eating grin. The men all work for Lugosi. I love that Lugosi kinda looks like Satan. He’s got the devil beard and the eyebrows. It’s badass. He shows Beaumont the scarf he grabbed from Madeline. Lugosi wants her. Of course he does. Beaumont wants Madeline to be with him, but he knows the couple is to be married in an hour. Lugosi knows she’s deeply in love with Neil. Lugosi has his ways to do things though. Beaumont agrees to do anything for him. Lugosi whispers something into his ear and Beaumont doesn’t like that idea. I guess he’d do almost anything. Poison? Is that the Lugosi plan? Mr. Beaumont doesn’t want to take it, but Lugosi assures him he should keep just in case he changes his mind. Damn, that Lugosi stare! His body language is just amazing. I loved how he followed him with his eyes as he walked away. Beaumont wants to find another way, but Lugosi says there is no other way.
It’s time for a wedding! Beaumont is leading Madeline down the aisle, and he’s trying to talk her out of the marriage the whole time. He’s not very good at this. It’s probably not a good idea to try this last ditch effort at her wedding. He nicely gives her a flower though. Beaumont looks pissed off listening to Dr. Bruner the whole time as he does the wedding stuff. Lugosi is dicking around with things outside. He’s wrapping that scarf around a candle. This makes some bird above him angry. Lugosi seems pleased by this. I can’t praise Lugosi enough. I should mention his name is Murder Legendre which is just a badass name.
Some of the audio cuts out sometimes. Madeline and Neil are talking about things over drinks. She looks into the drink and sees the eyes of Lugosi. How creepy is that! Neil asks her what she saw and she said death! Lugosi is lighting the candle with the scarf on fire. That sick fuck! Madeline passes out as he does this. Neil holds her in his arms and he pleads to Beaumont for help. More Lugosi eyes! I’m going to see those eyes in my nightmares tonight. Lugosi then walks towards the screen. Madeline is apparently dead now. Damn you and your witchcraft, Lugosi!
Quick funeral scene and we get Neil in a bar. He’s seeing visions of Madeline on the table. He’s nuts too now! Ghost Madeline is calling for poor Neil, but he cant’ grab her. I feel sorry for the poor guy. Demon Bela Lugosi stole her from him. At the cemetery, Lugosi is looking like the Undertaker again. He’s with Beaumont. They run into some zombies in the cemetery. The zombies are Lugosi’s servants. He says they were his enemies. One of them was a witch doctor, and he learned and stole his ideas. All his zombies have names. One of them was an executioner who he said almost executed him. He has a sense of humor haha! Lugosi sends his zombies after the casket of Madeline. That reminds me of another Bela Lugosi film called The Corpse Vanishes where he steals caskets after people die. I reviewed that movie two years ago.
Beaumont is happy to have the casket, and to see Madeline’s dead face. Neil is coming to the cemetery though yelling her name. This could create a problem. Neil is too late though. The Lugosi gang are out of the cemetery. Neil sees that the casket has been removed and he lets out a scream. Neil goes to some guy and tells him about what happened. The man believes that either the casket was stolen or she was never dead. The man gives Neil some clues. He even comes up with the idea that Madeline may have been murdered so someone could steal her body. He would be correct about that one. The two men discuss these rituals or voodoo stuff. They read through books talking about people being alive but their brains aren’t working. Zombies basically! Neil has a good brain. His first instinct is Beaumont is behind this. I think Neil was talking to Dr. Bruner that whole time. I forget who people are easily sometimes. Hard to tell in these old black and white films.
Back at Beaumont’s castle, Madeline is playing the piano. She’s got a blank, emotionless look on her face. Beaumont’s plan looks pretty lousy at this point. What’s the point of having a zombie girlfriend? Beaumont wants a smile from her. You should have thought about that before killing Madeline. Now he doesn’t seem to like her because of this. He wants to take Madeline back. Lugosi appears at the top of the stairs. He always has to be in a higher position. Beaumont pleads to him to put the life back in her. Lugosi believes that she would probably hate Beaumont for this, but Beaumont thinks hatred is better than nothing. More Lugosi stare! They do it for no reason sometimes. They just want to creep you out. Lugosi and Beaumont share a drink. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lugosi poisoned him. Haha, he did try to poison him! Beaumont figured it out and tossed the drink to the ground. He commands Silver to do something, but Lugosi stares at him. That’s all it takes! Silver ain’t doing shit against that stare. Lugosi’s zombie horde takes Silver away. Damn! I should mention that Lugosi said he had his own plans for Madeline. That bastard! Silver’s scream is heard after the zombies take him upstairs. They toss poor Silver into some water. Not sure where that water goes to or why it was at the top of the stairs.
Angry bird at the window! Lugosi is in some scary stance while Beaumont yells at him. Neil and I think Dr. Bruner have arrived at some place looking for a witch doctor. Great plan! Fight witch doctor with witch doctor! Pierre is the witch doctor’s name. Bruner said they are old friends. Pierre warns Dr. Bruner to leave. Bruner asks Pierre if he’s ever been dead. PIerre said he is the only man to ever be dead to come alive. Crazy! That’s all I have to say. I’m really enjoying this film. That damn vulture is making noise. It’s probably the same one that was yelling at Lugosi. Neil seems a bit crazed himself at this point. Bruner tells him to stay where he is while he goes to the castle. The camera is doing a neat split screen with Madeline and Neil. Lots of different wipes. Good editing especially for 1932. Neil feels the presence of Madeline even though she’s a mute with no emotion. Two maids are in a room with Madeline. They are supposed to be doing something with her. Neil is trying to make his way to the castle as Madeline walks out to the balcony to look out.
Beaumont is apparently drunk or something is wrong with him. Lugosi is with him asking if he can hear him. He’s chatting away with him while he’s making a voodoo doll. It’s dark and hilarious at the same time. Beaumont is apparently poisoned and can’t really do much. Neil is making his way into the castle while Lugosi works away at the voodoo doll. I’m not sure if the doll is for Neil or Beaumont. It might just be for fun haha. Neil passes out or dies in the castle. This pleases Lugosi since he finds him. He does that creepy pose and then close up on those creepy eyes. Damn, I love those eyes. I have to stare at them myself. I feel like I’m being possessed. Madeline rises from her bed. I love this camera angle where you are looking through this clover like symbol as a character is coming down the stairs. They’ve done it once with Lugosi and just now with Madeline.
Madeline comes to the room with Lugosi and Beaumont. She grabs a knife from the table and heads over to Neil’s body. Beaumont looks displeased but he’s all weird anyway. Madeline raises the knife over Neil’s body while Lugosi does his pose.
That’s the pose. It’s awesome. Great picture too. Anyway, she pulls down the knife. Close up on Lugosi’s eyes! She raises the knife again! She can’t do it! She dropped the knife. Lugosi keeps doing his hand thin, but it’s not working! Fuck you, Lugosi! Your magic ain’t doing working! Neil is up now as Madeline runs out of the castle. I’m glad he isn’t dead. There’s a lake or river outside. Madeline seems to want to jump in. Neil catches up to Madeline. He tries to talk with her, but she’s still a zombie. Lugosi comes out with them. He summons his zombie gang. He calls them demons of death which is awesome. Lugosi says the zombies are there to get Neil. Neil shoots at them, but it’s not working. Bruner knocks out Lugosi and he sends the zombies into the water! Neil looks over at Madeline. He gets a smile out of her! Yay! Will she talk?! She recognizes his face. Lugosi stands again and she goes back to the blank face. Lugosi runs up the stairs and throws something as Neil and Bruner chase him which stops them.. He does that trademark pose and then Beaumont pushes him into the water. He falls in as well as vultures scream. Neil goes back over to Madeline and she talks! She knows who Neil is! Happy ending! The film ends with a joke with Bruner asking for a light for his pipe like earlier in the film.
I love this film! It has a great atmosphere. The editing is good for the time. There’s some sound problems at times, but it’s not problematic. Bela Lugosi is fantastic. I’d argue it’s better than his performance in Dracula. He’s the number one reason to watch this film. Everyone else is okay at best. They do their job while Lugosi commands the film. I highly recommend this one. This is easily one of the better zombie films. The film can be tragic at times. It also has the dark elements, yet it still has a happy ending! Check it out!
Oh Yeah! This film is public domain. Here is a Youtube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFLjN-BNS1Y
- Dracula: From Bela Lugosi to Jonathan Rhys Meyers (geek-news.mtv.com)
- 10 Underrated Horror Films For A Perfect Halloween (kiss951.cbslocal.com)