Monday, October 28, 2019

White Zombie

With Halloween coming up, another movie I watched in TCM's Halloween horror spotlight is White Zombie.

John Harron and Madge Bellamy play Neil and Madeline, a pair of lovers in Haiti who are about to get married at the plantation house of the wealthy Mr. Beaumont (Robert Frazer). On the way, they pass a creepy man, "Murder" Legendre (Bela Lugosi) who steals Madeline's scarf. When they get to the Beaumont house, we learn that Madeline knew him in the past but doesn't really like him. They're only getting married there because of that.

Beaumont, for his part, still has designs on Madeline. To that end, he goes to see Legendre. Ostensibly, Legendre runs a sugar mill, but as we see, all of his employees are zombies, which I suppose would really cut down on labor costs. Beaumont knows about Legendre's skill with zombies, which is why Beaumont has gone to see him. He wants Legendre to come up with some sort of potion that will make Madeline love him instead of Neil.

Beaumont administers the potion to Madeline at the meal after the wedding, and the first effect is to make it look like she's dead, which is partly by design to get Neil to believe she's dead. Of course, she's only undead, and after a suitable amount of time Beaumont and Legendre's zombies go and retrieve Madeline's body. The only problem is, she doesn't really have any emotion. She wasn't turned into somebody who would love Beaumont, but a slave.

What Beaumont doesn't realize is that this was Legendre's plan. Have seen Madeline, he wants her for himself too, and he knows how to get her. Beaumont still has her, and so Legendre has to turn Beaumont into a zombie, which he does with a potion that will zombify Beaumont in slow motion. Neil, meanwhile, has reason to believe something is wrong, helped by a local priest. He stays behind, trying to get back into Beaumont's mansion, hoping to rescue Madeline....

I have to admit that the story behind White Zombie is one that rather strains credulity. But the movie itself is a lot of fun. Lugosi is a joy to watch, and the sets are really stylish. Although it's a horror movie, I didn't find this one particularly horrifying, but that doesn't mean the movie is at all bad. It's more that I tend to be less frightened by these 1930s horror films.

White Zombie is available on DVD should you wish to watch yourself.

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