Saturday, June 29, 2013

White Zombie

Running time : 1 hour and 6 mins

Well Hello! Remember the guys who blogged about horror movies and reviewed them and posted about it and then disappeared for a long time? WELL They still haven't surfaced, but in the meantime here's what I thought about the 1932 classic "White Zombie". Starring none other then the malevolent Bela Lugosi. Considering this movie is so old and has probably been reviewed more then 100 times, this is going to more of a revisiting of this movie. Mind you, it's getting a fresh look, because until yesterday, I hadn't seen it before. 

So for those of you who either don't remember this movie, or who haven't seen it before, let me bring you up to speed. "Madeleine" and "Neil" a young and naive couple who are madly in love with each other, travel down to Haiti to get married. An acquaintance of theirs "Monsieur Beaumont" has invited them to come and stay at his plantation during the festivities, although within a few minutes into this movie, we realize that he has other plans in store. "Monsieur Beaumont" also fancies the lovely "Madeleine" and wishes to whisk her away from her fiance and to marry him instead. Although because she is madly in love with her fiance, the jealous "Beaumont" turns to an evil witch doctor (Lugosi) who goes by the name of "Murder Legendre" to use his dark magics to zombify "Madeleine" so that she may comply to whatever "Beaumont" desires........ You know what? I think this same premise was on an episode of "Passions" once before...... Anyways moving on!

My take on "Classic horror"
Old classic horror movies are an art form through and through. I personally love these movies, because they are not the kind of horror movies we have come to know today. They are more mysterious and weird. The thing I like about these movies, is that they really draw on the creative imagination, to take leaps and bounds wherever they want and they can get away with it, because it's done in such a way that you just believe it. I mean of course it's fiction, but they leave lasting impressions that no other horror movie today can. I can go see a movie like "Paranormal Activity" or "Scream" and you know what it's about and you can give a general description to someone, if you're trying to tell them to see it, but describing certain scenes and atmosphere's in these movies I find are often quickly forgotten and you have to watch them again to re immerse yourself in it, so that you may go back and see those scenes. With classic horror movies such as "Dracula", "Frankenstein", "Creature from the Black Lagoon" etc. They are so iconic that you think about them and "Poof" you can see the scene where the unsuspecting "Renfield" is walking through the "Counts" castle for the first time and you see the giant spider crawling up the wall as "Renfield" shrieks! You remember the angry mob of villagers hunt down "Frankenstein", after the misunderstood monster accidentally kills the little girl, by tossing her in the river. 

Part of what makes these movies so great, is not only the film makers, but the iconic actors playing the roles and how after so many times playing them, they become known for it. What we refer to as "type casting". Now type casting can sometimes get a bad reputation because it almost seems insulting to actors, because directors and film makers make it out to believe that they can only perform these roles and anything else just seems laughable. While this statement is true to some degree, the part about type casting I like is the fact that, these actors perform these parts so well that,  yeah of course the film makers are going to call upon them again and again, because they don't trust anyone else to do a better job. On the Blu ray version of this movie, there is a 6 minute interview with Bela Lugosi ( Cool right?) and he actually does touch on this subject. I'll see if I can find it on youtube and post it later on here.

Sorry that went on a little longer then I was anticipating! Anyways back to White Zombie

What did you like about this movie?
One of the things right off the bat I liked about this movie is that it goes into the main story pretty much within the first 3 minutes. The 2 newly weds to be, are traveling by stage coach to the plantation and as they make their way down the road, there is a ceremony taking place in the middle of the street. The coach driver talks about how there's been a number of grave robbings that have been happening recently and how it is becoming quite an issue. From this moment, you get an idea of the disturbing ominous presence that this movie draws to.

Another thing I like about this movie and something I find that separates these classic horror movies from newer ones, is the lack of mechanical audio. What I mean by this is that there are some scenes, where a character will be investigating a strange noise, or stumbles upon some weird clue and as he's searching, the movie is pretty much dead silent, except for the natural sounds. There's no atmosphere or theme building music. You know like when in "Jaws" when the shark approaches, there's the traditional theme playing. With this there is not really much of that. There's a scene where "Neil" is searching a room for clues and all you hear is the creaking of the door, or the shuffling of papers. No ominous track, building in the background as he gets closer to the evil discovery. This same white noise atmosphere is also used in the scenes in which "Murder Legendre" uses his dark penetrating gaze to cast his spell on his victims. The camera zooms in a la "Dracula" style on his eyes, but the rest is silence. This of course being said when themed music is used, it is placed very well and adds the right amount of tension when it needs to.

Look into my eyes

That's right bitch, keep looking.

I have you now!

This isn't the kind of zombie movie you think it is, which is another reason why I like it. Sure there are zombies but the whole movie isn't about how a whole bunch of them are on a rampage and about some stupid T virus or some stupid bullshit. "Murder Legendre" has the ability to cast a dark cloud over these people's minds and therefore they become zombies, because their mind is trapped under his spell. Yes it does sound a little hokey, but it's the 1930's, they can do whatever the fuck they want. The acting in this movie is pretty meh aside from Bela's performance obviously, though there is something that I will criticize about that in just a sec.

Your just a sec is up, so what isn't so good?
Bela Lugosi is in my mind, the best iconic horror actor ever. That being said, I think he played "Dracula" so many times, that any other character he plays...... turns out pretty much like "Dracula". From the zooming close up of his eyes, to the mannerisms he displays. Not to mention, for a large part of the movie, he's wearing a cape......I'm pretty sure it actually is his vampire cape too. Who says you can't share clothing and props in different movies? I have seen some of his other movies too and can pretty much stand by that this is true for the most part. Even if you watch the movie "Ed Wood", Martin Landau who really does Lugosi justice in that movie, yet shows that his persona in general is pretty much "Dracula" all the time.

One of the other things about this movie that really did have me challenge my attention span, was about 25 mins in or so, after "Madeleine" has been taken under her dark spell. "Neil" is confronting another character in this movie who I swear is "Van Helsing" but isn't. This part of the movie, they are arguing about what has happened and trying to figure a plan to stop it. This goes on for about 10 or 15 mins and it's PAINFULLY slow. I knew the movie would pick up eventually, because this is a common occurrence in old horror movies, but while it's taking place, you can't help but want to go for a walk or something and then come back once it is back on track.

This is a link to the slow scene I'm talking about, to save your sanity, it's only a 2 min version.

Aside from that, the only other thing that is technically bad about this movie, is the editing between scenes is done kind of poorly at times, so you can see where they actually would have cut at the end of one scene and then picked up the continuation in another. This doesn't happen all the time and when it does it's not so bad that it ruins the movie, in fact some people may not even notice it at all. Honestly it's an old movie and they probably had a pretty tiny budget, so I wouldn't really insult it too much. 

Final Thoughts on this movie?
I do definitely recommend seeing this movie, especially if you like classic horror and or are a Lugosi fan. I recommend getting the remastered blu ray version of this film. It's only $22 on amazon and it comes with the original raw version of the film as well, in case you want to really see the original. Also this version has a 6 minute intimate interview with Bela Lugosi which is really worth checking out. If you find yourself wanting to see it, but don't want to pay to see it, the full film is on youtube and you can also find the interview there as well. I'm a collector though, so I have to have the actual hard copy. To each his or her own. I'd definitely call this a cult film, so not everyone will like it, but again if you like old horror movies and especially Lugosi then CHECK EM OUT YA PUKES! *erm* sorry my inner Don Cherry was kicking in there.


Here is the trailer

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