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White Zombie

USA 1932
produced by
Edward Halperin, Victor Halperin for Halperin Productions
directed by Victor Halperin
starring Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, John Harron, Robert Frazer, Joseph Cawthorn, Clarence Muse, Brandon Hurst, Dan Crimmins, Frederick Peters
written by Garnett Weston, cenematography by Arthur Martinelli, music by Guy Bevier Williams, Xavier Cugat, make up effects by Jack Pierce, Carl Axcelle

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Freshly-engaged Madeline (Madge Bellamy) & Neil (John Harron) are invited by Beaumont (Robert Frazer) to have their wedding at his Haiti estate, which is mighty generous of him (one would even say a bit too generous. Even when getting to his place though, Medeline and Neil have to realize something's not quite alright: When their coach-driver (Clarence Muse) all of a sudden speeds up the coach's horses to their limits, later claiming he had to escape zombies, and when a weird looking man steals Madeline's scarf (an important element in some voodoo practices is it to have an item that once belonged to the proposed victim), both occurences not exactly reassuring.

And, finally reaching Beaumont's estate, even the missionary who is going to marry them, Bruner (Joseph Cawthorn), articulates his doubts about their friend's noble motives.

And really, Beaumont is madly in love with Madeline, & he would do anything to get her.

Anything ?

Yes, he even goes to Black Magician Murder Legendre (Bela Lugosi) - the weird looking man who has stolen Madeline's scarf - to ask him to put some hoodoo on that woman so she stays with him ...

& really, shortly after the wedding, Madeline, having just smelt a flower Beaumont has given her, dies. She is soon buried in a crypt of the local graveyard, & Neil is left heartbroken, heavy drinking, always seeing visions of his lost love ...

Beaumont meanwhile opens the crypt again, & awakes Madeline from the dead, btu unfortunately she has turned into an emotionless soulless creature, very much like all the servants & slaves of Murder Legendre. When Neil returns to the cemetary though & finds Madeline's crypt open & her coffin gone, he asks doctor Gruner for help, & the man is more than willing to join forces with Neil in finding Madeline & fight the Black Magician behind it all.

& really, their trail leads them back to Beaumont's castle, where Beaumont in the meantime complains to Legendre about the soulless Madeline & asks hjim to return her soul to her agian - but he doesn't know that Legendre has since set eyes on the girls himself, & to get her has decided to zombify Beaumont as well. Slowly, Legendre's poison is taking the soul out of Beaumont ...

Neil meanwhile has reached the castle as well, but is knocked out by Legendre's hypnotic powers, who then orders Madeline to stab her husband ... but as if a distant memory would prevent her from doing so, she hesitates just long enough for Buner to get her knife.

Startled by this turn of events, Legendre loses his grip on Neil, who then tires to go into one on one combat with him, but Legendre calls all his zonmbies for his own defense, & soon they threaten to throw Neil over a cliff. Only thanks to Bruner's intervention, who knocks Legendrre out, Neil is saved again, & the mindless zombies fall of the cliff to their own deaths instead. & when Legendre finally regains consciousness, he is attacked by a not yet totally zombified Beaumont, who throws him over a cliff, then himself as well - he who started it all, ends it all, too.


Even upon its release, White Zombie was heavily critisized for its then antiquated acting & directing style, all reminiscent of the silent era. To a point, this is of course true, director Halperin uses many static shots in wide range, long passages without dialogue & wildly gesturing actors. These points of critique though are besides the point, as White Zombie is more of atmospheric tale than a dialogue piece in the first place, with all the scenery (while looking nothing like Haiti & actually entirely filmed on the Universal lot) & the long silent scenes contributing greatly to the dark & sinister mood, & Bela Lugosi's rather overacted performance (& he was never a man of subtleties) was maybe the best of his career. As a result, White Zombie, from today's point of view, stands the test of time much better than other contemporary horror pics that at the time seemed more up-to-date.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD