Directed by Victor Halperin [Supernatural (1933), Revolt of the Zombies (1936), Torture Ship (1939), Buried Alive (1939)]
Often regarded as the first-ever zombie film, I have to admit, I liked this flick more the last few times I saw it as opposed to this last viewing.
Make no mistake, White Zombie is still a classic film – there are some great sets (both the crypt/graveyard and the castle at the end), some solid performances, quite a bit of creepy imagery, and an overall good story. At the same time, despite running for just over an hour (hour and seven minutes, to be exact), I still felt a bit bored at times.
Made a year after the classic Dracula, Bela Lugosi does really well as the antagonist. Related, Robert Frazer also has a solid presence, and his final act really brings his character arc together. John Harron was an interesting lead actor, mainly because he has a smaller physique than I’m used to seeing, but it still worked well. Lastly, playing his wife, Madge Bellamy does well as both a young, enthusiastic woman and as a zombie, so props to her.
Given the movie’s shorter, whenever I felt the plot drag, it was rather disappointing. What probably made it a little worse is the fact that while the visual print I saw was impeccable (very crisp black-and-white, which isn’t at all like the commonly available print of this one), the audio quality suffered a bit, and because of that, it wasn’t uncommon for it to be difficult to pick up some of the dialogue.
Like I said, though, this movie is still a classic. It was never my favorite of the 30’s horror output, but it was always an acceptable film. It still is, though like I said, I liked it more during previous viewings. Definitely worth a watch, my issues notwithstanding, if you’re a fan of classic horror.