Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         


WHITE ZOMBIE. United Artists, 1932. Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, Joseph Cawthorn, Robert Frazer, John Harron, Brandon Hurst, George Burr MacAnnan. Director: Victor Halperin.

   I recently had the opportunity to attend a screening of White Zombie at the Billy Wilder Theater here in Los Angeles. Presented as part of the UCLA Festival of Restoration, the low budget production is a zombie story, a fairy tale, and a fever dream wrapped into one idiosyncratic, but thoroughly watchable, celluloid package.

   Directed by Victor Halperin, White Zombie isn’t nearly as lavish as Dracula, nor is it as philosophically rich as The Wolf Man. But it is a lot better than many of the later Poverty Row productions in which Lugosi starred in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

   Although it was cheaply made with some incredibly clunky moments of both acting and dialogue, the film has its atmospheric charms and benefits from an exquisitely mischievous performance by Lugosi. In this post-Dracula outing, he portrays Murder Legendre, a white Haitian plantation owner and a master of voodoo who puts the enchanting Madeleine Short Parker (Madge Bellamy) under his spell. That is, until her white knight husband storms Legendre’s fortress to rescue his one true love from the evil madman’s clutches!

   It’s silly, magical fun.