Friday, 26 May 2017

Classic Horror films of Bela Lugosi: White Zombie

So Today I want to talk about Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó or to give him the name he is more commonly known by Bela Lugosi. Lugosi was a Hungarian-American actor,most famous for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 Universal Dracula film, some people seem to think that this is pretty much all that he did, but that is far from the truth. He started off playing small parts on the stage in his native Hungary and then he made his first film in 1917. He left and at first traveld to Germany where he made several films before finally arriving in the USA. It was there in the United States that Lugosi first took on the role of Count Dracula in 1927 in a Broadway adaption of the Bram Stoker novel, and then in 1931 he appeared in the Universal Pictures Film Dracula playing the same role. During the rest of the 1930's Lugosi continued to appear in horror films, mostly ones with an East European setting but due to his accent and his association with the character of Dracula he found himself unfortunatly typecast. He was often paired with Boris Karloff another horror legend of the time, but Lugosi struggled far more Karloff often got more money and more respect, they appeared togther in films such as The Black Cat (1934), The Raven (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939).

If you read through the History of Horror it wasnt always as kind as it should have been to Lugosi, for example his pay was dramatically cut in half once just because the studio heard he was in financial difficulty and knew he litterally couldnt afford to walk away, I guess its only now looking back that people really click on what a Star he was. so with this in mind I wanted to touch on some of his none Dracula roles and I wanted to start this with White Zombie, after all I have tackled Zombies quite a lot of times with this blog but this film is very diffrent.

Ok so I dont want to write everything that happens in the film from start to finish as I actually want you my reader to be able to leave this post and watch it, if it sounds like something you would enjoy that is. The film is set in Haiti, you have a couple who are engaged and have plans to marry soon, they are called Madeleine Short and Neil Parker. When they are on the way to their lodging in a coach they pass by an evil voodoo master called Murder Legendre (played by Lugosi) Neil and Madeleine arrive at the home of  a very wealthy plantation owner by the name of Charles Beaumont.

Charles loves Madeleine too and wants her for his own so he secretly goes to visit the voodoo master  Murder. Murder explains that he has used voodoo to turn anyone who apposed him or got in his way into a zombie.  Now its important to stop here and make it clear that this is not Zombie as in night of the living dead undead flesh eating zombie, no this is as in someone who is essentially medically drugged to be vacant and obediant.

Murder gives Charles a potion which he gives to Madeleine, and the potion takes effect shortly after Madeleine and Neil's wedding ceremony and she appears to die.  After her funeral, Murder and Charles enter Madeleine's tomb and retreave her. Neil doesnt cope very well with his wife's death  and so he goes to her tomb but obviously he finds it now empty. Neil goes to the local missionary who is caleld Dr. Bruner and tells him what he has seen and asks for help. Dr Bruner tells Neil about how Murder  made his rivals into zombies, who he now uses to guard him. With this explained the two men set out to Murder's  castle to attempt to rescue Madeleine and if you want to know how this all plays out, well then youll have to watch the film now wont you.

The film got a whole mixed bag when it came to reviews back in the day, some claimed it was awful and the activing was bad, others claimed that Lugosi was fantastic and made the movie but the general truth is that the reviews were simply all over the place.

White Zombie was filmed in eleven days in March 1932 and was shot at the Universal Studios lot and Bronson Canyon with apparently a Budget of $50,000 and a lot of back ground props and stuff were borrowed from other productions. Béla Lugosi and Joseph Cawthorn were the only people to be regarded as properly famous that featured the rest of the cast were actors who had seen there careers take a turn for the worst since the end of silent film era. When you put all of this togther I think the film is simply astounding, and with its voodoo style zombies its quiet diffrent from most of the zombie films out there, I do think it is very much a Lugosi picture though without him there is wouldnt be anywere near as good, which is proberbly reflected in the fact that its sequel which did not feature Lugosi is pretty much overall considerd to be a bad film, I would give this film 7 bats out of 10, if it sounds like your kind of thing give it a watch after all its go to beat being a reality TV zombie.


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