White Zombie was a 1932 horror film that was produced independently. At the time it didn’t do very well compared to the other larger budget productions from studios like Universal. Still, it is considered by many to be the first feature length zombie film even though zombies in this case is more the hypnotic state of being rather than walking dead. It’s an interesting movie and worth seeing if you like classic horror.
On arrival to Haiti fiancés Madeline and Neil take a carriage ride to the Charles Beaumont plantation. On the way the driver stops to ask for directions but sees the men staring vacantly back at him. “Zombies!” he yells and whips his horses to haul ass out of there. In his escape Murder Legendre, played by Bela Legosi, steals Madeline’s scarf. They arrive at the plantation and are greeted by Dr. Bruner, a missionary sent to perform the marriage for the two of them asks, “Excuse me have you got a match?” The mature man in me immediately yells at the screen “Yeah my butt and your face.”
Charles meets up with them and is bummed since he is in love with Madeline. He decides then to meet in secret with Murder. He meets him at his creepy sugar mill that is being worked by zombies. There they strike a bargain and Murder gives him a potion that will turn Madeline into a zombie too. Make her follow him like one of his mill workers. Charles is really hesitant.
Charles literally asks Madeline not to go through with the marriage as he is about to walk her down the aisle. He gives her a flower laced with the potion. Then the marriage takes place. By now I am wondering what kind of cheap potion he paid for. But apparently it requires some sort of arcane element as well. Murder is watching outside with Bela’s patented Dracula glare. He makes a wax voodoo doll of Madeline out of a candle and seemingly kills her.
She is put in a crypt and Neil is a mess. Meanwhile Charles, Murder and the gang of zombies get to the crypt and get zombie Madeline. Neil actual catches a glimpse of her walking away and runs to talk to Dr. Bruner “Can I trouble you for a match?” he asks again. I told you “My butt and your face.” Are they really making that line this guy’s catch phrase? They talk about the process of zombification and who might have a motive. Well it must be the one guy who has always wanted Madeline, Charles. They also talk about how Murder has turned all his former rivals into zombies.
Meanwhile, Madeline is playing the piano in a zombie state. Charles is regretting turning her this way. He asks Murder to turn her back. He says he won’t so they have a drink and Murder reveals he has poisoned Charles and soon he will become one of his zombies as well. He then has his horde of zombies kill Chuck’s butler. Neil and the Doctor are waiting outside thinking of an opportune time to go inside. Madeline and Neil share a moment locked in time.
So he and the Doc break into the castle of Charles. The Doctor and Neil separate. Neil finds Madeline in a room with Murder and the almost drugged out Charles. Murder orders Madeline to kill Charles with a knife. Dr. Bruner grabs the knife from her and they escape to an escarpment. Murder has had enough of this crap and orders his zombies to attack but is shortly knocked unconscious by Dr. Bruner. The Zombies, with no command now wander off the cliff to their death. Murder gets up and is about to make a bond villain style escape when Charles stumbles in and wrestles him off the cliff to both their deaths.
The resulting death frees Madeline from the zombie state she was in apparently. She and Neil are happily together at last. The Doctor asks “Does either of you have a match?” “I told you! MY BUTT AND YOUR….OH FORGET IT.” Roll credits on the zaniness.