White Zombie is a 1932 American Pre-Code horror film directed and independently produced by Victor and Edward Halperin. The screenplay by Garnett Weston, based on The Magic Island by William Seabrook, tells the story of a young woman’s transformation into a zombie at the hands of an evil voodoo master. Béla Lugosi stars as the antagonist, Murder Legendre, with Madge Bellamy appearing as his victim. Other cast members included Robert W. Frazer, John Harron, and Joseph Cawthorn.
Large portions of White Zombie were shot on the Universal Studios lot, borrowing many props and scenery from other horror films of the era. White Zombie opened in New York to negative reception, with reviewers criticizing the film’s over-the-top story and weak acting performances. While the film made a substantial financial profit as an independent feature, it proved to be less popular than other horror films of the time.
White Zombie is considered the first feature length zombie film. A sequel to the film, titled Revolt of the Zombies, opened in 1936. Modern reception to White Zombie has been more positive than its initial release. Some critics have praised the atmosphere of the film, comparing it to the 1940s horror film productions of Val Lewton, while others still have an unfavorable opinion on the quality of the acting.
By Victor Halperin (YouTube) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons