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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

White Zombie [Blu-ray]


(Victor Halperin, 1932)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Victor Halperin Productions

Video: Kino Lorber



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:07:50.483 

Disc Size: 40,455,102,936 bytes

Feature Size: 19,531,595,904 bytes / Raw: 18,137,087,616 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.91 Mbps / Raw: 32.06 Mbps

Chapters: 10

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 29th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Raw: LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit






• White Zombie ('Raw' - see below) (1:07:11)

• Bela Lugosi Interview (6:41)

• Theatrical trailer (2:47)

16-image Gallery







Description: Along a desolate road in the Haitian mountains, a carriage bearing Neil Parker and Madeleine Short encounters a funeral in which the body is being buried in the road. Further down the road, the coach stops at the sight of a man of satanic appearance: six human shapes step forth, and the horrified driver shouts ''Zombies!'', signaling the first appearance of the living dead in American cinema. When first released, WHITE ZOMBIE occupies a deserved place beside DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN as one of the most eerie and interesting horror films of the 1930's and remains a horror classic. Remastered in HD for the first time from Kino Classics!


In this haunting low-budgeter, Bela Lugosi stars as Murder Legendre, a shadowy character who exercises supernatural powers over the natives in his Haitian domain. Coveting Madge Bellamy as his bride, wealthy Robert Frazier enters into an unholy agreement with Lugosi, whereby Madge will die, then be resurrected as a zombie.



The Film:

WHITE ZOMBIE, the first film ever made about zombies, was inspired by William Seabrook's 1929 book on Haitian voodoo, The Magic Island. Produced and directed by brothers Edward and Victor Halperin, the film is a neglected classic that deserves to be placed alongside the early Universal horror pictures and the later Val Lewton chillers. With excellent lighting and camerawork by Arthur Martinelli, imaginative use of sound and music, makeup by Jack Pierce, and opulent sets (left over from a wide range of pictures, including THE KING OF KINGS, 1927; DRACULA, 1931; and FRANKENSTEIN, 1931), WHITE ZOMBIE creates a sense of nightmarish foreboding and dreamy disorientation (indeed, the last line in the film is "Neil, I . . . I dreamed") rivaled only by Carl Dreyer's masterpiece VAMPYR (1931). While the Halperins demonstrate a keen sense of the possibilities of the cinema, however, their handling of actors is woefully inadequate. With the exception of Bela Lugosi, who turns in one of his finest performances, most of the acting in WHITE ZOMBIE is weak. Luckily, the dialog is kept to an absolute minimum and many scenes are played out with only eerie sound effects as accompaniment. The success of WHITE ZOMBIE landed the Halperins a contract with Paramount, but their subsequent efforts--both in the horror genre and outside of it--never equalled the artistic or financial success of WHITE ZOMBIE. A sequel of sorts, THE REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES, was made by the Halperins in 1936 and was a crushing disappointment.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

A dream-like encounter between Gothic romance and 'primitive' mythology, with an American innocent (Bellamy) plucked from her wedding feast and consigned to walk with the Haitian living dead by voodoo master Lugosi. Halperin shoots this poetic melodrama as trance; insinuating ideas and images of possession, defloration, and necrophilia into a perfectly stylised design, with the atmospherics conjuring echoes of countless resonant fairytales. The unique result constitutes a virtual bridge between classic Universal horror and the later Val Lewton productions.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

White Zombie on Blu-ray from Kino has given us something to talk about.  I'll tell you - if not for the inclusion of the 'Raw' un-digitized version - I'd be screaming Blu(ray)-murder at this transfer. The 'main feature' has contrast boosting and DNR out the wazoo - it reminds me of those early HD Cinema Classics renderings like 'The Red House'. It just sucks the grain right out of the image and makes everything look waxy with unnatural, blown-out, whites (reminiscent of some of those late 1990's Mei Ah DVDs). BUT... the good news is that they have included what they call a 'Raw' version - an alternate version of the film transferred without digital enhancement. It actually has a higher bitrate and more information in the frame! Yes, it also has plenty of speckles and dirt but looks far better to my eye with some healthy texture. To be fair to the 'digitized version' - it does seem most prominent at the beginning but once you see that waxy look - it is hard to view the bastardized/manipulated version in the same light, IMO.



Digitally Enhanced - 1080P - TOP vs. Raw - 1080P - BOTTOM



Digitally Enhanced - 1080P - TOP vs. Raw - 1080P - BOTTOM



Digitally Enhanced - 1080P - TOP vs. Raw - 1080P - BOTTOM



Digitally Enhanced - 1080P - TOP vs. Raw - 1080P - BOTTOM



Digitally Enhanced










Audio :

Both the 'Raw' and the Digitally Enhanced version have a linear PCM mono at 2304 kbps. It is, of course, imperfect with inconsistencies connoting the age. There may have been an extra muffled crackle on the 'raw'- hard to say. There are no subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A' but I am not 100% sure that it might be region FREE.


Extras :

Supplements offer the previously discussed 'Raw', alternate version of White Zombie, running slightly shorter than the digitized version - and despite watching both I can't tell where the time was lost. There is a 7-minute vintage piece entitled 'Intimate Interviews' with this gal hanging out with Bela Lugosi talking about his personal life and career to that point in his life. There is a, very cool, 1951 re-release theatrical trailer and a 16-image, click-thru, Gallery.



I'm so happy I didn't let the digitized version spoil this wonderful little horror that harkens to The Island of Lost Souls with an atmosphere similar to The Most Dangerous Game. Lugosi is fabulous. The 'raw' version is the way to go on this Blu-ray in my opinion. I enjoyed this for its vintage feel - not a perfect film - but a wonderful Movie Night experience in the right frame of mind. White Zombie is a great 'B' Double Feature opening for a more modern Zombie flic. Recommended!  

Gary Tooze

January 21st, 2013


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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