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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

White Zombie [Blu-ray]

 

(Victor Halperin, 1932)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Victor Halperin Productions

Video: Kino Lorber / VCI

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:07:50.483 / 1:06:47.294

Disc Size: 40,455,102,936 bytes / 9,239,389,574 bytes

Feature Size: 19,531,595,904 bytes / Raw: 18,137,087,616 bytes / 6,939,942,912 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.91 Mbps / Raw: 32.06 Mbps / 9.65 Mbps

Chapters: 10 / 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 29th, 2013 / May 6th, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video / MPEG-2 Video

 

Audio:

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

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Commentary: LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 

Subtitles:

None

English, none

 

Extras:

• Commentary by the historian Frank Thompson

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

• Bela Lugosi Interview (6:41)

• Theatrical trailer (2:47)

16-image Gallery

 

Commentary by Gary Don Rhodes (author of White Zombie: Anatomy of a Horror Film)

Theatrical Re-Issue Trailer (2:44)

Dracula (1939) Trailer (1:47)

Photo and Poster Gallery (2:10)

 

Bitrate:

Kino 'cleaned'

 

 

Kino Raw:

 

VCI

 

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.

 

Now available is the 'Carey Roan Signature' Edition of the classic 'White Zombie'.  Unfortunately, VCI have gone low-tech (MPEG-2) with the transfer which is only slight ahead of SD. It looks very soft and contrast is faint. The, pitifully, low bitrate doe not support the grain structure. The Kino 'Raw' image is still the best in terms of video.

 

Staement From VCI: "Well folks, there ain’t no beatin’ around the bush, we actually did goof this one up! The BD of White Zombie was in fact encoded at a bit rate under 10Mbs, as reported by DVD Beaver, and as most of those “in the know” know, the normal bit rate should have been north of 30Mbs. Believe me, we didn’t do this intentionally. Frankly there is no logical reason, or even a monetary incentive, to skimp on the bit rate. We just goofed up! Thanks to Ben Gart for bringing the DVD Beaver report to our attention. Certainly points up a gap in our QC process, which we will be working to correct. So, what is VCI going to do about it!!!! We have already corrected our Blu-ray master, and we are proud to say it was encoded at a 35Mbs rate. New product will be replicated ASAP. We have already notified our distribution partners to stop all further sales/shipments, and to purge their current inventory of all skimpy encoded discs. We will also make a direct replacement, at no cost, to anyone who purchased/received a skimpy encoded Blu-ray. Consumers should call our customer service department at 800-331-4077, between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm CDT, to order a replacement disc. I keep referring to these as “skimpy encoded discs,” because even though the encoded bit rate should have been higher, the overall quality of our restoration was still able to shine through, earning us several very favorable reviews. I can’t promise we won’t goof up some other DVD or BD project in the future, but I can promise we will fess up and then fix up, our goofs, the best we can. Bob Blair, president of VCI."

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample - VCI - Blu-ray

 

 

1) Kino 'Digitally Enhanced' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino Raw - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) VCI - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

1) Kino 'Digitally Enhanced' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino Raw - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) VCI - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

1) Kino 'Digitally Enhanced' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino Raw - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) VCI - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

1) Kino 'Digitally Enhanced' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino Raw - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) VCI - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

Kino '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 FREE.

 

Audio on the VCI has been transferred in lossless (linear PCM) but suffers from the source, production and age. It is quite poor optional subtitles are included - which helps. It is also 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 also a commentary by historian Frank Thompson and 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.

 

This is where the VCI advances. There is a  very informative commentary by Gary Don Rhodes (author of White Zombie: Anatomy of a Horror Film) where he details many attributes of the original production. His knowledge runs deep and he shares it in a professional, organized manner. There are also trailers and a Stills Gallery.

 

Kino  - Blu-ray

 

 

VCI - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
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!

 

The commentary, and optional subtitles are a big bonus but the VCI a/v transfer is lacking. I still recommended the Kino and to watch the 'Raw' rendering, but film student and those very keen may want the VCI for the commentary. 

Gary Tooze

January 21st, 2013

May 10th, 2014

 

 

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.

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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
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Gary W. Tooze

 

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