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This review originally appeared in issue 9 of THE CINEMA LASER.


If you are among those who love Bela Lugosi movies, then you absolutely must acquire a copy of The Roan Group release of WHITE ZOMBIE ($40).

WHITE ZOMBIE was made shortly after Lugosi's triumph in DRACULA, yet this film was far from a major studio "A" production. The fact that Lugosi was willing to work on an inexpensive, independent production so soon after DRACULA gives us insight into why his career eventually nose-dived. Was this film the first to place Lugosi on the path to his Ed Wood days??? Actually, no. WHITE ZOMBIE is really a very good horror film, despite the fact that it was not a major studio production.

Lugosi stars as the zombie master who primarily exploits the "walking dead" as cheap labor on his sugar plantation. Of course, Lugosi also utilizes his zombies for revenge, murder and the occasional kidnapping. The main crux of the film centers around the collaboration between Lugosi's character and the fellow planter who wants to steal another man's fiancee by turning her into a zombie slave. Lugosi eventually ends his partnership because of his own desires for the girl.

WHITE ZOMBIE is considered by many to be a classic horror film, from Hollywood's golden age of horror. The film has a wonderful sense of style and an ethereal quality to it. WHITE ZOMBIE is almost a love poem to the dead. With three different men obsessed with a beautiful dead woman, shades of necrophilia abound throughout WHITE ZOMBIE.

The Roan Group has given WHITE ZOMBIE as good a transfer as you are ever likely to see. The image has been slightly windowboxed, to help preserve the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. At times, the windowboxing is noticeable, and at others it is not. The transfer has utilized two re-issue prints from the 1950's which give WHITE ZOMBIE a startling clarity and contrast. When it's at its best, WHITE ZOMBIE looks far better than either film in MCA/Universal's "Lugosi" double feature of MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE and ISLAND OF LOST SOULS. And at its worst, WHITE ZOMBIE is missing a few frames and suffers from some scratches and minor markings on the film elements. The digitally encoded monaural soundtrack also has its highs and lows, but always remains within an acceptable range. The Pioneer pressing was quite good.

The Roan Group has included a number of supplemental features with WHITE ZOMBIE. Side one is in CAV, and features a theatrical trailer. There is a wonderful reproduction of WHITE ZOMBIE's original press materials, as well as a rather extensive essay by Gary Don Rhodes concerning the production of WHITE ZOMBIE. The essay, with photographs comes on a separate insert. All in all, WHITE ZOMBIE is an excellent Laserdisc release, and The Roan Group should be congratulated for producing this wonderful disc. The disc is proof positive that the smaller independent Laserdisc producers are more in tune with the wants and needs of Laserdisc collectors, than are the larger studio related Laserdisc companies.

WHITE ZOMBIE is an absolute "must have" for horror fans, and most especially for Lugosi-philes.


Laserdisc reviews are Copyright 1996 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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