Fright Film Geek is a blog dedicated to Horror Film History, the movies, the monsters, their makers and the fans.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
White Zombie (1932) The First Zombie Film
White Zombie (1932)
was independently produced by brothers Victor Halperin and Edward Halperin with
Victor Halperin directing. This Pre-Code horror film is considered to be the
first feature length zombie film. The screenplay, by Garnett Weston was based on a
book by William Seabrook who was an American journalist, occultist, explorer,
traveler, and alleged cannibal.
The film featuring BelaLugosi and former silent film star Madge
Bellamy was shot only in eleven days in March 1932 at the Universal Studios lot and Bronson Canyon. The film was a major accomplishment,
produced in the worst year of the Great Depression and at a time when independent
film makers found it difficult to find distribution, not to mention profits.
The Halperin brothers, who had no proven track record, needed a
named actor to help insure success. They offered Bela Lugosi, who was still
enjoying his new found fame from his role as
Dracula, a modest salary for a week's work. It was reported thatLugosi latter regretted that he had taken the role
of "Murder" Legendre for only $800 while the film was a huge box office success.
Author, Kenneth S. Webb’s play "Zombie" opened in New York in February, 1932. The authorsued Edward Halperin and Victor Halperin, the
film's producers, for the movie rights. Webb alleged that they had used elements from his
play. Fortunately for the Halperins they won the case.
White Zombie (1932) premiered on July 28, 1932 in New York
City's Rivoli Theatre. The film was a financial success despite the mixed
reviews. Although the zombies portrayed in this film differ greatly from the
zombie scene in modern horror stories, White Zombie (1932) started the genre.
And while there would be more zombie films to come none would have quite the impact
White Zombie (1932) has had.
The film was thought lost until it wasrediscovered in the 1960s. It has since gained
a cult following among horror fans. Rob Zombie named his first heavy metal band,
White Zombie, after the film.