While zombies have been all the range for over a decade now for my next selection of Halloween based double feature I decided to go back to basics and go with Hollywood Voodoo. I’d been marginally interested in Voodoo and Zombie lore for some time though I’d never studied it in any depth since I wasn’t aware of any way to distinguish the stuff that hollywood made up and the “real” beliefs. (Though I’ve always tried to distinguish the traditional Zombie from the generic walking corpse so there wouldn’t be any confusion if the genre ever made a come back)
The first movie on my list White Zombie was the first movie to introduce the genre to Hollywood featuring Bela Lugosi as the Voodoo Master Murder’ Legendre who is hired by Charles Beaumont, a plantation owner to steal Madeleine the woman he loves from her husband Neil by poisoning her and turning her into a zombie.
Bela’s up to his usual standard of creepy authority, putting his signature stare to good use but frankly the rest of this movie has dated terribly. It’s full to the brim with stock characters most notably Neil our supposed hero is such a hapless idiot you can’t really imagine how Madeline fell for him in the first place. “Haiti is for all practical purposes a tropical Transylvania complete with foreboding castle and the less said about Legendre’s pet vulture the better.
The next film on the list, I walked with a Zombie,tells is a Val Lewton produced film directed by Jacques Tourneur. It has the feel of a version of Jayne Eyre (though most of the research I’ve done suggests that this was a coincidence . Telling the story of a nurse who is sent from Canada to the Caribbean island of Saint Sebastian to care for the wife of a plantation owner who shows all of the symptoms of being a zombie. As the film goes on we gradually find out this is indeed the case and culminates with the nurse taking her charge to a local voodoo master in the titular walk in an attempt to cure her.
This was a aesthetically pleasing though short film that I enjoyed very much. It’s wonderfully quiet taking a minimalist approach to most of the fantastic elements. My favorite example was Darby Jones as the Zombie, Carre- Four we encounter him on the crossroads standing so still that you briefly think he’s an extremely well made prop. Then he scares you simply by slowly moving.