Rupert Pupkin Speaks: VCI Entertainment - WHITE ZOMBIE on Blu-ray ""

Monday, May 5, 2014

VCI Entertainment - WHITE ZOMBIE on Blu-ray

WHITE ZOMBIE (1932; Victor Halperin)
Bela Lugosi is an actor I've really come to appreciate more and more since the mid 1990s. I was certainly aware of him from his DRACULA performance, but it wasn't until Tim Burton's 1994 film ED WOOD came out that I really took another look at Lugosi as an actor and his filmography at large. Of course it was Martin Landau's academy award winning portrayal of Lugosi that made me see him as a person (albeit a somewhat enlarged version of one) and made me think of the plight of aging actors in general. So, with my appreciation piqued I began to work through his films with the help of books like Danny Peary's Guide for the Film Fanatic. A couple I saw early on were THE BLACK CAT and WHITE ZOMBIE. I still think these are two of my favorites of his movies. And even with a well known (though admittedly older) hard rock band named after it, I feel like WHITE ZOMBIE (and THE BLACK CAT for that matter) still both get short shrift amidst the continually thriving popularity of the Universal Horror classics. I have a theory on this in regards to WHITE ZOMBIE. I think it has failed to find a proper resurrection with classic horror fans due in part to the fact that it has received many low quality DVD realeases over the years. Sadly the film has been relegated to the public domain trash bin of releases and when this happens it often seems not worthwhile for a higher end company to swoop in and try to restore the film. Also, a high profile release from a company that people know of certainly draws greater attention to older titles that are in dire need of it. While VCI's new Blu-ray is admittedly far from a glowing restored transfer, it does look better than any other presentation I've seen thusfar. There are some scratches and a touch of digital noise here and there, but there is still a decent amount of image detail to be observed. The print isn't in the not amazing shape honestly. Full disclosure, I've not seen Kino's previous Blu-ray of this film so I am unsure if this transfer is superior to that one or not. As a story, WHITE ZOMBIE seems to exist in a world between THE MOST DANGEROUS GANE, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS and the I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. If you are a fan of those three films (and you should be), I'd imagine you'd enjoy it. I'm guessing that in addition to Rob Zombie, Stephen King might also be a fan of this movie. The "zombies" in the film are a far cry from what folks have become accustomed to these days, but they are nonetheless pretty creepy in their stoicism and wide-eyed blank faces. Lugosi is of course in rare form here with his man chu goatee and hypnotic eyes. The pace and cadence of this film certainly adds to it's odd, surreal atmosphere.  Some of the Lugosi scenes literally feel like they are taking place on another planet, but that's not a bad thing. Overall, what WHITE ZOMBIE delivers is a memorable, strange tale of superstition, black magic, resurrection and zombies. Certainly to be watched in the same festival with THE WOLFMAN, DRACULA and a bunch of Val Lewton's RKO pictures. Lugosi really brings it and he has one of the most powerful, menacing and hypnotic stares known to mankind.

This new WHITE ZOMBIE Blu-ray is available from VCI Entertainment:


Danny said...

The Kino blu-ray had the image essentially airbrushed. There was no grain or scratches, but a ton of detail was lost and it looked like the brightness had been jacked up on it. However, one of its bonus features was the unaltered version of the original negative, and that was pretty nice-- the crackles and scratches seemed to add to the atmosphere at the very least. I'll have to check this version out!

Kev D. said...

I have the DVD release from the ROAN group... it looks good. I imagine this Blu-Ray still might look better.

Great film.