We could have been killed. Worse than that we could have been caught.
By those men? Those aren’t men they are the living dead!
So zombie films have been extremely popular the last few years, they have encountered many changes; but they all owe it to this movie. Yes this is the first full length feature film about Zombies. Instead of biting or disease; this man makes Zombies through Voodoo, poison, drugs, and his eyes!
I first became aware of this film when I watched 50 Greatest Horror Classics Collection. I know that I have been reviewing films I didn’t like these past few days, so here we go with one I do.
Now one things that this film doesn’t really do, is explain exactly how he does the zombie-fying and mind control. This was explained in the sequel, Revolt of the Zombies (1936)
This film has a very interesting background. The film was thought lost until found in the 1960s, there it went a serious court battle as multiple people fought for ownership.
It only took eleven days to film but it was such a hit when it premiered. It did so well, that Lugosi regretted taking a salary instead of a percentage.
Well I think that is enough talking about it, shall we move on to the review?
So the film starts off with a young couple, Neil Parker and his fiancé Madeline Short. They have just arrived in the West Indies. Neil has a job out there and went for Madeline. They planned to marry as soon as they touched the port, but they meet Charles Beaumont who presented them with a better job offer, and they are headed to his house and to be married tonight.
As they are driving in the buggy, they come upon a funeral in the middle of the road.
It sounds strange, but they do that so people don’t dig them up and use them with voodoo, or turn them into zombies, the living dead.
Then “Murder” Legendre, Bela Lugosi, come upon them with his group of Zombies. He steals Madeline’s scarf, and stares at her with his creepy eyes.
The driver, fearful, takes off at the speed of light.
“Neil Parker: We could have been killed.
Driver: Worse than that we could have been caught!
Madeline Short: By those men?
Driver: Those aren’t men they are the living dead. Zombies!
The driver warns them they should leave, but the couple are suspicious of zombies actually existing. Yet at the at the same time:
They are startled when they come upon the minister, having arrived at the Beaumont mansion for their wedding. They ask about zombies, and the minister, Dr. Bruner, says he has been a missionary there for over thirty years and he has seen a lot of strange things occur.
They tell Dr. Bruner about what happened, meeting Beaumont on the boat, the job, etc. The Dr. thinks this is very odd.
This Beaumont they describe is nothing like the selfish, pushy, take over man that he knows. Everything about their situation smells bad, and he warns the couple to leave as soon as possible.
That makes TWO warnings! They need to leave!
When the couple arrives, Mr. Beaumont doesn’t want to see them.
But then he changes his mind.
Okay this behavior means that there is something else going on here with Beaumont.
The butler agrees it is for the best to approach them as the minister is questioning why Beaumont is being so kind. He greets them but then has to leave while everyone prepares for the upcoming wedding.
Madeline is getting ready when she looks out the window and sees Beaumont get into a buggy with a man. When we zoom there, the man is emotionless, glazed over, dead eyes, a zombie!
Mr. Beaumont reaches a work area and sees 20 or 30 of these same walking dead. All empty eyed, slaves, and ZOMBIES!
Legendre greets Mr. Beaumont and puts out his hand, but is ignored as Beaumont sees him as “beneath” him. Legendre then explains about his little operation: about how the dead don’t care about long hours, breaks, food, money, etc. He tries to sell the idea to Beaumont, but business is not on his mind. Instead his mind is on Madeleine.
He desperate to have her and is trying to get Legendre to stop the wedding. He thinks that if he took her away for a while she would change her mind. But Legendre does not think that will work, women will not forget so soon.
Beaumont pleads with him to do something, anything!
Legendre says that he has one way to do it..all Beaumont has to do is give her a tiny bit of this potion in her drink or on a flower and it will enable him to have what he desires.
Beaumont doesn’t want to do it that way but Legendre tells him that is impossible, there is no other choice.
That might Madeline is getting ready for her wedding, the church is all decorated. Mr. Beaumont walks her down the aisle pleading with her to marry him instead of her fiancé. Madeline kindly refuses.
He promises to stop, after one last thing, giving her a rose. Madeline accepts, but little does she know that rose has been tainted with poison and will bring only death!
Madeline takes the hand of her love and the ceremony to twine them begins, but out in the courtyard Legendre lurks getting ready his magic.
He takes the scarf he stole from her earlier, and wraps it around a wax candle. He looks like the devil with his beard and eyebrows.
He carves the wax candle, quickly creating the figure of a woman. And then he stares with his eyes…
They all toast and are happy.
Neil Parker [Jokingly to Madeline] “Gypsy read my fortune.”
She looks into his cup and says “i see happiness, love, I see…” But then she sees Lugosi, with fiery demon eyes in her cup…
She then says “I see death”
Immediately she falls down, and we see Lugosi’s eyes, knowing he is controlling her body and spirit.
A funeral is held and Madeline is to be buried.
Neil goes to a bar to drink, upset, heartbroken and seeing her everywhere. All are happy while he is the one in utter misfortune.
Her apparition appears to him, but he can’t reach her.
That night Beaumont and Legendre are in the graveyard and they see zombies! Legendre isn’t surprised as they are his slaves. Many have fought against his spells, but Legendre overpowered them all and controls them.
The zombies remove Madeline’s casket from the tomb. Just then they hear her husband, drunk, trying to approach the tomb screaming out her name. The zombies quickly take her away to conduct the ceremony elsewhere.
Neil finds the grave empty and is distraught.
Dr. Bruner explains that there are two ways this could happen.
- Her bones were taken away to be used in a ceremony by some natives on the island.
- Or she is not dead.
Neil is in shock! Not dead? But he saw her! The doctor said!
The minster agrees but he has seen so many strange things on the island, it could be possible!
Neil thinks the idea of her being murdered so someone can steal her body is ridiculous. But then Dr. Bruner tries to explain that she isn’t really dead, but instead a type of parlor trick with drugs to make her appear dead.
But Neil doesn’t listen.
Come on, LISTEN TO THIS MAN! If you had in the beginning you never would have gotten in this mess.
So Dr. Bruner explains about a type of drug that produces a deathlike sleep, only to have them “awaken later” and be a zombie, one of the “living dead. I knew about this as I had seen it before in The Four Feathers, and read about how historically some witch doctors would do this. Because of that, I figured out a majority of Sherlock Holmes (2009).
They figure out that Beaumont must be the one behind this. Neil wants to take him to the authorities, but the minister reminds him they have no proof. Besides she died. No one would believe Beaumont pretended to kill her.
Beaumont has what he wanted and has desired or does he? He has the beautiful body of Madeline but something is missing from her. Her spirit.
She is an empty tomb, a shell of who she was, and it is driving Beaumont crazy!!!
He gives her the finest things money can buy, all that she could desire, but nothing changes in her eyes or look. Beaumont realizes his mistake and that he made a bad decision. He thought that just having her would be enough, but in reality he has nothing.
Beaumont begs Legendre to bring Madeline back. Legendre warns that Madeline won’t be happy as he just tried to control her. In fact she will most likely be furious. But Beaumont doesn’t care, he needs her. Legendre promises to bring her back and then the two have a toast. Don’t drink, it is a trap!!!!
After the drink, Lugosi reveals that he has done the same to Beaumont which he did to Madeline. He does not want to bring her back, as he has other plans for her,ones that Beaumont might not agree to.
Beaumont tries to get his butler to help him, but it is too late, he is under Legendre’s control as well.
The zombies come and carry the butler away, tossing him off the cliff, and all that is left is Beaumont and Legendre.
Dr. Bruner takes Neil to see the witch doctor.
Weird, right? He’s a minister. Doesn’t that go against what he represents?
Anyways, there they pick up a guide to take them up the mountain and to where Beaumont is housing Madeline. But Neil won’t listen.
Neil is trying to climb up the mountain but isn’t doing too well, he’s sick from a tropical disease or hangover.
Anyways, as they continue, you hear the vulture, the pet of Legendre; looming overhead, always watching. It reminds me of Maleficent’s bird in Sleeping Beauty.
Neil and Dr, Bruner argue over whether he should climb the mountain, Dr. Bruner thinking he is too sick too. Then they see Madeline looking over the balcony.
Neli calls out to Madeline hoping to reach her, but she still remains in her zombie state.
Beaumont has completely had a breakdown. No longer the powerful one, he too appears in a trance, the guilt of everything weighing down on him.
Legendre gave him a special type of poison, he is awake but in a trance and can’t talk, can’t move, a slave and awake inside knowing what he is going through and feeling it.
The shots and angles of this are beautiful. From framing Lugosi in the cross architecture, the stairs, etc. There is some beautiful, early, cinematography at play here.
So Lugosi sees Neil creeping up the stairs, but he is not really looking like a threat, as he is practically unconscious. Lugosi takes his hands and tries to work his spells on him, with his eyes, the third eye.
Madeliene wakes up from her bed and in a trance begins ro walk down thestairs. Searching, searching for what?
Madeline being framed in a cross architecture while wearing cross on her dress is almost a virginal sacrifice. Beaumont sees Madeline and wants to help but has no control over his body. She takes a knife from the table.
Legendre wants her to stab her husband Neil. She approaches him and is about to stab him when she stops. Something has come over her and she is unsure, but then Legendre’s eyes they call, her to do it,
She is just about to stab Neil when she is stopped by a person grabbing her arm and removing the knife.
A person dressed in black, who is it?
Legendre continues to try and control her but it does not work. She runs and Neil chases after her.
She runs to the hillside and looks over the water about to jump but stopped by Neil. He is happy to have her but Madeline remains motionless. Legendre comes followed by his zombie army.
Neil has a gun and shoots at the zombies but it doesn’t stop them or produce blood, as they are already dead.
The minster was the man in black! He smacks Lugosi in the head stopping him. All his zombies throw themselves over the cliff, as control is momentarily lost and they wish to remain dead! Madeline wakes up, the control has ended.
And all is good.
But no Legendre awakens, he is not one to be easily thwarted and begins to exact his control.
Neil and the minster chase after him, but are stopped when he throws some magic dust, burning their eyes.
Beaumont creeps dow the steps, and we only see his shadow. He knocks Legendre over the cliff, his vulture/spirit guide thing going too.
Madeline is awaken and reunited with her love.
And the bride and groom get to go off and have their honeymoon.
A great film. You should definitely check it out.
To start Horrorfest V from the beginning, go to Who You Gonna Call?: Ghostbusters (1984)
For the previous post, go to What I Think You Will Think…You are Fully Under My Control: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966)
For more zombie brides, go to He’s Married to a Corpse. He Has A Corpse Bride!: Corpse Bride (2005)
For more Bela Lugosi, go to I Bid You Welcome: Dracula (1931)
For more zombie films, go to Say Something Human: Warm Bodies (2013)
For more on The 50 Greatest Horror Classics, go to A Man Without a Face: The Bat (1959)