WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) blu-ray review

I’m thrilled to spotlight the first submission by a new contributor to Once Upon a Screen, Rob Medaska.  Rob’s posts will be featured in “Medaska’s Mess” and will include reviews and commentaries on his varied classic passions.  So, without further ado…I bid him a warm welcome.

Let me introduce myself, my name is Rob Medaska, and I will be posting some reviews and thoughts here on Once Upon a Screen and Aurora’s other pages starting today.  I want to say thanks to Aurora for the great opportunity, and say hello to everyone out there.

My background in film is quite long.  I have been acting for over 25 years and making TV and films for almost 15.  You can look up me on IMDB or whiteYoutube and see some of my work.  My contributions to this blog will focus primarily on Horror films and Comedies of the early part of the 20th Century….my favorite time frame…to be featured as part of “Medaska’s Mess.”  I begin with my review of the classic Lugosi film White Zombie directed by Victor Halperin, but on Blu-Ray.  This movie is so good and memorable that Rob Zombie named his band after it.   For me it has long been one of the most underrated films of the time period.  It is very atmospheric and captures, very well, the look of horror around that time period, the early 1930’s.  However I won’t delve too much into the film, although Bela Lugosi gives a great performance, his psychotic stares into the camera are something to behold.  I will instead focus on the quality and presentation of the Blu-ray print itself.

For me the quality of the print of the Kino Lober Classics blu is outstanding. I have read online commentaries where some people say it could be better, but I really can’t see that being the case.  Right from the get go the quality and sharpness of the image is something to behold.  And all the way up to the ending, it holds up in its presentation.  So for that I give it a solid 9 out of 10.  The extras on this release are a different story, however.  I am spoiled and quite admittedly love getting extras with any Blu-ray I get my hands on.  This disc is large enough to hold a treasure trove of good stuff, so I am not sure why they did not include more.  For instance, I would have loved to see even a quick documentary on the making of….no matter how short this is something I love.  Although, included in the “extras” on this disc is the “raw” film before transfer, which allows for a comparison of the two versions – see for yourself ScreenShot588and make a determination.   As I said some people think the Blu-ray transfer has an “unreal” effect on the film, but I am fine with it.  I’ll take that look any day over the old scratch prints I would see on local cable on PBS.

I am a big fan of Kino Lober and their work because they bring lots of “lost” films out in the open, and for that I and many others are grateful.  As far as the sound goes – I would have loved the sound to be mapped 5:1 because it would have increased the eeriness of the film, which is one of its major appeals as an independent production.  Also, absent on this release is an “original” trailer, which I would have enjoyed….not a re-release one.  This may be something small but I love the VO of the 1930s.  The Lugosi interview included is cool, although I had already seen it on TCM.  Worthy of note is the fact that at about the same time he shot the interview, Lugosi did a Dracula/Betty Boop spot which I would have liked to see included on the Blu-ray as well.

Overall I would give the Kino White Zombie Blu-Ray 7.5 out of 10 stars.

I will be taking a look at much more Horror and Comedy fare in the upcoming days and months. Thank you for your time and may the last word you read be mine.

7 thoughts

  1. Welcome on board. I’ve been looking for old horror and sci-fi recently — trying to track some genuine b-movies from the 1930s — its interesting how Lugosi’s career was damaged by the arrival of the bs, yet Karloff some how seemed to get better….

    Looking forward to your future contributions!

    1. Hi Dirk…..thanks for checking in…..if you look back….after Bela turned down Frankenstein….and it became a huge hit….I feel he didn’t want to turn down anything that came his way. Factor that in with his “english”, as opposed to Karloff’s powerful voice, and I think it starts to paint a picture as why he began to fall out of favor with the studios. I still think he did some great work on the “B” films. Fox studios has a few “b” type horrors that are off the beaten path. Also watch “The Bat Whispers”, as well as a lot of projects by director Roland West.

  2. I’m surprised by Rob’s glowing review — the picture on the Kino release has been so completely smoothed out by EXTREMELY aggressive digital noise reduction that there is no fine detail to be seen. Skin, clothing, backgrounds, etc have all been smoothed out to the point of being waxy looking. The bonus “raw” version is a scratched up mess, but compare the two and you’ll see that the unprocessed version has FAR more detail / textures, because it hasn’t been scrubbed away. Nearly ever major review site has given it low marks for the very heavy handed use of DNR.
    There’s a brand new (May 6th) blu-ray release of this from VCI / Roan that’s supposed to be a major improvement. I was looking for a review of it when I stumbled across this column. I don’t have it yet, but from what I’ve read it strikes a balance between the two Kino versions — not scratched up and damaged like the “raw” version, but also not reduced to a smeary, utterly grainless, detail free mess.

    1. Just a follow-up on my comment. The reviews are coming in for the VCI version, and they’re very disappointing. Apparently it doesn’t have all the digital noise reduction that the Kino version does, but it’s very soft and has poor contrast with greys instead of blacks. 😦

      Just a heads-up. I didn’t want anyone to run out and buy it because I said the early reviews looked good. Sorry! Here’s a link to a review on Blu-ray.com You can find a review of the Kino disc there too. http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/White-Zombie-Blu-ray/75319/#Review

  3. Hi Charlie…..I hear you on the smoothing out…..but for me….watching all the grainy prints over the years…..this was ok for me to live with. Sorry to hear about the VCI footage, it is always good to get a “new” clean print, but I understand the cost and the work associated with “restoring” to a new print. Are you a big fan of the film?

    Rob

  4. Hi Charlie…..hope your well….for the most part I really didn’t have much of a problem with it. Compared to the grainy prints over the years it was OK. The giant backlash it got from viewers online lead me to expect way worse. Are you a big fan of the film? or more so of Lugosi? Thanks for the feedback…..
    Rob

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