Bela Lugosi will always be famous for his monumental and revolutionary role as Count Dracula in the 1932 film of the same name. I have seen a good majority of Lugosi’s other films (yes, even his Ed Wood films) and I have enjoyed most of them. However, one film that I have not seen until recently was entitled White Zombie and I have to admit that Lugosi’s character was by far my personal favorite. There are many factors as to why that is but the main reason is because of his presence that he has over the rest of the characters. In White Zombie Murder sort of appears right out of the shadows with a maddening expression on his face whereas Dracula he suddenly rises out of his coffin. They are both effective but I think Murder is more frightening considering he is emerging from the darkness itself.
Right off the bat I knew that Murder was a person who was a lot darker, sinister and probably the closest to a mad scientist that I’ve seen. He is a voodoo master who commands an army of zombies to do his work for him much like how a mad scientist creates robots or brainwashed minions to do his bidding. It was a step in a darker direction than Dracula since Drack only had Renfield and his three brides. Murder is also a lot darker looking and seems grungier and dirtier. He has those thick busy eyebrows and those sinister eyes that we saw in Dracula only here they seem to be more contemplative and diabolical. You can tell he still retains a bit of Dracula in him, which is why I love the character. Also, it seems as though Murder is a little more sexually deviant than Dracula because he possesses a white woman to be a zombie for (what is implied) for sexual pleasure. Sure, Dracula does want to spread his seed around but he is a little proper and charismatic rather than primal like Murder.
I know that it seems a little weird that I would be favoriting this character after just seeing the movie in which he was in but… as I stated, I’ve seen a good chunk of Lugosi’s other work and I think this is one of his darker roles. If someone were to remake this movie today, I can’t imagine how dark they would choose to make it but it was Lugosi and his mannerisms and eyes that made the character that much more frightening. In a way I am glad I saw this in my later years because if I saw this when I was a kid, I’d probably be haunted by those eyes. Those diabolical eyes.