According to friends of Bela Lugosi, the actor always regretted that he had taken the role of "Murder" Legendre for only $800 while the film was quite successful at the box office for the Halperin brothers. Speculation on the exact amount the actor was paid generally ranges from $400 to $900 after Lugosi turned down a percentage of the film in favor of a flat salary. An associate of the actor claimed $5000 was deposited into his account. Lugosi became bitter about his decision and always felt underpaid whatever the amount ultimately was. In later years when the subject of the unexpected box office surprise was broached, he would scratch his palm and ask where the money was.
The film was thought lost until its rediscovery in the 1960s. A court battle was fought between film distributor Frank Storace and the estate of Stanley Krellberg, the copyright owner of the film. Storace had wished to produce a restored version of the film but the estate refused him access to original footage in their possession. Storace gave up the court battle and did not win his access to his original footage.
"White Zombie" did a lot of shooting at rented Universal studios and sets, props, and furniture from such Universal classics as "The Cat and the Canary" "Frankenstein," and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" can be spotted by astute film fans..
American Securities, normally mot associated with movies, helped with the financing of the shoestring operation. When the Halperins were about to release "Revolt of the Zombies," American claimed that its contract with the Halperins on "White Zombie" gave it exclusive rights to the use of the word "zombie" in a film title. The resultant court case was decided in favor of American, and release of "Revolt of the Zombies" faced an injunction until the Halperins settled with American, which they did to the tune of $11,000.
The play "Zombie" opened in New York in February, 1932, and the author, Kenneth S. Webb, sued Edward Halperin and Victor Halperin, the film's producers, for the movie rights. The Halperins won the case. The play's star Pauline Starke, who was directed by husband George Sherwood, was disappointed in not getting the the part, but it is understandable given the ensuing litigation. The Halperins chose another former silent star, Madge Bellamy, as the lead.
The earliest documented telecasts of this film took place in New York City Saturday 2 July 1949 on WPIX (Channel 11), and in Los Angeles Thursday 22 March 1951 on KLAC (Channel 13). Its West Coast telecasts were postponed in order to protect its theatrical re-release which was still in progress, often paired with Lash of the Penitentes (1936) in sites which leaned towards more exploitation oriented audiences.
Two years later, Black Moon (1934), another film with a Voodoo theme, would feature a Voodoo song whose first notes are very reminiscent of the first notes of the intro credits' Voodoo chant in White Zombie (1932). Clarence Muse starred in both films.
In 2002 Madacy re-released this movie on DVD in the DVD 3 pack "Bela Lugosi". The other 2 movies are: The Corpse Vanishes 1942 and Scared to Death 1947. All of them were considered to be in the public domain at the time, thereby bypassing the usual legal technicalities.