THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES (1966) – The Dungeon Review!
I’ve kicked myself more than once over the last few years for getting rid of my VCR and tapes. I’ve been feeling particularly nostalgic since starting this blog as there are titles that still haven’t found their way on to DVD. So I asked around work if anyone had a VCR to get rid of and sure enough someone did (thanks Rob!). I’ve managed to pick up a couple of titles at thrift shops but the other day the horror fairy left me a present! At the back entrance of my building there is a place underneath a set of stairs where people leave shit they want to offload. What do I spy on my way in from work but a box of six VHS and they are all horror but one! WOOHOO! The Plague Of The Zombies was one of the titles I scored. I hadn’t seen this one since I was a kid and in my opinion it is one of the best of the Hammer horrors. Maybe I’m being sentimental here, but I freaking loved this film!
Peter Tompson is a doctor in a small village that has been afflicted with a deadly infection. In desperation he sends a letter to his mentor Sir James Forbes who comes to his aid. The mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths get stranger the more they learn and the answers lie in empty graves, walking corpses and voodoo ceremonies.
The props and sets in The Plague Of The Zombies are wicked fun. There are lots of lovely outdoor shots that takes us through woods where we might encounter zombies and other potential dangers. An old nickel mine, a tiny crowded cemetery and some nifty abodes provide lot’s of visual goodness. Haitians playing drums, ceremonial robes, masks, and candles; all the great voodoo elements and an added bonus of zombies! I loved the mini coffins and the little clay men and women used in the ritual! The zombies look pretty damn cool. They are seen in various stages of decay depending on how long they’ve been dead. Older zombies have rotting skin and white cloudy eyes while Fresher corpses closely resemble their former selves but devoid of a natural pallor. The dead are being raised intentionally via voodoo and there is actually a purpose for their reanimation. The effects in general are quite excellent for the time. This film is from 1966 after all so there isn’t much in the way of gore. But there is some blood, a decapitation, an old-fashioned barbecue and some really nice looking zombies to keep you interested. The film has plenty of mood and atmosphere complimented by just the right amount of humour.
It really is a fun story with great characterizations. Of course, there is a lot more to it than what I mention in the plot summary. I don’t want to go into too much detail and spoil all the fun for you though. There are two women in our little tale as well as a villainous Squire. Dr Peter Tompson is married to Alice who is a friend of Sir James’ daughter Sylvia. We are made aware that something isn’t right with Alice upon her introduction. When she answers the door for Sir James and Sylvia she does not immediately recognize her long time friend. She also looks dishevelled and sickly. The two girls catch up after a long time apart and Alice tells Sylvia about Squire Clive Hamilton, a man her husband dislikes but she has grown fond of. Sylvia does indeed meet the Squire under most unsettling circumstances and is suitably unimpressed. When Sylvia meets the Squire for a second time a minor accident involving a broken glass gives him the ammunition he needs and Sylvia falls under his spell. The Squire himself had been living abroad but has returned after his father’s death. His father left him the house and property along with many debts. The Squire quickly turns the finances around and soon a group of unsavoury men under his employ are terrorizing the local population and the Squire’s will reigns supreme. Unbeknownst to the villagers the Squire Clive Hamilton’s wealth and power comes via practising voodoo. The characters are all quite strong but it is André Morell who plays Sir James Forbes that really steals the show. Sir James is not only a brilliant doctor and teacher he is also quite the sleuth and he pretty much single-handedly solves the mystery that has terrorized the village for a year. Morell has a great presence and plays Sir James Forbes with a wry wit that was endlessly entertaining. It gave me a chuckle when he tells his daughter he should have drowned her at birth. Diane Clare who plays his daughter Sylvia is also good and the two have a great chemistry that made the father-daughter relationship work. John Carson does a commendable job playing the smarmy Squire Clive Hamilton. The Squire’s funky sideburns practically scream evil! I also really liked Alice Tompson, played by Jacqueline Pearce. She doesn’t get a lot of screen time but she does a nice job while she’s there. The only remotely weak link here was the Dr. Peter Tompson character played by Brook Williams. For Sir James’ star pupil he was a bit daft at times.
The Plague Of The Zombies looks great, has a fun story, strong performances and is 100% pure entertainment! If you’re a fan of Hammer Horror and you haven’t seen this one, what are you waiting for? If you are looking to be introduced into the world of Hammer this mid-sixties entry is a great place to start. The Plague of the Zombies gets my highest of recommendations!
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: John Gilling
Starring: André Morell, Diane Clare, Brook Williams, Jacqueline Pearce, John Carson, Alexander Davion, Michael Ripper, Marcus Hammond, Dennis Chinnery, Louis Mahoney, Roy Royston, Ben Aris