This rare Hammer foray away from the classic Universal monsters is a treat to watch. Underpinned by iconic imagery and strong lead performances.
The Plague of the Zombies transports the voodoo enslaving traits of earlier zombie films from the Caribbean to Cornwall, in the mid 1800s. A well-travelled, wealthy local mine owner uses voodoo to enslave the dead to work in his mine. It is this unexplained disease that causes Sir James Forbes and his daughter Sylvia to help local doctor Peter Thompson.
I should warn you that it was Romero some 2 years later who re-invented the zombie as a cannibal in the first of his ‘Dead’ pictures, so if you’re expecting the undead you know and love, well, you may be disappointed.
Throughout the picture the acting is strong and not hammy as you may expect from experience of certain other Hammer films.
The standout is Andre Morell (The Bridge on the River Kwai and Ben-Hur) playing Sir James. He gives a strong, confident performance and subsequently takes control of the narrative and the film. I fear had he not portrayed such an air of authority the film may have become a throw away yarn about the perils of exploitation.
The most engaging and memorable scene from the film is a dream sequence, depicting the dead rising from the grave en mass. It is striking and evocative and one we have scene replicated many, many times over the years. The use of lighting, sound and camera give it an urgency that isn’t often seen in the film. It was certainly my favourite set piece, in a film of few.
At times The Plague of the Zombies is slow burning, with an awful lot of brooding and exposition but the few times the action does ramp up it has all the more impact.
Should you be compelled to seek out The Plague of the Zombies I’d certainly recommend watching the film on blu-ray, if at all possible. The transfer of picture and sound is clean and crisp simply it looks and sounds glorious.
It is most definitely one for the zombie completist in your life.
The Plague of the Zombies is a delightful little film that has an important place in the zombie genre, unlike many contemporary failures.
And if you like Hammer Horror check out our Plague of Zombies comp right Here