Original release: January 9th, 1966
Running time: 90 minutes
Director: John Gilling
Writer: Peter Bryan
Cast: André Morell, Diane Clare, Brook Williams, John Carson
The living, walking dead… Whether in movies, literature or popular culture, they seem to have always been among us, but while we may think of Night Of The Living Dead (1968) to be the first zombie movie to strike terror in our hearts, in truth they’ve been with us for much longer.
The earliest zombie films I can remember date back from the 40s with I Walked With A Zombie (1943) and the infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), but there’s also this one from the 1960s.
Produced by Hammer Horror, The Plague Of The Zombies is one of those romps the studio made during the time when they could amp up the gore and sex together with horror and suspense to give audiences the fright of their lives. However, by today’s standard it all seems quite tame, but nevertheless it gives us an immediate feeling of nostalgia for what it must’ve been like to have seen it when it was first released.
Set in 1860 in a Cornish village, the story centres around Sir James Forbes (André Morell) and his daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare) who travel there to look into the troubling matter of a mysterious epidemic claiming the lives of young folks. The local physician, Dr Thompson (Brook Williams) is at a loss to explain it and has asked for the professor’s help.
No sooner than they arrive they’re greeted with hostility and it’s clear their presence is unwanted, but they also begin to see strange things happening. The dead reappear and are seen near an old deserted tin mine.
Professor Forbes eventually comes to the conclusion that a form of black magic is involved, but as he tries to find out who the culprit is and why they’re doing this, Sylvia falls under the spell of Squire Clive Hamilton (John Carson), and not in a good way.
The Squire owns the mine where the dead are seen walking around, but could he have anything with this bizarre phenomenon? Can the professor and the doctor work it all out in time to save Sylvia before she too becomes one of the mindless zombie slaves working in the mine?
The Plague Of The Zombies is a delightfully campy horror from that bygone era. With its sets, costumes, lighting and combination of over and under acting it succeeds in being the type of film where what you expect to happen is exactly what happens, but in an enjoyable way. That’s until the film’s finale, which, after such a build-up, is somewhat disappointing.
Still, there’s that great green-tinted nightmare sequence which many say is what inspired George A Romero when he made his Night Of The Living Dead only a few years later. In this memorable scene Thompson sees the dead rise from their graves in what turns out to be a premonition of things to come, not just in the movie, but I guess for the zombie movie genre as a whole.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
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