André Morell stars in this very tight horror picture, one of Hammer's few genuinely scary films. Optimum UK DVD, in the Hammer boxset.
1965 Hammer began a production deal with Seven-Arts, giving the studio
its biggest budgets, and leading to some of their most memorable films.
The first major titles released under the new deal were the Christopher
Lee vehicles Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966) and Dracula: Prince of Darkness
(1966). Looking to completely secure the box-office takings for these
two films, Hammer also elected to shoot their B-picture accompaniments,
commissioning two low budget horror pictures, The Reptile (1966) and Plague of the Zombies...
Medical authority Sir James Forbes (André Morell)
is taking his annual leave when he receives a letter from an old
student of his who is working down in Cornwall. A spate of mysterious
deaths in the village has left him worried and confused as to their
cause. Forbes reluctantly agrees to travel down to Cornwall, and
discovers that the village is surrounded by a grim atmosphere of death,
something that he will soon come face-to-face with, as he discovers
that the dead are not being left to rest in their graves...
Peter Bryan was comissioned to pen the completely original script, and his experience with Hammer's earlier Hound of the Baskervilles
(1959) is evident in the film's, small-Cornish village and Victorian
era setting - even the lead character of Sir James is remniscent of Dr.
Watson (of the books though, not the bumbling fool of many of the film
adaptations). Well paced and very tight with not a hint of padding or
dragging scenes the film is generally very well written, allowing for
some good characterisation (although characters like the Squire could
have been developed a lot further). It also provides plenty of
opportunities for scary scenes and builds to an impressively climactic
ending, avoiding the Deus ex Machina endings of many similar films.
Gilling was not the best director who worked for Hammer, and many of
his adventure films were sorely lacking. However his work here is
absolutely top notch, raising some genuine scares, and working very
well with the special effects. Combined with a typically good score
from Hammer regular James Bernard this leads to probably the most
geniunely scary sequence in the entire Hammer filmography, as the dead
start to rise from their graves in the village graveyard.
actor André Morell takes a rare lead role here, in a part that might at
first appearance have seemed better suited to Peter Cushing (who at the time was shooting Island of Terror
Morell is able to give it a sharp edge and confrontation that Cushing
could never really give (he would always be such a perfect gentleman)
and does seem to be perfect casting here. There are no big names in the
supporting cast, but a good mix of British character actors, and the
irrepressable Michael Ripper gets a meatier than usual role as the
Mixing a tight little story, with some moments of geniune terror and a splendid acting turn from André Morell, Plague of the Zombies
is a gem of a Hammer Horror film and comes highly recommended to all
Hammer fans. Zombie movie fans should certainly find this of interest,
coming out just two years before George A. Romero redefined the genre,
and being one of a select number of Voodoo zombie films. Horror fans in
general should make an effort to check this out, provided you don't
want vivid gore, or breakneck pacing, there is plenty to enjoy here.
Anyone famous in it?
André Morell - a well versed British character actor, starred in Hammer's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
Directed by anyone interesting?
John Gilling - writer and director of the adventure film Fury at Smuggler's Bay (1961), as well as Hammer's horror The Reptile (1966) shot back to back with this film.
Is it scary?
A couple of quite scary scenes.
Some blood. Nothing particularly gory.
Who is it for?
Certainly for all Hammer and Zombie movie fans, and of interest to horror fans in general.
A solid, if rather typical score from James Bernard.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour The
print is okay - the colours are a little faded compared to the original technicolour print. There is some minor print damage. Some of the night scenes seem to be missing tints, although this might be a fault with the original film itself.
Original English mono - sounds fine.
The disc includes:
Original theatrical trailer.
Double-bill trailer with Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
An Anchor Bay US release, available as a double-pack with The Mummy's Shroud includes the trailers and an episode of the tiresome World of Hammer
series - includes a more colourful print. German DVD (title: Nächte des
Grauens) contains a good looking print along with a 20 minute interview
with composer James Bernard in English.
Believed to be fully uncut. Print used is English language. Note:
this print, as with most other DVD releases has the title sequence in a
seemingly incorrect order, coming in the middle of the opening voodoo
ceremony rather than at the end. My video-tape of an old Channel 4
screening has the titles in the correct place, and the sequence
A well written and produced Hammer horror, with some of their scariest scenes. Recommended.
An acceptable print of the film, although rather poor compared to many other Hammer titles with some noticable fading.