‘Doomed to stroll the earth as slaves to the lord of the residing useless!!!’
The Plague of the Zombies is a 1966 launched British Hammer horror movie a few mysterious epidemic in a Cornish village.
Directed by John Gilling back-to-back with The Reptile.
The Hammer-Seven Arts manufacturing stars André Morell (The Mummy’s Shroud; Money on Demand), John Carson, Jacqueline Pearce, Brook Williams and Michael Ripper.
The movie is notable for its seminal imagery, which influenced many movies within the zombie sub-genre, and its themes of colonialism, exploitation and tyranny.
In a Cornish village through the mid-1800s, the inhabitants of the city are dying from a mysterious plague that appears to be spreading at an accelerated price. Even the native physician, Peter Thompson, can’t fight the illness.
Alarmed, Thompson sends for out of doors assist from his buddy Sir James Forbes. Accompanying Sir James is his daughter Sylvia. In an try to be taught extra concerning the illness, Sir James and Physician Thompson disinter the corpses that had been lately buried. To their shock, the boys discover all of the coffins empty!
Conducting additional investigations on the thriller lead the docs to come across zombies strolling close to an outdated, abandoned tin mine on the property of Squire Clive Hamilton. Sir James is knowledgeable that the squire lived in Haiti for a number of years and practised voodoo rituals, in addition to black magic…
Assessment [contains spoilers]:
The Plague of the Zombies is an fascinating bridging level between the voodoo-inspired zombie movies that had been beforehand launched and the flesh-eating shockers that will come up simply over a few years later with George A. Romero’s seminal Evening of the Dwelling Useless.
And sure, there can be voodoo-related zombie films carrying on into the Seventies as a result of actual life is rarely as easy and linear as historical past would love us to assume, however by and huge, we will all agree that Evening of the Dwelling Useless reinvented the zombie (even when they had been known as “ghouls”) and – for higher or worse – we’ve by no means actually seemed again.
Zombies have been a staple of horror cinema for the reason that Common films basically commercialised it right into a recognisable style – the fantastic White Zombie with Bela Lugosi was made in 1932, only a 12 months after he starred in Dracula. However much more so than the Mummy, who not less than had a thoughts of his personal, the zombie was at all times a little bit of an ineffectual, second division monster and the movies had been virtually solely poverty row productions.
Usually, zombies had been simply senseless slaves, managed by the actual villain of the piece who can be some mad black magician or voodoo grasp or such, who has resurrected the useless to do his bidding as low-cost labour. Generally, they weren’t even useless. Whereas these zombies would often get to stroll, slowly and stiff-armed and carry off some screaming girl and even kill a aspect character, they had been basically no extra of a menace than the individual controlling them – and whereas some zombie characters seemed suitably unnerving, they weren’t particularly scary.
Whereas Hammer’s zombies stay extra senseless slaves than an autonomous harmful menace, The Plague of the Zombies does not less than permit them to tackle a sure stage of horror not beforehand seen. A number of movies like The Useless One (1961) had performed with the thought of the zombie as a extra threatening character and Dr Blood’s Coffin – which coincidentally additionally takes place in Cornwall – featured a extra decayed and monstrous-looking zombie than we had seen earlier than, even when it was the end result extra of unhealthy science and so is nearer to Frankenstein than conventional residing useless narratives.
The Plague of the Zombies not solely makes its creatures appear extra genuinely cadaverous and creepy than something that had gone earlier than, it additionally exhibits them – to a sure diploma – to be a real menace working outdoors the management of others. Okay, it’s only one sequence – and a dream sequence at that – nevertheless it units the scene for what was to return.
This movie doesn’t appear a lot like the top of the standard zombie period because it does a crossover film, pointing the best way ahead for the style whereas nonetheless being influenced by the standard. If individuals wish to declare this movie because the delivery of the fashionable zombie movie, that’s debatable nevertheless it was actually concerned within the conception.
As in The Reptile, The Plague of the Zombies sees unique and sinister overseas cults transplanted to a small and insular Cornish location. On this case, Squire Clive Hamilton (John Carson) is killing off after which resurrecting villagers to work as slave labour in his harmful tin mine, utilizing the information he picked up residing in Haiti (if we’ve realized one factor from horror films, it’s that Haitian witchdoctors are fairly free and straightforward with sharing occult data with foreigners).
Native physician Peter Tompson (Brook Williams) is helpless within the face of the mysterious deaths and the backward attitudes of the unfriendly villagers who not solely refuse permission for post-mortems but in addition appear to carry him answerable for the mysterious spate of deaths plaguing the village (Hammer in all probability didn’t win any awards from the Cornish vacationer board for these two movies).
Even worse, his spouse Anna (Jacqueline Pearce) has develop into sick and is about to develop into Hamilton’s subsequent sufferer. It’s all the way down to Peter’s outdated medical college instructor, the strong Sir James Forbes (Andre Morrell) and his feisty daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare) – who’ve travelled to the village on a social go to after receiving a worrying letter from Peter – to resolve the thriller.
A lot of what makes The Reptile so spectacular can also be the case with The Plague of the Zombies – a strong forged, an impressively insular location and a story that wastes no time in faffing round. By no means slacking for a second, that is considered one of Hammer’s most spectacular films – atmospheric, generally ugly and action-packed – even James Bernard, not probably the most delicate of composers at the most effective of occasions, appears to be pulling out all of the stops right here with a soundtrack that’s virtually flamable in its franticness.
Carson and Morrell’s characters dominate the plot as two sides of Hammer’s higher lessons – the reliable hero and the decadent, unsavoury villain. The politics of Hammer’s horrors are sometimes fascinating and continuously contradictory, and by no means has it been extra so than right here, the place the wealthy actually are exploiting the working lessons and the place ostentatious wealth is intimately related to a extra normal decadence.
It’s not simply Hamilton, a smug but charming character who oozes the form of confidence that comes from being advised since delivery that you’re higher than everybody else – his buddies, the most important bunch of obnoxious privileged yahoos seen in a Hammer movie since The Hound of the Baskervilles, are genuinely, breathtakingly disagreeable characters from the off – we first see them charging by way of a funeral procession and knocking over a coffin on a fox-hunting rampage.
It’s the form of none-too-subtle class battle second that you just’d look forward to finding in a movie by a radical filmmaker of the period, not a manufacturing from an organization that was, by this time, already very a lot part of the institution. Notably, author Peter Bryan had additionally written that Sherlock Holmes film for Hammer, which could counsel an offended younger man at work – however his different films – together with The Brides of Dracula for Hammer, The Blood Beast Terror, The Projected Man and the notoriously terrible Trog – have little to counsel that he was something greater than a jobbing scripter.
The ever-dependable John Gilling does a bang-up job right here – that is, no doubt, his finest movie and he creates a number of moments of spectacular horror. The afore-mentioned nightmare sequence is rightly remembered as one of many best moments in any Hammer movie and the scene the place Anna is attacked by a zombie has develop into one of many firm’s most iconic photographs.
Gilling’s certain hand signifies that you not often cease to consider the weakly written juvenile leads (Diane Clare has little to do aside from being a sufferer as soon as the story begins and is simply as one-dimensional as Jennifer Daniel was in The Reptile), the rather-too-obvious day-for-night photographs and a few ropey zombie masks glimpsed within the closing sequences. None of that issues as a result of The Plague of the Zombies is a first-rate horror journey.
David Flint, visitor reviewer through The Reprobate
” …the movie delivered a daunting, gothic spin on the zombie mythos. With a class-based sense of social commentary, it foreshadowed a lot of the stylistic shifts that will quickly be occurring within the style. Using chilling results, wealthy manufacturing design and a discordantly eerie rating by James Bernard, the image wowed audiences and created an enduring impression.” Bloody Disgusting
” …a turning level in Hammer’s historical past, the place the manufacturing values acquainted from the corporate’s late ’50s classics mix with a extra visceral and instant fashion of horror.” Marcus Hearn, The Hammer Vault
‘The grim mine setting supplies the right atmosphere for these memorable zombies, who characterize the display’s first troop of moldy zombies, even when the temper is in the end subtle by the protected and cozy ambiance of Hammer’s shiny manufacturing values and conservative insistence on order and rationality.” Peter Dendle, The Zombie Film Encyclopedia
“Gilling’s course and Arthur Grant’s prowling digicam set a feverish tone and step by step increasingly more sequences are proven framed by way of doorways, fences, cabinets and with objects and faces looming giant within the foreground. Usually the actors and digicam interact in a well-choreographed dance.” Frank Collins, Cathode Ray Tube
“A lot has been stated of The Plague of the Zombies‘ affect on style landmark Evening of the Dwelling Useless, made in 1968. A novel and surprising experiment in pushing the parameters of Hammer horror, The Plague of the Zombies maybe deserves better recognition in its personal proper.” Marcus Hearn, Alan Barnes, The Hammer Story
“John Gilling has contrived some actually terrifying results.” The Every day Cinema, 29 December 1965
“Like practically all Hammer movies, that is very effectively staged, and one or two of the motion scenes are pretty much as good as something in the best way of cinematic pleasure.” The Kinematograph Weekly, 30 December 1965
Scream Manufacturing facility launched The Plague of the Zombies on Blu-ray on January 15, 2019. The bundle includes a reversible cowl with different poster artwork, plus particular options:
Audio commentary with filmmakers Constantine Nasr and Ted Newsom and movie historian Steve Haberman (new)
Audio commentary with creator/movie historian Troy Howarth (new)
World of Hammer – Mummies, Werewolves & The Dwelling Useless
Elevating the Useless: The Making of The Plague of the Zombies
Solid and characters:
André Morell … Sir James Forbes
Diane Clare … Sylvia Forbes
Brook Williams … Physician Peter Tompson
Jacqueline Pearce … Alice Mary Tompson
John Carson … Squire Clive Hamilton
Alexander Davion … Denver (as Alex Davion)
Michael Ripper … Sergeant Jack Swift
Marcus Hammond … Tom Martinus
Dennis Chinnery … Constable Christian
Louis Mahoney … Black Servant
Roy Royston … Vicar
Ben Aris … John Martinus
Tim Condren … Younger blood
Bernard Egan … Younger blood
Norman Mann … Younger blood
Francis Willey … Younger blood
Jerry Verno … Landlord
Filming ended on sixth September 1965. It was commerce proven on twentieth December 1965 and the movie was launched on ninth January 1966 on a double-bill with Dracula: Prince of Darkness.
Among the Blu-ray screengrabs above are courtesy of Cathode Ray Tube
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