The Plague of the Zombies (1966) – Classic Review
- Published on Friday, 17 May 2013 21:16
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“Someone in this village is practising witchcraft… I pray I am wrong.” Words spoken in one of Hammer’s most influential movies. As early as 1962 Peter Bryan had developed a storyline – “The Zombie” – inspired by ideas from Hammer’s production of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” he hoped to resurrect the sub-genre that was kicked off in the 1932 Bela Lugosi vehicle “White Zombie”.
Together with Anthony Hinds a gruesome synopsis was developed and delivered but put on hold until 1964 when Anthony Nelson Keys came to its rescue and chose it as part of Hammer’s four movie package with Seven Arts / Fox / ABPC. A shooting script was completed by Bryan and a director was chosen in John Gilling, by July 1965 filming had commenced.
In a small 19th century Cornish community there is a strange and fatal malady that is affecting the inhabitants. Distraught and mystified local GP Peter Tompson (Brook Williams) sends word to his former tutor and mentor Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell) for help who arrives with his daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare).
The two are welcomed by Peter’s fatally sick wife Alice, who happens to be an old school friend of Sylvia’s (Jacqueline Pearce, who would go on to gain a cult following for playing Servalan in the BBC Sci-Fi series “Blake’s 7”).
Alice eventually dies and to console herself after the burial Sylvia goes on a night time walk. The walk takes her past an old disused tin mine where she witnesses a corpse like figure toss aside what seems to be the body of the newly buried Alice. After telling of what she has seen to both her father and the grieving husband Peter, the two, undercover of night, exhume a coffin only to find that it is empty. Interrupted in their activities by police Sergeant Swift (Michael Ripper) the pair are given forty-eight hours to complete their investigations.
Eventually the body of Alice is found and a post mortem is carried out only for the pair to discover that the blood left in her body is not human. To further their investigations they travel to the local tin mine with Sergeant Swift which leads them to speculate on how the local Squire, newly returned from Haiti, earns his money. They soon discover that Squire Hamilton (John Carson) has been using voodoo rituals, learned during his stay in Haiti, to raise the dead. To prevent Alice from becoming a member of the walking dead a horrified Peter looks on as Alice, who has been reburied, rises from her grave to attack Sir James who eventually decapitates her with a shovel while an army of the un-dead spew forth from their graves.
Check out the trailer for The Plague of the Zombies
One of the most important movies in horror and certainly the most important zombie movie to be made. Its influence can be seen in every zombie film from George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” right through to “World War Z” and will no doubt resonate beyond even that. The terror that is inflicted on the characters and on the audience who went to watch was all too genuine. A truly great horror movie.
Sources: Rigby. J. ‘Study in Terror.’
Barnes. A., Hearn. M. ‘The Hammer Story.’