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Jacqueline Pearce is back from the dead in The Plague of Zombies, 1966

From the video case: A strange disease reaching epidemic proportions is invading the English countryside where Peter Thompson (Brook Williams) practices. In desperation, Thompson seeks the help of his mentor, Sir James Forbes (André Morell), who comes to his assistance in trying to make sense of the horrible plague. Amidst walking corpses, voodoo dolls, and empty graves, the two embark on on an investigation that uncovers a ghastly secret and leads them to the shocking truth. (1966, color)

Mark says: Like the zombies in the film, this movie can be a bit slow-paced. This languidness can usually be attributed to the building of suspense. However, the time spent on creating an atmosphere of apprehension seems somewhat misplaced. After all, we know coming in that zombies are the cause of the plague. This is predominantly a fine Hammer production, though, filmed on the same set as another Hammer film, The Reptile.

André Morell (The Mummy’s Shroud, The Giant Behemoth) is superbly cast as the obstinate physician, Sir James Forbes. Equally well-cast, is John Carson (Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter) as the evil zombie master, Squire Clive Hamilton. Hamilton is not your standard one-dimensional villain. He is just as clever as our protagonist, and works from a philosophy that could almost be misconstrued as admirable.

Plague of the Zombies also features one of my favorite Hammer regulars, Michael Ripper, in the role of Sergeant Jack Swift. Other actors play their parts, at the very least, adequately, and Jacqueline Pearce (The Reptile) does an excellent job of portraying the young and ailing doctor’s wife, Alice Thompson.

The appearance of the first zombie is genuinely startling, but the effect lessens as the movie progresses. Still, the film manages to maintain a creepy, black magic atmosphere, with a lot of freaky voodoo drumming (too much, for my taste) and grisly blood rituals.

It is almost cliche to talk about the high production values of Hammer Films, but this is yet another example of why the cliche holds true.

Plague of the Zombies is directed by John Gilling.

Scene to watch for: Clive Hamilton is able to extract an impossible amount of blood from Sylvia Forbes’s simple finger cut.

Line to listen for: “I have my own standards. I conform to them.”

Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ½

IMDB Link

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3 Comments

  1. Created before the Romero zombie had been unleashed on the world, this film uses them in the old-fashioned “mindless slave” aspect, which became outdated and rarely seen again after NOTLD. However, this film has some good things going for it in the zombie department; most notably the graveyard “rising from the dead” sequence. This is probably the finest example of this type of scene made up to that point. Really creepy. Also the makeup made them more scary than the ones that came before.

    One of the faults of many “rising from the grave” scenes in other movies is the obvious ease with which they escape, being buried only inches under the surface. A good example of this is in “Brides of Dracula.” Although I love the film, the scene were Freida encourages the new vampire girl to claw her way out of the earth is made silly by the fact that the coffin was only lightly sprinkled with less than an inch of dirt on top!

  2. Fred: I agree, this film has some supremely creepy moments. I’m not the zombie fan that a lot of people are, but I genuinely enjoy this picture. I think André Morell does a superb job.

  3. The look on Jacqueline’s face as she rises from her, uh, bed is worth the price of admission alone here. Brrrrr….


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