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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)


Starring: André Morell, Diane Clare, Brook Williams and Jacqueline Pearce
RRP: £22.99
Certificate: 15
Available 18 June 2012

Sir James Forbes, a professor of medicine, and his daughter, Sylvia, visit Doctor Peter Tompson and his wife, Alice, in the Cornish village where they reside - after a mysterious letter is received. Tompson is Forbes's ex-student, and Alice is a good friend of Sylvia. The people of this tin-mining community are falling sick with an unknown malady and twelve have died in the last year. The villagers blame the doctor for not finding the cause, but he has never been permitted to carry out a post-mortem by Squire Clive Hamilton, who acts as coroner, judge - and in this case - executioner too. Sir James soon discovers that all of the graves in the churchyard are empty, and one man is babbling about seeing his dead brother walking. Mystical activities are traced to the squire's residence and the nearby mines, but the doctor's wife is walking dead and the race is on to save Sylvia...

The Plague of the Zombies from 1966 was Hammer's only foray into living dead territory. When I saw the publicity picture on the cover of this release I cringed before laughing. This was either going to be awful or so bad it would be good. I'm glad to report that I was wrong on both counts. The scene it's from is a nightmare sequence (the only segment aside from the finale where more than one zombie is seen), and it thankfully cuts quickly before we reach the photo in question.

I like the idea of zombies being made to work in the tin mines. The villagers had apparently refused to work there after a series of accidents and subsequent rumours of hauntings. It explains how the squire has money aplenty when his father before him had run up huge debts. In fact, I only remember the word zombie being spoken once; it certainly reduced the potential for silliness. Somehow the phrases 'living corpse' and 'walking dead' lend much more credence to the concept.

Andre Morell as Sir James Forbes is a commanding presence in this film and I can't imagine it being half as good without him. He's polite and sympathetic without ever being weak; a great contrast to the out-of-depth Doctor Tompson. It harks back to a time when manners and etiquette were everything, even when conversing with an obvious villain. Never a bad thing in my book. And talking of the meeting of two opposites, there is a decidedly Twilight Zone moment when Hamilton descends the stairs to talk with Sir James. When he turns a corner on the stairs a large dog is fleetingly glimpsed, but when he reaches the bottom, only a few steps later, the dog has mysteriously evaporated.

I'm sure I could pick holes in this movie if I wanted to, but what's the point. It holds together really well, and is an enjoyable tale well told. Another gem from Hammer Productions, but is it worth purchasing again in the format of Blu-ray? Well, if you are a fan of and/or a collector of Hammer films then there is no question, you should grab it with both hands. The remastering for Blu-ray is quite remarkable, and we are offered a restoration comparison as one of the disc’s extra features. The picture looks bright and crisp, but I shouldn’t be surprised after the excellent work carried out on Quatermass and the Pit.

Other extras include a World of Hammer episode, narrated by Oliver Reed; a Trailer, and a very entertaining making of... featurette called Raising the Dead, in which experts such as Marcus Hearn and surviving actors talk about the film, with the always welcome contribution of writer, actor and film fan Mark Gatiss.


Ty Power

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