Directed by John Gilling [Other horror films: Escape from Broadmoor (1938), Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952), The Gamma People (1956), The Flesh and the Fiends (1960), The Shadow of the Cat (1961), The Night Caller (1965), The Reptile (1966), The Mummy’s Shroud (1967), La cruz del diablo (1975)]
This Hammer film may be one of the last voodoo zombie films before Night of the Living Dead launches a new way forward for the zombie sub-genre, and it’s certainly the last big name zombie film before Romero’s classic. Being a Hammer movie (and being in color), The Plague of the Zombies isn’t too shabby, but it’s not a personal favorite of mine.
I enjoy the performances, though no one really blows me away. Perhaps my favorite here is André Morell, because seeing a slightly older man take the lead is a bit of a rarity, and his character is enjoyable, being a distinguished doctor, and yet partaking in robbing graves. He was just fun. Playing his daughter is Diane Clare, and she gets along quite well with Morell. Brook Williams, as a young doctor asking for Morell’s advice, is a bit generic, but he has his moments. John Carson did quite well here as a somewhat mad Cornish squire – much like Morell, he’s fun throughout, especially toward the end.
The atmosphere here is pretty solid, and there are some pretty solid scenes (perhaps my favorite is a dream sequence in which zombies rise from the grave, which looks quite beautiful in color), but as decent as the story was (in it’s average Hammer fair), trying to turn the same premise of White Zombie into a better-made version by throwing in color isn’t really my idea of a great time.
The Plague of the Zombies is a bit of a classic as Hammer horror is concerned, and for good reason (worth noting, many of the same sets are used in The Reptile, another Hammer film from the same year, which I like a bit more), but even as far as 1960’s horror goes, this doesn’t quite make my Top 10 list.
I’m not trying to throw The Plague of the Zombies under a bus – I think it’s a decent film, and I wouldn’t object to seeing it a few more times in the future. It’s just that I’ve seen it twice now, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s not the best the 1960’s has to offer.