PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, THE
(director: John Gilling; screenwriters: Anthony Hinds/Peter Bryan; cinematographer: Arthur Grant; editor: Chris Barnes; music: James Bernard; cast: Andre Morell (Sir James Forbes), Diane Clare (Sylvia Forbes), Brook Williams (Dr. Peter Tompson ), Jacqueline Pearce (Alice Mary Tompson ), John Carson (Squire Clive Hamilton), Alex Davion (Denver), Michael Ripper (Sergeant Jack Swift), Louis Mahoney (Negro Servant), Roy Royston (Vicar), Ben Aris (John Martinus); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating:NR; producer: Anthony Nelson Keys; Anchor Bay; 1966-UK)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Filmed in Ireland, but set in an 1860 small Cornish village. It’s only adequately and without menace directed by John Gilling (“The Reptile”/”Pickup Alley”/”Mania”),and is written without decent dialogue byAnthony Hinds and Peter Bryan. The Hammer film is atmospheric and well-crafted, but it lacks action, is dull and the storyline lacks subtlety and in the conclusion it becomes a matter of brawn over brains. This zombie pic came out before George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), which just blows this stuffy horror pic away.
A mysterious plague killing a dozen in the Cornish village where Peter Tompson (Brook Williams) began his medical practice a year ago, leaves the doctor stumped at the cause. He’s thwarted in his attempt to perform autopsies by the mean-spirited Squire Clive Hamilton (John Carson), who runs things in the village, and out of desperation Peter writes a letter to his respected London former professor of medicine, Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell), for help. Sir James brings along his single daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare) who had a crush on Peter, but he married her friend Alice (Jacqueline Pearce).
At the village the visiting London duo meet up with small-town ignorance and superstitions, hostile fox hunters who work of the squire and the angry brother (Ben Aris) of the latest victim–who insults the doctor for being inept. The doctors’ scheme to do an autopsy of the latest vic, but when they open the coffin it’s empty. Then Alice, who was cut in the arm, strangely wanders off at night in a trance and is followed by Sylvia. Alice later turns up dead in the moors, dumped there by the undead missing corpse. Sir James uses the vicar’s library to take a crash course in zombies. The good doctor soon discovers that Squire Hamilton, who lived in Haiti but returned a year ago upon his father’s death to run the then bankrupt estate, is now the head of a voodoo cult of English thugs that use the walking corpses as slave labor on his abandoned tin mine on his estate. When Sylvia is cut on the finger by Squire Hamilton and he stores a drop of her blood in a vial for the voodoo ritual, Sir James realizes his daughter is in grave danger and manages to locate where the squire conducts his voodoo rituals and saves Sylvia from being sacrificed and watches the squire, his thugs and all the zombies perish in a fire he set.
The best imagery is a nightmare that Peter has of zombies rising from the graveyard, that’s shot in a green tint. Otherwise this is a rather tame pic and not as great as it might of been perceived when first released in theaters.
REVIEWED ON 10/10/2010 GRADE: B-