THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES – Blu-ray Review

Starring: André Morell, Diane Clare, Brook Williams, Jacqueline Pearce 
Written by: Peter Bryan
Directed by: John Gilling
Original Year of Release: 1968
Studio: Hammer Films
Distributor: Scream Factory (Shout! Factory) 
Run Time: 1hr, 30min
Rated: Approved

In watching the special features of Scream Factory's Dracula: Prince of Darkness (seen HERE), I took notice of the "World of Hammer" TV episode “Dracula and the Undead”. It mentioned that Dracula: Prince of Darkness was doubled billed with The Plague of Zombies. I wasn't aware that Hammer had made a zombie film. I was intrigued enough by what I saw, plus, in the history of cinema, this would pre-date George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead by two years. What would Hammer's play on zombies be like? Would it even be set in England, and when?

Sir James Forbes (André Morell) and his daughter Sylvia (Diane Clark) visit a young married couple living in the Cornish countryside. Once there, they find Dr. Peter Tompson (Brook Williams) and his wife Alice (Jacqueline Pearce) in dire straits. Peter is unable to determine what has been killing the villagers. He believes it to be some plague, but the residents of the village will not let him perform a single autopsy. Furthermore, with a little sleuthing around, Sir James and Peter discover that all the graves of the recently deceased are empty. The two men visit Squire Clive Hamilton (John Carson), the law of the land, to request his help, and thus the tale unfolds.

From the get-go, one can easily tell that Squire Hamilton and his band of red coat hunters are behind what is happening. If you need a big tip-off, James Bernard's score also conveys this. The villagers are simple people and it is not until Peter's wife, Alice, dies that they are able to understand what is happening. With all that as a set up to this Hammer Film, new fans and even older ones may find the occasional yawn dancing across their faces. Outside of the classic Hammer red blood, the film only supports two real Hammer players and they’re not major ones. Morell is best known as Hammer's Dr. Watson in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959). The other player is Michael Ripper (playing Sergeant Jack Swift), who appeared in numerous Hammer productions throughout the years. Neither are Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, but both are fine with what they are given. This film isn't ripe with the typical Hammer Babes either.

What I find myself torn on is the reveal (or lack thereof) of what Squire Hamilton was doing with the zombies he was creating. Certainly, there is an allegory for the wealthy and the working lower class to be made. Yet, I find myself asking, why did he need all these zombies? Funny, how I can believe that he can make them, I just need a purpose for them. Evil for evil’s sake is another great reason, but the Squire had some sort of plan going on, right?

Again, Scream Factory released a stellar (picture quality wise) genre film. This time around, the "World of Hammer" dove into "Mummies, Werewolves & The Living Dead". I found myself adding even more films to my must-watch list and hoping that Scream Factory will release these as well (Night Creatures (1962) being my next choice). "Raising the Dead: The Making of The Plague of the Zombies" allows us insight into the production as both Jacqueline Pearce (Alice) and John Carson (the Squire) are interviewed. Thankfully, Carson does discuss how and why he sounds so much like the legendary actor James Mason.

THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES Blu-ray Special Features:
  • NEW Audio Commentary with filmmaker Constantine Nasr and author/film historian Steve Haberman
  • NEW Audio Commentary with author/film historian Troy Howarth
  • NEW Restored Audio
  • World of Hammer – Mummies, Werewolves & The Living Dead
  • Raising the Dead: The Making of The Plague of the Zombies
  • Restoration Comparison
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Still Gallery

6.5 Total Score
NOT YOUR TYPICAL HAMMER

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2 Comments
  1. Reply
    Paul Tabili January 16, 2019 at 12:22 pm
    • Reply
      Robert Trate January 16, 2019 at 12:34 pm

      Thanks, Paul! I have that box set! I was just hoping for a Scream Factory release with new and add special features!

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