Anchor Bay // 1966 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Harold Gervais (Retired) // February 23rd, 2000
Zombies have terrible skin.
From the masters of '60s horror, Hammer Studios, comes a film loaded with atmosphere, chills and witty performances.
A strange disease is wiping out a small Cornish village, in desperation the local doctor calls on his mentor to help investigate. The mentor arrives, with his very attractive daughter in tow, to find a burial in progress...another victim of a very strange plague that is killing and leaving it's victims in a zombie/living dead state. What follows is horror in the classic Hammer way -- lots of creatures, lots of cleavage, and LOTS of model work.
This film, which is similar in tone to the classic Bela Lugosi film White Zombie, is one of the most effective examples of '60s horror film making. There are certain images in the film that will remind astute horror watchers of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Zombies is certainly another influence. The film is strongly enhanced by the performance of Hammer semi-regular Andre Morell as the wise and wry Sir James Forbes. He is a marvelous actor who gives the film its center. Every scene with him is a joy. He is joined by Diane Clare as his young and busty daughter, who of course turns the head of the stern and demanding village lord, played by John Carson.
It seems people having been falling ill to strange illness and dying quickly. After a quick grave digging, which gets the two doctors arrested, we learn that people are not in the graves they were buried in. The film then moves into high gear. The doctor who has called Sir James to the village, Dr. Peter Thompson (Brook Williams), also finds that his wife is falling ill to the same illness as the rest of the villagers. Sir James' daughter follows the wife into the field late one night where she sees the same fellow who was buried the day before, on her arrival to the village.
Disoriented and after a good couple of screams later she finds herself chased by some local ruffians who work for the village lord (Carson). After he saves her from a potential gang rape she makes her way home. In the field where she saw the walking dead villager, she discovers the dead body of Dr. Thompson's wife. Her father investigates further and finds that the lord of the village is the leader of a black cult who is raising the dead to be his slave labor in a closed down mine. Chases, and a very chilling and effective dead raising later, the film ends as most Hammer films of the period did...with a good fire. I've probably given you more story details than you need to know. If you know anything about Hammer films you know what to expect. Although I must say The Plague of the Zombies stands with the best of what Hammer ever produced.
Anchor Bay has done another bang up job as part of their "Hammer Collection." The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in a beautiful anamorphic transfer. It's truly amazing how well this film has held up. Blacks are dark and rich. There is very little color bleed. All in all a great transfer! Sound is in Dolby Digital Mono and it serves its purpose. Dialogue is clear and there is almost zero hiss or distortion.
Extras on the disc are the trailer for the film itself and for Dracula -- Prince of Darkness and the "World of Hammer" episode "Mummies, Werewolves & The Living Dead," which is basically an advertisement for Hammer studios that ran for awhile on the BBC. Languages are in English and French. There are no subtitles for the hearing impaired, a situation that Hammer has said they are in the process of changing for future releases.
If you are a fan of the film or of Hammer Films in general you probably already own this is disc. If you are looking for a quiet, effective little thriller from a different era of filmmaking this is a must rent. I loved this film!
The Plague of the Zombies is a fun little movie and Anchor Bay shows once again why they are one of the best producers of DVD in the market today. They take little movies that most people might not give a second thought to and give them a royal treatment. I mean Anchor Bay gives us a 16x9 enhanced transfer of The Plague of the Zombies but Paramount can't do the same for the most popular film of all time, Titanic. Something is very, very wrong here, but hats off to Anchor Bay. It's why I have this movie on my shelf and not that other one.
Anchor Bay is acquitted of all charges with a warning in regard to their position on subtitles for the hearing impaired. Case dismissed. Next case!
Review content copyright © 2000 Harold Gervais; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Theatrical Trailer
* Combo Theatrical Trailer with "Dracula - Prince of Darkness"
* "World of Hammer" Episode, Mummies, Werewolves and The Living Dead