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“This isn’t London, sir. This is a Cornish village inhabited by simple country people, riddled with superstition and all dominated by a squire. He acts as coroner and magistrate, judge and jury.”

Although not among their best known, The Plague of the Zombies is one of Hammer’s very best, and a very different take on the genre than that George A. Romero would usher in only two years later. For a start it’s a period piece and its zombies are more victims than flesh-eating fiends, the result of a curious plague that begins with lethargy and ends with living death that’s baffled local doctor Brook Williams and is threatening to take the life of both his wife and his mentor’s daughter.

You don’t have to look far for who’s responsible: back from foreign parts with a lot of money and the kind of friends Sir Hugo Baskerville would have hung out with before running into that large canine on the moors, John Carson’s dissolute squire has taken a leaf from Murder Legendre’s book of labour relations to deal with the local manpower shortage and is killing off and raising the locals from the dead to work in his dangerous abandoned tin mine. And what a quite splendid villain the silken-voiced Carson is. Coming across as James Mason’s (more) evil brother, he avoids pure melodrama in a part that would have seen many chewing the scenery by exuding aristocratic indifference from every pore whenever confronted by his many social inferiors who are barely worth his contempt, is proud of his non-conformity (“In order to be popular, one must conform. I find that too big a price to pay. I have my own standards. I conform to them.”) and it’s even heavily implied he’s had his wicked way with the heroine before he tries to kill her, which seems to be his preferred method of avoiding long-term entanglements.

If Richard Burton’s protégé Williams is a typically nice-but-bland Hammer hero chosen primarily for the ability to pass as coming from the right side of the tracks (not always a priority with Hammer starlets, who could always be – and often were – dubbed), there’s always the ever-excellent Andre Morell on the side of the angels as the distinguished specialist called in from London to diagnose the plague and Michael Ripper, the true face of Hammer, as the local police sergeant. There’s excellent direction from the ever-undervalued John Gilling, good performances, particularly from a superb Jacqueline Pearce (though Diane Clare is pretty bad and the actress dubbing her isn’t much better) and a terrific dream scene with hands clawing up towards the surface and zombies shaking the dirt of the grave from their faces while Roy Ashton’s unsettling zombie make-up makes you wonder if Dick Smith saw the film when deciding on Linda Blair’s demonic look in The Exorcist. Gilling and co-stars Jacqueline Pearce and Michael Ripper would go on to shoot The Reptile on the same sets the same year to less memorable effect, making for an interesting homemade double-bill, but for all the superficial similarities this retains its own unique identity and stands as one of the studio’s best and one of those rare films that seems to get better each time you see it.

Sadly the UK DVD offers no extras, losing it a star - Anchor Bay's US DVD included an episode of the World of Hammer clip show, trailer and 2 TV spots for its double-bill with Frankenstein Created Woman while StudioCanal's UK Blu-ray/DVD combo offers a splendid restoration with a new half hour documentary, episode of World of Hammer and UK trailer.

The UK region B-locked Blu-ray doesn't include the double-bill trailer pairing the film with Dracula, Prince of Darkness that's on the deleted US Anchor Bay DVD and which offers free Dracula fangs for the guys in the audience and zombie eyes for the gals, but it does have a truly excellent restoration (which uses the original UK title sequence, slightly different to the one on Anchor Bay's US DVD) and a very decent extras package - a new 34-minute documentary with Carson and Pearce (who recalls Morell's undisguised contempt for Diane Clare's amateurish performance), an episode of the World of Hammer clip show and trailer.
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on 17 June 2013
Plague Of The Zombies is one of my favourite Hammer Horrors. I was introduced to it in my early years when the B.B.C put a double feature of horror movies on under the banner, 'Dracula, Frankenstein & Friends'. As well as being introduced to the Universal classics (Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney etc) we were treated to these wonderful colour gems from the Hammer stable. This BluRay looks fantastic, & the powers at be (in this case, StudioCanal) have done a fantastic job, with some nice little extras to boot. A must have for all Hammer fans.
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VINE VOICEon 1 January 2005
This film made back to back with The Reptile is actually one of Hammers most popular films. A fine cast, decent sets, a good script and a really good dream sequence when the zombies emerge from their graves make it a really good watch indeed. Also includes the lovely Jacqueline Pearce who is fondly remembered for her role in Blakes Seven a few years back. Overall, a fine effort worth adding to any DVD collection. Good picture and sound too.
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VINE VOICEon 27 August 2015
Set in a Cornish village in 1860, Plague of Zombie's is about the inhabitants of a small town who are dying from a mysterious plague that seems to be spreading at an accelerated rate. local buffoon doctor, Peter Thompson, has failed to do anything about the disease so calls on Sir James Forbes (Morrell) to help. Accompanying Sir James is his daughter Sylvia (the beautiful Diane Claire).

Plague is a outstanding Hammer film. Although a few seem to dislike it (mainly on the grounds Lee and Cushing aren't in it) you'd be downright idiotic to miss this great film. A great story, fantastically paced, well directed (especially the dream scene), great actors, it's one of Hammer's finest no doubt. This Blu Ray is a great remastering, losing none of the quality to DNR, so it retains the grain but also the colour and tonal quality.
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on 26 June 2012
This is another superb Hammer Blu-Ray from Studio Canal. The colours are vibrant and lush, the image is crisp and clear and the audio is excellent. The movie itself is one of Hammers best efforts from the 60's. The plot is silly and fun, Voodoo in Cornwall! but helped immensely by the great looking, though brutally cheap, production values and the better than average acting. This makes for a great double bill with the simultaneously released Blu-Ray of The Reptile, a movie that was filmed using the same sets and some of the same actors, or with the movie it was originally released with as the B feature paired with Dracula, Prince of Darkness, a controversial Blu-Ray release from earlier this year (though I personally found it to be a great transfer and a vast vast improvement over any of the dvd versions). The extras are good, especially the interviews with surviving cast and devotees. I would give the movie a 3.5 to 4 star rating, but the Blu-Ray transfer rates a big 5.
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on 3 December 2012
It is always around this sort of time of year when the nights are getting cold and dark that I yearn to dig out my old Hammer Horror collection and bask in the atmospheric wonderfulness of the UKs best known horror studio. So with this in mind I decided it would be the perfect opportunaty to sample the new Blu ray releases from Hammer that are being distributed by Studio Canal and for no other reason than that I found a very resonably priced copy here on Amazon my first and definatly not last Hammer Blu ray is John Gilling's 1966 Plague Of The Zombies.
For most modern audiences the word zombie in a movie title conjurs up images of the films of Romero, Fulci or even TV shows like the Walking Dead complete with gratuitous gore, grue and general mean spiritedness. Plague Of The Zombies which also happens to be Hammers only foray into the zombie genre is a far more sedate, charming and elegant film compared to the blood and thunder approach of more recent walking dead movies and is more more akin to the zombie movies of old such as the Bela Lugosi starrer White Zombie or the wonderfuly titled but suprisingly tame I Eat Your Skin complete with a voodoo master and a hord of drone like and mostly unthreatening zombie slaves. I suppose this was a time before Night Of The Living Dead with its cannabalistic ghouls and social commentary that took over the genre and cemented audiences expectations of what a zombie film should be all about but this far more classical take by Hammer is thouroughly commendable and totally in keeping with the studios 60s output.
Though obviously a Hammer film this misses a number of traits assciated with the studio. There is no Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, no bared fangs and not pumped up heaving cleavage in sight. What it does possess though is that wonderful Hammer atmosphere and gothic feel that permeates every frame and despite the relatively low budget these films endured, lavish sets, costumes and rousing orchestral score.
The cast for Plague is also suprisingly strong helped a good and entertaing script. Veteran actor Andre Morell who plied his trade on epic productions such as Bridge On The River Kwai and Ben Hur is perfectly cast as the pushy headstrong professer and John Carson is suitably sinister as the secretive and arrogant squire. Brook Williams is effective enough as the doctor but always seems to play second fiddle to Morell's persistant professor character when ever they share a scene.
As most Hammer fanatics will already know, Plague Of The Zombies was shot back to back with John Gilling's other Cornish set piece The Reptile with which its shared locations and cast and crew members. It was then double billed with the far more flamboyant Dracula Prince Of Darkness which itself was shot back to back with Rasputin The Mad Monk which then went on to be a double bill with The Reptile. Confused? Well this was a clever marketing ploy by Hammer and then distributor 20th Century Fox meaning audiences could have a horror double bill and not think they were getting the same movie. This ment Hammer could release more films while keeping the costs of the movie making process down. Compared to its companion piece The Reptile, Plague is a far more accomplished production with a better script, storyline, costumes and make-up and it is blatently obvious more went into this. It is fair to say that Plague is up there with some of the best that came out of Bray Studio. There are images in this feature that have stayed with me since I saw this on TV as a child. The first zombie sighting by the abandoned mine shaft and the now infamous graveyard nightmare sequence are amongst some of the best Hammer has to offer and I'm sure must have sent a shiver down the spines of 60s movie goers. I defy any fan of classic horror not to enjoy Plague Of The Zombies and this comes comes highly recommended.

As I mentioned earlier in this review this is the first Hammer/Studio Canal Blu ray I have bought and if this transfer is anything to go by it will not be my last. In a word Plague Of The Zombies MPEG-4 AVC 1080p 1.66:1 transfer is exquisite. Ok so this doesent look as if it were shot yesterday and nor should it but if a bar were to be set on to how a mid 60s genre film were to look in HD then this would be extremely high. The first thing you notice is how incredibally detailed and well defined the image is from the opening credits which show no real signs of optical problems which persist in older films given the 1080p treatment through to close ups of faces complete with the wrinkles and lines of Morell and Michael Ripper and the pale delicate skin of Alice. Period clothing is also given a boost with intricate detailing on the lace of a nightgown to the tweed of a gentlemans jacket. Exterior scenes also look extremely strong with exceptional clarity showcasing the wonderful English countryside settings with accurate rendering of foliage and rustic scenery through to stone walls and gravely roads. Black levels are pretty good. These can look a little grey in day time scenes but look nice and inky in the voodoo ceremony scenes and the mine set finale with only a mild amount of crush and the fire in the study shows no signs of pixalisation. Of course Hammer were well known for shooting day for night on almost all of their productions and Plague is no exception but even these sections look as good as they can possibly could be given the circumstances and definatly add to the charm of these films and like the rest of the transfer look very crisp with plenty of depth. Colour reprodution is pleasing and very natural without any real boosting seeming to have taken place and apart from some nice film grain there are no age related problems to report. Superb.
Audio has been given the lossless treatment in the form of an LPCM mono track and although Studio Canal have been blasted recently for the sound on a couple of their other Hammer titles I am pleased to say that this release is absolutly perfect in every way. Right from the opening when the voodoo drums came pounding through my front speakers I new this was going to be a strong track. The music exhibited plenty of depth from the aformentioned drums through to the classic Hammer theme. I knew when this music cue would come bursting through over the opening credits and almost winced in the antisipation only to be pleasantly suprised at how rich James Bernard's strings sounded. Everything else in the film sounds just as strong. Of course there isnt going to be any real movement or overt dynamics and yes it is only plain flat mono but I wouldnt want a stereo or 5.1 remix of this and with exceptionally clear dialogue and crisp sounding foley work plus not to mention a complete lack of distortions or background hiss fans couldnt really ask for more.
Extras are obviously light years ahead of any previous release from the Uk with an informative documentary, restoration comparison, theatrical trailer and vintage world of hammer episode narrated by Oliver Reed. A highly recommended package.
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on 15 April 2005
"The Plague of Zombies" is the only Hammer film to deal with that particular type of walking dead and one of the studio's better efforts once you get past the idea of the voodoo of Haiti being used in Cornwall to solve a labor shortage. The film begins with an intense voodoo ceremony that somehow disturbs the sleep of Alice Tompson (Jaqueline Pearce). She happens to be the wife of Dr. Peter Tompson (Brook Williams), the physician of a small Cornish village whose patients have been dying due to some mysterious malady that he can not even diagnose let alone cure. The good doctor's mentor Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell) has traveled with his daughter Sylvia (Diana Clare) to see if he can help. While the women have a run in with Clive Hamilton (John Carson), the local squire (and the obvious man behind all the evil doings), the physicians find they cannot do any autopsies because all of the graves of the recent dead are empty!
The most memorable moment in this film is when Peter passes out and the dead erupt from their graves in a dream sequence. Ultimately the film suffers from the fact that the audience is so far ahead of the characters in terms of figuring out the mystery. Of course Hamilton spent years in Haiti and is using the dead to work his otherwise unprofitable tin mine. The mysteries are only mysteries because Peter Bryan's script says they are mysteries. However, "Plague of Zombies" does remind us of what the term "zombies" meant before the flesh-eating corpses of George Romero et al. Note: This 1966 film was shot on the same sets as "The Reptile," also directed by John Gilling and also set in Cornwall, but the production crew does a nice job of redressing everything so its hard to tell.
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on 25 February 2001
When I first saw this film on the tv i thought i had to have it so I did and its still as brilliant as it was, A squire dabbles in voodoo rituals creating zombies that run a mill for him, A doctor and his daughter go to cornwall to visit old friends but find that they hve to stop the evil squire before its to late
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on 18 April 2015
Not my favourite Hammer horror as it felt too 'light' - the zombies just looked and acted like - well, actors! But picture quality of this BLU RAY release is good.
UPDATE: This refers to the Studio Canal blu ray version which has been well restored with a lovely picture quality. Although my earlier comments still stand, this is a better effort than some other Hammer films (excluding their Dracula & Frankenstein masterpieces, that is). I hadn't realised POTZ was shot in 1965 until the end as the film has a sort of 1970s feel to it. The scene where a zombie is awaking from his grave and shuffles his head from side to side to remove the dirt from his face is most effective! The camerawork during the awing of the zombies at night is beautifully filmed with various filters giving a fitting and memorable tint to them. In all then, a creditable film that passes the time adeptly. The picture quality of this blu ray is v good too.
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on 1 March 2012
An usual hammer film as well as an usual zombie film, nothing like the zombie films produced today.Set in a small english country village the film is about a strange disease which has killed twelve people in as many months but the local doctor has no idea what it is and so he calls on his mentor, sir james forbes(andre morell)for help in stopping the plague that is slowly killing the villagers off.The transfer is excellent and overall this film is well worth buying if your a hammer fan
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