Also known as: The Zombies
Release Date: January 9th, 1966 (UK)
Directed by: John Gilling
Written by: Peter Bryan
Music by: James Bernard
Cast: André Morell, Diane Clare, Brook Williams, Jacqueline Pearce, John Carson, Alexander Davion, Michael Ripper
Hammer Film Productions, Seven Arts Productions, Warner-Pathé, 20th Century Fox, 90 Minutes
“I, I find all kinds of witchcraft slightly nauseating and this I find absolutely disgusting.” – Sir James Forbes
The Plague of the Zombies is truly the embodiment of a classic Hammer horror picture. Considering it is one that doesn’t star Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee makes it even more impressive. Also, it wasn’t even directed by Hammer’s top dog Terence Fisher. Yet, it somehow perfectly captures the quality, tone and vibe of a true Hammer classic.
Director John Gilling only did a handful of pictures for Hammer. Still, he really made something that embodied their style and feels like some of their earlier, better known work such as The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula and The Hound of the Baskervilles.
When singling out famous monster types, this is Hammer’s quintessential zombie movie in the same way that The Curse of the Werewolf was their quintessential werewolf picture. Hammer had vampires covered with at least a dozen movies.
This is also a zombie movie of the really old school pre-George A. Romero era. It features zombies created through the use of voodoo, which has always been the coolest type of zombie, in my opinion.
One thing that really makes this picture great is the performance of André Morell. He was really Hammer’s third biggest male star and he easily fills the void of this picture not having Cushing or Lee in it. Morell is underappreciated as a classic horror icon and this is one of his best films and performances. I wish this picture was a bit better known by horror aficionados.
In addition to Morell, John Carson puts in one of the best villainous performances in Hammer history. His evil voodoo practicing Squire is intimidating, haunting and weirdly alluring at the same time. Plus, voodoo in horror has always been a thing I’ve loved and this guy fits the part as the rich aristocratic British gentleman with his Haitian servants and horde of undead henchmen.
The Plague of the Zombies is a pretty perfect Hammer movie. It fits in perfectly with the best films in their oeuvre. Plus, it has zombies, voodoo and is a whole lot of fun.