The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

John Gilling directs with style and flair in one of his minor masterpieces The Plague of the Zombies. Hammer only made one foray into the zombie sub-genre with this film about a doctor and his daughter paying a visit to a former medical student who has written for help. Apparently in his Cornish village, men and women are dying without explanation and are showing symptoms the doctor cannot diagnose with any real degree of certainty. Of course they soon discover that the bodies are no longer in their caskets and that many of them have been seen AFTER they have died. Gilling effectively films the sequences of action that take place in typical Hammer style with an emphasis on suspense. Although lacking the star power usually attributed to a Hammer production, this film is right up there in terms of great Hammer films. The only “star” is Andre Morrell(you may remember him as Watson in Hammer’s The Hound of the Baskervilles). Morrell is quite good and I think he should have been utilized more by the studio than he was. The rest of the cast does a very credible job as well. Gilling’s camera is the real treat though as he really shoots several scenes quite effectively. His dream sequence with the zombies tearing the earth from their way out into the open is a classic. Now I know some people will make the inevitable comparison to this and Night of the Living Dead(a film that came AFTER this one). That is understandable using NOTLD as the barometer of all zombie films; however, let me just point out again that this film came before that one and may have aided Romero in some way. Granted there are not a slew of similarities, but Romero may have gleaned something for this production as it is apparent he did from The last Man on Earth and Carnival of Souls. I too wish Hammer had done more with zombie films. they would have given that sub-genre a bit more class than is sometimes associated with it.