October 19, 2012
‘The Plague of the Zombies’ (1966) far better than it sounds
(Maybe because of their absence, because I always sense the two of them are secretly thinking, “I studied acting for this?”)
The Plague of the Zombies is actually one of Hammer’s most accomplished, most chilling, and most enjoyable productions, and one which has been least affected by the considerable ravages of time. (…)
In typical Hammer fashion, the Cornish village set, a couple of the actors, and the director were all to be shared with The Reptile, which was itself to be the supporting piece for Rasputin, the Mad Monk. Far from impacting upon the resultant quality of the output, it almost feels as if the forced efficiency, and the familiarity generated by the shared resources, lends the film a sense of consistency and continuity which pays rich dividends.
Plague features the usual Hammer ingredients: Doctor/Professor-Gets-To-The-Bottom-Of-Creepy-Local-Shenanigans; women with perfect complexions who sleep on their backs; creeping through windows and rifling through Black Forest desks; lovingly crafted lighting, costumes, blocking and set decoration; and especially, that juicy, gem-like, Sirkian Technicolor. (I’d be happy to stare at an endless loop of [the restored version of ]The Gorgon‘s opening titles for hours, and the whole film is a gorgeous study of emeralds, French navys and russets.)
Certainly the scene in which the heroine is (almost) gang raped by imperious gentlemen wearing fox hunting gear (and who hunt foxes without hounds, which I assumed was impossible…) is far scarier than any of those featuring the putrid zombies themselves. I almost turned off the movie at that point but am glad I stuck with it.
Don’t be put off by the videos below, which clearly used dark, muggy, non-restored clips from the film.
The Plague of the Zombies has been restored and is available on Blu-Ray — it looks WAY better now.