Sir James Forbes, a professor of medicine, and his daughter
Sylvia visit Doctor Peter Tompson and his wife, Alice, in
the Cornish village where they reside - after a mysterious
letter is received. Tompson is Forbes's ex-student, and Alice
is a good friend of Sylvia. The people of this tin-mining
community are falling sick with an unknown malady and 12 have
died in the last year. The villagers blame the doctor for
not finding the cause, but he has never been permitted to
carry out a post-mortem by Squire Clive Hamilton, who acts
as coroner, judge - and in this case - executioner too. Sir
James soon discovers that all of the graves in the churchyard
are empty, and one man is babbling about seeing his dead brother
walking. Mystical activities are traced to the squire's residence
and the nearby mines, but the doctor's wife is walking dead
and the race is on to save Sylvia...
The Plague of the Zombies from
1966 was Hammer's only foray into living dead territory. When
I saw the publicity picture on the cover of this release I
cringed before laughing. This was either going to be awful
or so bad it's good. I'm glad to report that I was wrong on
both counts. The scene it's from is a nightmare sequence (the
only segment aside from the finale where more than one zombie
is seen), and it thankfully cuts quickly before we reach the
photo in question.
like the idea of zombies being made to work in the tin mines.
The villagers had apparently refused to work there after a
series of accidents and subsequent rumours of hauntings. It
explains how the squire has money aplenty when his father
before him had run up huge debts. In fact, I only remember
the word zombie being spoken once; it certainly reduced the
potential for silliness. Somehow the phrases 'living corpse'
and 'walking dead' lend much more credence to the concept.
Morell as Sir James Forbes is a commanding presence in this
film and I can't imagine it being half as good without him.
He's polite and sympathetic without ever being weak; a great
contrast to the out-of-depth Doctor Tompson. It harks back
to a time when manners and etiquette were everything, even
when conversing with an obvious villain. Never a bad thing
in my book. And talking of the meeting of two opposites, there
is a decidedly Twilight Zone moment when Hamilton descends
the stairs to talk with Sir James. When he turns a corner
on the stairs a large dog is fleetingly glimpsed, but when
he reaches the bottom, only a few steps later, the dog has
sure I could pick holes in this movie if I wanted to, but
what's the point. It holds together really well, and is an
enjoyable tale well told. Another gem from Hammer Productions.
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