|The Plague of the
| Anchor Bay (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0, French DD 2.0. English, French Subtitles. 90 minutes
Hammer Horror has always been a big part of my
life. Where some will point to Karloff, Lugosi and
Chaney as being the epitomes of the classic monsters,
I will always point to Hammers incarnations. The
darker, more sinister streak always appealed to
me, and in spite of having actors such as Christopher
Lee and Peter Cushing constantly playing the same
characters, the interpretations of the source material
such as Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and so on, were always
varied, but managed to keep what was essential to
the story and characters. What Hammer is arguably
known less for, are their original horrors. The
Reptile, Rasputin, the Mad Monk, The Devil Rides Out, To
the Devil a Daughter, and so many more
are all great films in their own right, but some
people may look at the aforementioned titles and
wonder what the hell I'm talking about. The
Plague of the Zombies is another one of
these titles, which I'm pretty sure no one
outside of the Hammer fanbase knows exists.
|Director: John Gilling
Starring: Andre Morell,
Diane Clare, John Carson, Brook Williams, Michael
Screenplay: Peter Bryan
Plague of the Zombies isn't what
I'm sure most people are conjuring in their
minds. Hordes of flesh eating cadavers walking
the earth mindlessly will not be found within. The Plague of the Zombies takes
the road far less travelled, utilizing the more
reality based idea of Haitian mythology (or urban
mythology depending on what you read). I'd
been wanting to see this film for a long time,
since viewing The World of Hammer documentary series on SBS every Saturday night
all those years ago. When I finally got the chance
to see it, I found myself considerably surprised
at how different the story was to what I had been
anticipating. I knew there was an element of voodoo
to the film from the documentaries, and that (obviously)
zombies were involved in a turn of the century
English village. What I wasn't expecting
was how very Sherlock Holmes the film was. Don't
misread that either, this isn't a Sherlock
Holmes film, though with a few tweaks here and
there to some characters and plot points it very
well could be. There's a Hound of
the Baskervilles feel to it, and I really
don't want to say too much to save from
The Plague of the Zombies certainly
isn't above any other Hammer film in terms
of production design. It looks and feels just
like every other period piece Hammer put out.
You have your standard English village, your spooky
graveyard, your upper-class mansion, your dirty
tavern, the set piece that will inevitably burn
down, everything on the Hammer List of Locations
is here. The same can be said about the characters.
All the core characters are ones we've
seen before. Admittedly Andre Morell's Sir
James is far more British than any other Hammer
protagonist I've seen, but his role is essentially
the same. The acting jumps from terribly melodramatic,
to just plain terrible, but this is another staple
of Hammer horror (unless your name is Peter Cushing,
Christopher Lee or Oliver Reed). Of course, no
Hammer film is really complete without buxom women
in tight Victorian dress, and rest assured, they
are present and accounted for (though in nowhere
near the supply as Hammer's Dracula titles).
Hammer's visuals for the zombies are definitely
worth noting though. They're simplistic,
sure, but they're definitely more intimidating
than Dawn of the Dead's
zombies. Where Dawn's looked
like people with green make-up and some well applied
gore prosthetics, Plague's
zombies, though greener than gorier, have a far
more foul look to them. They look like they're
rotting, and the tonally different green combined
with the heavy, filthy garments they wear make
them far more imposing.
The Plague of the Zombies is
likely to disappoint gorehounds who connect the
word zombie with hard violence in a major way.
The film is nowhere near as violent as the title
may infer, and the body count is significantly
low. What this film does deliver however are some
genuinely creepy moments, which is hard for a
film to do in this day and age. There's
a moment towards the middle of the film where
our two protagonists dig up the body of the younger's
recently deceased fiancé, I'm pretty
sure you can figure out the rest, but it really
is a particularly chilling sequence.
In the same stead, people who aren't necessarily
used to Hammer's storytelling, or production
values are risking boredom, as it really isn't
a conventional zombie, or horror film.
|It's presented in 1.85:1, so there are no
complaints there, but the picture has a tendency
to shift quality. It's not really noticeable,
you just pick up on it without really noticing when
it happens, and before you know it, it's back
to the modern standard. The title and credit sequences
really make the film look old though, as the title
effects have likely impacted the negative to a point
that there's no real way to make it completely
|Nothing special, but not too much can be expected
from a release like this. Just about every old Hammer
Studios film comes in Dolby Digital 2.0 and though
surprisingly clear for a forty year old film, there's
still some noise present. There's a French
language option on this release, too.
|These Anchor Bay releases of the old Hammer
films are usually fairly limp when it comes to
the extras, but the pricing is usually good enough
to not really be a problem (I also doubt there
would be many noteworthy extras aside from what's
here, given what a machine Hammer Studios was).
A commentary would have been nice, but it isn't
present on any release available. This release,
the Anchor Bay region 0 (U.S. Version) comes with
one of the aforementioned documentaries entitled
"Mummies, Werewolves and The Living Dead".
Narrated by Oliver Reed, these documentaries run
for about half an hour and present clips, anecdotes
and production facts about films Hammer released
under the title's subject matter.
You also get the theatrical trailer, which is
some quality cheese.
This film has also been re-released as a two-pack
with Hammer's "The Mummy's Shroud",
and contains all the same extras.
|Not everyone's cup of tea, and definitely
not for those looking for a "Hollywood"
zombie romp, The Plague of the Zombies is likely to appeal more to those who like mysteries
or thrillers with supernatural or horror elements.
Hammer fans are likely to enjoy this one a lot more
than the average audience.
21 Guests, 4 Users
Harry_May, Dark Mark, gogilston, TND
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