Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell) receives an unusual letter from one of his former students, Dr. Peter Tompson (Brook Williams). Peter is now the doctor of a small Cornish village. In the letter Peter talks about a sickness that has taken over many of the local inhabitants. Those that have gotten sick have died. Sir James decides to visit Peter. Peter’s wife Alice (Jacqueline Pearce) is a friend of Sir James’ daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare). Sylvia goes with her father to spend some time with Alice.
Upon arriving at the village they interrupt a funeral procession. Another villager has died from this strange plague. At Peter’s house they find that Alice is looking ill herself. Sir James and Peter decide that the only way to find out what is affecting the townspeople is to do an autopsy on one of them. They dig up the coffin of the latest victim but are interrupted by the town constable, Sergeant Jack Swift (Michael Ripper). When they open the coffin they find it is empty.
While they are trying to decipher what is going on Alice slips out of the house alone. Sylvia tries to follow her but runs into some young men intent on bad things. She is rescued by the local Squire, Clive Hamilton (John Carson). On her way back to the village Sylvia finds Alice’s dead body near an old tin mine and she also sees what looks like a zombie.
After Alice is buried Sir James does some researching into the occult. Sir James, Peter and Sergeant Swift dig up all the people that died of the so called plague only to find all the graves empty. In his investigation Sir James learns that zombies may indeed exist and that someone in this small town may be responsible for, not only the missing corpses but in turning them into zombies. But for what purpose he still doesn’t know. Sir James focuses his inquiry on the well traveled and mysterious nobleman of the village, Squire Clive Hamilton. Hamilton, he learns, spent several years in Haiti studying voodoo. While Sir James is focusing on Squire Hamilton, the Squire is focusing on Sylvia. Pretending to accidentally break a glass Hamilton cuts Sylvia’s finger and secrets some of her blood. With her blood he plans on turning Sylvia into one of his walking dead slaves. “Plague of the Zombies” was released in 1966 and was directed by John Gilling. It is a Hammer Films production and the only zombie movie Hammer did. The movie was made after Hammer’s “The Reptile” 1966 was filmed. Many of the same sets were used in both films. Specifically the Cornish village, which was a set on Bray Studio’s back lot. The mansion used in the film is the Heatherden Hall at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire. Heatherden Hall has been used in many films.
From the sets to the script to the acting “Plague” is an exceptional addition to the Hammer stable of horror films. The film has all the richness of Hammer’s style packaged with a story that is unique to their usual horror fare. Often overlooked this film is one that should get more attention than it has. Even the zombie make-up is good and the transformation that Sylvia undergoes from dead body to dead zombie is done well.
One thing that pleased me was to see Hammer’s veteran actor Michael Ripper have a part that was bigger than what he normally is given. As Sergeant Swift he may have one of his standard roles but he gets to develop it longer than normal. All in all, the film also boasts some nice scary moments and a dream sequence that has since become a horror movie trope for zombie movies. If you like horror movies, zombie movies or Hammer films you can’t go wrong with this offering.