The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

UK,
90m
35mm, Technicolor
mono, English

A British horror film directed by John Gilling. It was the first British zombie film and the only one to have been made by Hammer Film Productions and was shot back to back with The Reptile (1966). It was released on a double bill with Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966).

Plot Summary

In a small Cornish village, a mystery virus is killing the locals. The cause is Clive Hamilton, the local squire who's holding rituals and raising armies of the dead to work in his tin mine. When the daughter of Sir James Forbes, Sylvia, falls into Hamilton's clutches, Forbes and a former pupil, Dr Peter Thompson, set out to get her back and destroy Hamilton's slave army of .

Credits

Crew
Directed by: John Gilling
© MCMLXVI Hammer Film Productions Ltd
A Seven Arts-Hammer Film production
Distributed by: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Produced by: Anthony Nelson Keys
Screenplay by: Peter Bryan
Director of Photography: Arthur Grant
Supervising Editor: James Needs
Editor: Chris Barnes
Music Composed by: James Bernard
Sound Recordist: Ken Rawkins
Wardrobe: Rosemary Burrows
Make-up: Roy Ashton
Hair Stylist: Frieda Steiger
Special Effects: Bowie Films Ltd.
Production Designer: Bernard Robinson

Cast
Andre Morell (Sir James Forbes)
Diane Clare (Sylvia Forbes)
John Carson (Clive Hamilton)
Alex Davion (Denver)
Jacqueline Pearce (Alice Thompson)
Brook Williams (Dr Peter Thompson)
Michael Ripper (Sergeant Swift)
Marcus Hammond (Martinus)
Dennis Chinnery (Constable Christian)
Louis Mahoney (coloured servant)
Roy Royston (vicar)
Ben Aris (John Martinus)
Tim Condron, Bernard Egan, Norman Mann, Francis Willey (the young bloods)

Alternative Titles

Im Bann des Voodoo-Priesters – German title
La lunga notte dell'orrore – Italian title
Nächte des Grauens – German title
La plaga de los Zombies – Spanish title
The Zombies – shooting title

Extracts included in
The World of Hammer: Mummies, Werewolves and the Living Dead (1994)

Press

1966
The Times 6 January 1966
In this the initial premise is really wild: an absentee Cornish landlord has arrived back after some years in Haiti and, armed with a detailed knowledge of Voodoo, has promptly resurrected all the village dead to work some abandoned for him. This remarkably practical and down-to-earth plan is finally put paid to by Andre Morell, as a high-principled professor of medicine, though not before his own daughter has been nearly turned into a zombie (for what purpose? not that it matters greatly). Mr Gilling makes the most of some pretty locations, especially when he has evil huntsmen galloping across the skyline or cheerfully interrupting a funeral that happens to get in their way, and the big dream sequence of a Stanley Spencerish village resurrection is really impressive. – author not known

Monthly Film Bulletin vol.33 no.385 (February 1966) p.26
The best Hammer Horror for quite some time, with remarkably few of the lapses into crudity which are usually part and parcel of this company's work. The zombies themselves are conventional bundles of rags with faces like peeling wallpaper, and there is a sticky patch around the middle when Sir James discovers all about voodoo and kindly expounds; otherwise it is done with pace and style, and one or two sequences of real imagination, like Peter's nightmare vision of the rising of the dead, with the screen suffused in pale, chilling green as the churchyard heaves and dead fingers scrabble through the earth. Visually the film is splendid, with elegantly designed sets, and both interiors and exteriors shot in pleasantly muted colours; and the script manages quite a few offbeat strokes. It is a nice touch, for instance, to have Sir James and his daughter arrive in Cornwall to be greeted by the red coats of fox-hunters hallooing over the moors – the essence of peaceful, rural England – only to see the same huntsmen a moment later careering through a funeral cortege to send the coffin flying. Reliable performances from Andre Morell and John Carson head a moderately sound cast, in which Jacqueline Pearce is outstanding as the ill-fated Alice, who has her head knocked off to save her from zombiehood. – from an uncredited review

References

Periodicals
Castle of Frankenstein no.10 p.6
Castle of Frankenstein no.22 p.41
The Daily Cinema no.9159 (29 December 1965) p.9 – review
Dark Terrors no.2 (March/April 1992) pp.26-27 – illustrated article (Oakley Court, Windsor)
Dark Terrors no.5 (November/December 1992) p.17-23 – illustrated article (The Plague of the Zombies by Fred Humphreys)
Dark Terrors no.15 (February 1998) p.43 – video review (US Video: The Plague of the Zombies)
Dark Terrors no.16 (December 1998) pp.36-37 – illustrated article (Zombie! by Peter Bryan)
Fangoria no.168 (November 1997) p.33 – illustrated video review (The Video Eye of Dr. Cyclops)
Kine Weekly no.3020 (19 August 1965) p.16 – article
Kine Weekly no.3039 (30 December 1965) p.13 – credits
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.33 no.385 (February 1966) p.26 – credits, review
Shivers no.28 (April 1996) pp.40-45 – illustrated article (by Jonathan Rigby)
Shivers no.63 (March 1999) p.54 – illustrated article (by Jonathan Rigby)
Sight & Sound vol.10 no.7 (July 2000) p.62 – video review (Video Reviews: Retail by Geoffrey Macnab)
Sight & Sound vol.14 no.2 (February 2004) p.67 – DVD review (Home Movies: Reviews by Geoffrey Macnab)
Variety 26 January 1966 – credits, review
Videoscope no.110 (Spring 2019) p.42 – illustrated review (60s/'70s shockers! by The Phantom)

Newspapers
The Times 6 January 1966 – review (author not known)

Books
The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.184
English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.27, 104, 153-54, 154, 155, 174, 7 – illustrated notes, review
Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.270, 324
Feature Films, 1960-1969: A Filmography of English-language and Major Foreign-language United States Releases by Harris M. Lentz III p.353
Hammer Complete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company by Howard Maxford pp.638-639 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
by Walt Lee p.372 – credits
Sixties Shockers by Mark Clark and Bryan Senn pp.324-326
Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema by Philip Hayward (ed) pp.102
The World of Fantasy Films by Richard Myers p.76
The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia by Peter Dendle p.133-136

Other sources
British National Film Catalogue vol.4 (1966) p.80 – credits