The Plague of the Zombies (1966)
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- 90 min.
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There's something satisfyingly political about The Plague of the Zombies, with its local lord bleeding the population dry to get a zombie work force (pretty much literally). André Morell and Diane Clare are good as the father-daughter team who investigate a strange rash of deaths in an English village, Clare playing an especially strong character for the type of film this is. Hammer did right by her, at least until she had to succumb to the black magic. I like seeing Jacqueline Pearce too, though her character doesn't fare as well. Plague was made at a time when zombies were still connected to voodoo, which gives the film a certain exoticism. There are a number of effective macabre moments - which isn't a given - and when you're a little ahead of the characters, the tension builds nicely. Its one real failure is abominable day for night in the first two acts' exteriors. I say day for night, but there's no process. Just night scenes shot in bright daylight. Actual cinematography kicks in during the third act, which is mostly played in interiors, but also has good exterior photography.
Hammer's take on the pre-Romero zombie picture is fun and classy. As I've come to expect from Hammer, the film is masterfully shot. The sets are simple but well done, and the zombie makeup is decent (aside from the shots where the actors are clearly wearing masks). The acting is impressive all around. Carson is great in his villainous role and Morell plays a sympathetic protagonist. It could have used a little more pre-climax zombie action, but that's a minor quibble.
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