BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB is based on Bram Stoker’s 1903 novel THE JEWEL OF SEVEN STARS, which revealed some of the author’s fascination for Egyptology. This cinematic outing from Hammer Film Productions features a screenplay by Christopher Wicking and was mostly directed by Seth Holt, at least until he died with a week left in production. Michael Carreras helmed balance, while Hammer staple Arthur Grant is billed as the cinematographer.
The star of the show is Valerie Leon, who is a young woman named Margaret. She bears a likeness to Queen Tera (Leon), an Egyptian of antiquity, and she’s given a ring by her father Professor Fuchs (Andrew Keir). The ring belonged to Queen Tera and her power begins to saturate Margaret, who finds her nightmares getting worse. Her suitor Tod (Mark Edwards) tries to hold the fort, but Professor Fuchs has some foul colleagues from the expedition and ancient history is finding its way back.
The scenario of BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB is standard. The principal villain is restricted to her sarcophagus and her reach is less perceptible in that she occupies Margaret’s mind and grants her detached power. Death moves through the air, scratching out throats and leaving bodies in the bloody expanse. There is an expedition gone wrong, just like Tod’s shrieking car ride, and Queen Tera’s trickling fingerprints are everywhere.
Lest this lack of tangibility wound BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB’s chances at the material, there’s Leon. Along with possessing many of the qualities admired by those so inclined toward such ambrosial manifestations of the flesh, Leon is a doe-eyed contestant in the mystic elsewhere. She occurs between time, lying in Tera’s tomb and reaching Margaret’s soul and sharing evil essence. Her lot is the exhibition of unseen ferocity, the inevitability of death, the blasphemy. And when she goes to hell, we’ll still remember her.
On paper, Hammer Film Productions’ TWINS OF EVIL seems gimmicky and gaudy. But in practice, this 1971 picture from director John Hough is loaded with detail and complexity. Considered the third film in the so-called Karnstein trilogy, TWINS OF EVIL follows LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and THE VAMPIRE LOVERS by trading on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s pre-DRACULA yarn CARMILLA. In the hands of Hough and screenwriter Tudor Gates, this movie has plenty of fangs.
The action begins with the arrival of twin orphans Maria (Mary Collinson) and Frieda (Madeleine Collinson) to live with their uncle Gustav (Peter Cushing). He’s involved with the witch-hunting Brotherhood and is a violent dogmatist with a good heart. Or something. The twins aren’t fond of their uncle’s airless ways and Frieda takes a shine to Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), who lives in a castle and conducts Satanic rituals.
TWINS OF EVIL may seem like exploitation cinema with the use of Playboy Playmates as the title characters, but the Collinson sisters are game. They take to the Hammer horror iconography with aplomb, personifying the skirmish between innocence and sin with elusive flashes of tooth and nail. They arrive in the “plumage” of birds of paradise, so to speak, and have already grown weary of mourning their dead parents. This immediately sets them apart in Gustav’s stale village.
It’s only natural that the twins would collide with their uncle’s fanaticism. He leads a group of men who stomp through the woods and yank out witches, burning them alive. That these men fail to contend with the Satanic Count is a matter of economics. He’s rich and the locals are frightened. Such capital affords the Jimmy Fallon lookalike the option to hold blood rituals, but his devilish tourism goes a step further. And that sets up the central incitement of TWINS OF EVIL: the fervent suspicion of Gustav and his cronies is, at least in Karnstein’s case, vindicated.
For some, the psychological webbing of HANDS OF THE RIPPER may seem as rudimentary as cod Freud. But there’s something sustaining about this bendy 1971 outing from Hammer Film Productions, especially as it plunges the depths of a grubby London backdrop and features one of the most striking conclusions in all the company’s output. Directed by Peter Sasdy, this picture is a drastic departure from his crass but oddly moralistic COUNTESS DRACULA.
After witnessing the murder of her mother by her father Jack the Ripper, Anna (Angharad Rees) grows up with some serious issues. She is taken in by Mrs. Golding (Dora Bryan), who holds bogus seances. She is even prostituted out to a politician (Derek Godfrey). Anna murders Golding and draws the attention of Dr. Pritchard (Eric Porter), who pulls a few strings to bring the woman under his care. He aims to study her under the new science of psychoanalysis, but his patient has more demons than he anticipates.
HANDS OF THE RIPPER paints a difficult image of society at large, where predators and prey hang in shadows and fog. Anna is both predator and prey, a lasting quarry of condition evermore beset by brutality. She is introduced as a partaker in a con and immediately sold to a randy crone on the promise of her virginity. One suspects this has happened before and it’s hard not to find reason in her fatal act.
When Dr. Pritchard begins his work, things move from Sasdy’s dim streets to the academic circle. Porter’s character is theoretical. He wants to study the woman’s disorder of the mind, suggesting that Freud’s psychoanalysis is the cure to her ills. Others suggest the harm is demonic, but Dr. Pritchard believes in science. He also believes that a few deaths may be worth the conclusion, which is why he turns a blind eye to Anna’s hairpin butchery. In some ways, the good doctor is evocative of Hammer’s Baron Frankenstein. Does that make Anna the monster?
Pride goeth before destruction in COUNTESS DRACULA, the 1971 horror picture from Hammer Film Productions. Directed by Peter Sasdy from a screenplay by Jeremy Paul, this movie is based on the story of Elizabeth Báthory and takes sure delight in the remarkable mythology surrounding the Hungarian noble/serial killer. But where Sasdy’s production really hammers things down is in its exploration of what drives her actions. She is a frenzied ruin, a wretch clinging to youth’s tender treachery.
The widowed Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy (Ingrid Pitt) is living a discontented existence despite the company of her lover Captain Dobi (Nigel Green). She dreadfully seeks youth, which leads her to the discovery that she can be young again with the help of the blood of fledgling women. She sets off on a crime spree, which involves the slaughter of several women and the kidnapping of her own daughter (Lesley-Anne Down).
Captain Dobi is a compelling piece of work as the acquiescent part-time lover of Elisabeth. He is hideously aware of her lust for Imre Toth (Sandor Elès) and his impeccable moustache. By hook or by crook, Dobi slogs on and seems capable of actual gladness and even some inadvertent compassion. He supplies the Countess with her supply of young flesh and blood, but he’s sure to tip the fated blonde (Andrea Lawrence) a little something extra before she meets her end.
Captain Dobi permits the Countess’ behaviour, which stems from a lack of self-worth. The ensuing trail of blood logically settles at a wedding, with the eager woman and her followers getting what’s coming to them. This must be the ultimate indignity for Pitt’s Nádasdy, but it’s hard to argue that her vicious exploitation of the poor is something that can face adequate retribution. Sasdy is sure of this, exposing her horror for what it is and making sure her craven enablers see their share of the crossbeams as well.
LUST FOR A VAMPIRE comes on the heels of Roy Ward Baker’s THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and forms the middle portion of the so-called Karnstein trilogy, which contends with the Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu novella CARMILLA. This 1971 entry from Hammer Film Productions differs from the more orthodox DRACULA series in many ways, but it does maintain a certain Gothic receptivity in the hands of director Jimmy Sangster.
The action returns to Styria, where novelist Richard Lestrange (Michael Johnson) is hanging around. He receives word of some odd events and comes across a finishing school for girls, which is run by Miss Simpson (Helen Christie). A new arrival named Mircalla (Yutte Stensgaard) catches Richard’s eye and he works his way to a position as an instructor. He is subsequently led around by his libido, but there is trouble afoot as Mircalla may or may not be associated with the infamous Karnstein clan of vampires.
LUST FOR A VAMPIRE is less intriguing than THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, but there is some interesting material. Richard’s actions belie a greater sense for the rapacious, in that this finishing school serves as a veritable henhouse for the movie’s many foxes. Gender has little to do with it, although Giles Barton (Ralph Bates) is a more than suitable creep. Mircalla likewise sets herself up as a fanged invader, seeking nubile necks upon which to nosh.
There is plenty of flesh, often in the form of young women changing in their rooms, and that provides the requisite eye candy for those so inclined. There is a minor bit of substance when Richard arrives about he doesn’t believe the mythology of Styria’s working class and repudiates the vampire business, but this disperses quickly. Most of LUST FOR A VAMPIRE is spent rummaging through the basics, with a banal cast and an unremarkable wisp of a leading vamp.
While other pictures in the Hammer Film Productions canon have contended with the nexus of sex and horror that seems a necessary element of the vampire movie, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS wastes little time on refinement and goes straight for the jugular. This 1970 outing is based on the Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu novella CARMILLA, which precedes the Bram Stoker novel and introduces the vampire as a woman capable of exploiting social mores.
After an introduction that involves Baron Hartog (Douglas Wilmer) and the decapitation of a beautiful vampire, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS swings to the manor of General Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing). He is having a big party and winds up taking care of Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt), the daughter of a new neighbour. Marcilla takes a liking to the General’s niece Laura (Pippa Steel) and their relationship turns deadly. Some time later, Marcilla resurfaces as Carmilla and takes her act onward to the Morton family.
While some mystery wafts through the events of THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, the flesh is laid bare. Marcilla/Carmilla is a huntress of sorts and she targets her quarry with every weapon in her toolkit, exploiting emotions and loneliness where she sees fit. She is sexual, introducing a world of pleasure to her innocent victims. And she seems capable of blending dreams with reality, which causes dizzying confusion for Laura and Emma Morton (Madeline Smith). It is only when bitemarks are revealed that the sinking feeling sets in.
Marcilla/Carmilla is a member of the Karnstein clan, which includes a maternal figure (Dawn Addams) and a man in black (John Forbes-Robertson) who appears on horseback at all the right moments. There is an attempt at crafting a modest mythology, especially when the General retrieves the Baron to take care of business in the final act. What’s more interesting is the procedure of the Karnsteins, which involves exposing young women to the charms of the gorgeous Marcilla/Carmilla. There is little left to the imagination and Hammer’s approach is thankfully without shame.
SCARS OF DRACULA is among the most visceral of the outings in Hammer Film Productions’ DRACULA series and that leaves it with its own distinction, even as the deeper narrative is rather threadbare. There are some neat tricks in this 1970 picture, which is directed by Roy Ward Baker and features a screenplay by Anthony Hinds, and the title character is less a loiterer and more a palpitating but civil thing of the damned.
Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) is once more brought back to life. Inhabitants of the surrounding area are troubled by his crimes and attempt to burn down his stronghold, only to find their women and children butchered by bats. When Paul (Christopher Matthews) finds himself in the Count’s castle, he too is set upon by its dweller. That sends Paul’s brother Simon (Dennis Waterman) to find out what happened. Simon’s fiancé (Jenny Hanley) is in tow, which only gives Dracula more insidious incentive.
SCARS OF DRACULA takes some time to get its motor running, with Paul’s story cruising through a few bendy sidetracks before reaching the main event. There is an untrue and disappointingly comic allegation of rape, which ostensibly establishes Paul as a bed-hopping libertine. This, in turn, seemingly founds his justification for bonking Dracula’s mistress (Anouska Hempel) and afterward serves to contrast Paul with his more lucid and moral brother.
Whether or not that sets up some sort of reason for the violence that follows is in the eye of the beholder, but the Count is magnetic. SCARS OF DRACULA finally lets us into his castle and we see what goes on behind bolted doors. His servants are explored in frightening detail and Klove (Patrick Troughton) is tortured for disloyalty. This insight is welcome, but the collaged plot is less absorbing than previous entries and the heroes are as milquetoast as the law allows. In the end, SCARS OF DRACULA is mostly notable for its graphic, lavish approach and its giant quaking bats.
Peter Sasdy’s slushy TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA picks up where DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE left off, with the titular Count (Christopher Lee) a veritable puddle of essence. The 1970 picture from Hammer Film Productions tackles another side of the series’ sweltering sex, with a theme familiar to anyone with a mind on how the most sanctimonious among us often carry the murkiest of secrets. The screenplay by Anthony Hinds features plenty of cruelty at the hands of rich, jaded men.
After Weller (Roy Kinnear) comes across a fading Dracula (Lee), he takes a keepsake for himself. A while later, a trio of English gentlemen seek thrills in the underbelly of society. They meet Weller through a sinister young lord (Ralph Bates) and buy some of Dracula’s desiccated blood with intentions on performing a shady ritual. Something goes wrong and the men kill the young man. They flee back to their lives, but the ritual has turned up Dracula and he’s got revenge on his mind.
The main thrust of the tale involves William Hargood (Geoffrey Keen). He hates the fact that his daughter Alice (Linda Hayden) is in love with Paul (Anthony Corlan), who happens to be the son of one of his friends. William prohibits his daughter from seeing her beau, but she’s intent on marriage. There is a multitude of issues at play, the most compelling of which is William’s pretence. He seeks the company of whores, yet considers his own daughter a harlot because she grins at Paul in church.
TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA contends with duplicity, the way the men coil under weight of social norms while hiding their base cravings. They are distressed at Count Dracula’s imposition, upset at the blood on their hands. They like the darkness sustained, even if they’ve become bored by conventional sin, and the vampire’s robust overtures impend the oblique social order. Lee’s Dracula defies their worldview, a façade marked by muffled religiosity and suppressed by drink and domestic violence. But when the shade falls and love’s full beam is allowed, the darkness dies once more.
Terence Fisher takes on the Baron once more with FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, the most self-destructive picture in the Hammer Film Productions series. It is the fifth of Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN movies and it features a screenplay by Bert Batt, with cinematography by Arthur Grant. The 1969 outing is among the most overt in the series, with influences from Italian crime cinema and the depths of Gothic tragedy in play.
Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is once again at work. He disturbs a thief who stumbles on his experiments and has to relocate once more. This leads him to a boarding house run by Anna (Veronica Carlson), who has an intended named Karl (Simon Ward). It turns out that Karl works at the local asylum, where a former associate of the Baron resides. Frankenstein extorts the young couple into helping him, which naturally sets off a chain of awful events.
FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED pushes the obsession of Frankenstein to a boiling point. There is a singular scene in the picture that was opposed by the stars and director – and for good reason. In it, the Baron forces himself on Anna in a fit of sexual violence that seems only incited by the sight of her. This burst of appalling vigour from a precise but ethically-challenged figure is odd. His treatment of women has always raised eyebrows (see THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN), but it’s the loss of control that makes an unnecessary mark.
And the scene may have otherwise ruined the production if not for the excellence found in the balance. The attack on Anna infuses the rest of FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED with an odd energy, as no character approaches the subject again and the subtext is left in the mind of the viewer. But the element of the Baron pushing the bar further from civility does have rewards, especially as he blackmails the young couple into doing his will and grows more comfortable with murder and death in the fashioning of his latest offering. His distorted progress is worthy of carnage, so the real monster must be thus destroyed.
The magic is black and Baphomet is grinning in THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, a 1968 horror movie from the mighty Hammer Film Productions. Terence Fisher is the director and Richard Matheson is the screenwriter for this outing, so the pieces are in place for a thrilling bit of wicked business. Based on Dennis Wheatley’s novel of the same name, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT pits good against evil in no uncertain terms. Satanism is on the menu and the poor goat is just the appetizer.
In England circa 1929, the Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee) is looking into the activities of Simon (Patrick Mower) on behalf of a friend. It turns out that Simon is hanging out with some pretty bad people, namely a group of Satanists led by Mocata (Charles Gray). Simon is set to be an initiate along with Tanith (Niké Arrighi), but the Duc ain’t having it. Together with his pal Rex (Leon Greene), he aims to stop Mocata and his immoral doings before the devil takes his due.
THE DEVIL RIDES OUT doesn’t beat around the bush: the Duc is going to take on the devil himself. And it lays its intentions further bare when the fiend himself shows up to sit on a rock at a wild-ass bacchanal. All hell is literally breaking loose and the Duc is trying his best to sew it all up. He contends with Rex’s stuffy disbelief and the brain-snatching ways of Mocata, who has a psychic connection with his pledges and gets Tanith to do his malevolent bidding.
In Fisher’s hands, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT is never grave. It is oiled with plenty of humour and light, especially as Rex’s incredulity is lifted and his affection for Tanith is apparent. And late scenes at the manor of the Eaton family make for top entertainment, especially as the good guys form a circle and fend off everything from a giant spider to the angel of death on horseback. There’s some neat material involving illusions and the ways evil presents its trickery. Things are a bit broad from a philosophical standpoint, but the rewards are vast and Lee’s stellar hero kicks the devil right square in the teeth.
Full of sex, blood and religious zeal, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE is a heavenly horror picture from Hammer Film Productions. This 1968 outing is directed by Freddie Francis and is the fourth entry in Hammer’s DRACULA series. It surges with Gothic inclinations and is surely the most iron-rich of all the DRACULA movies, which is saying something. Francis’ command of the aesthetic pares to the heart of the matter, pinpointing the intersection of the sacred and the deliciously profane.
DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE opens with Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) presumably destroyed by the events of DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS. The villagers are still terrified, however, so it falls to Monsignor Ernest Mueller (Rupert Davies) to incite a faithless priest (Ewan Hooper). Dracula’s castle is exorcised, but there is trouble as an accident leads to the revival of the Count. The vampire sets his sights on Mueller’s niece Maria (Veronica Carlson) and it’s up to her beau Paul (Barry Andrews) to save the day.
Sex is everywhere in DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE. The camera dawdles around a tavern, where Paul keeps a room and where women like Zena (Barbara Ewing) show a fair deal of flesh. The plunging necklines are just the thing for the ogling men, but they also denote the lifeforce sought by the Count. Arthur Grant’s lensing makes this clear later when he zeroes in on Maria’s jugular vein, a throbbing bit of business that sends Lee’s Dracula into a frenzy.
This world of churning desire is further explored with Francis’ bloodlust, which literally splashes the frame. He tinges his world crimson and seems to derive existential pleasure from the sight of a gigantic stake plunging into Dracula’s chest. This is the stuff of sacred awakening, especially as Paul’s feeble atheism has to go through its paces in order to appropriately destroy the villain. There is redemption of sorts and a return to the cross, but not before a cathartic act of violence turns the dark to dust.
It’s relatively easy to find redeeming qualities in even the gloomiest of horror outings from Hammer Film Productions, but THE MUMMY’S SHROUD presents unique challenges. This 1967 picture is directed by John Gilling, who helmed THE PLAGUE OF ZOMBIES and THE REPTILE. Those outings had flashes of inspiration and delight, but THE MUMMY’S SHROUD is as sluggish as its uninspired tagline. The caution to “beware the beat of cloth-wrapped feet” is as laughable as it is insipid.
The story begins with a flashback to ancient Egypt. The tale of Kah-To-Bey (Toolsie Persaud) is told and we learn that the boy king is buried after a coup. Flash-forward to 1920 and Sir Basil Walden (Andre Morell) and Stanley Preston (John Phillips) have found the grave. Ignoring a warning from the locals, as British archeologists tend to do, the duo hauls back home with their discovery. There’s a snake bite and some double-dealing from Preston, while the mummy of Kah-To-Bey’s manservant gets to the business of revenge.
The Hammer MUMMY movies kind of blend together and THE MUMMY’S SHROUD struggles to bring something new to the tomb. While the FRANKENSTEIN series expands into unique territory with its many entries, this swathed and marked set can’t quite get the job done. The repetition is evident as the Gilling and Anthony Hinds screenplay runs though its laborious paces, while Arthur Grant’s cinematography tries to do something with the dreary setup.
If there is a silver lining, it can be found in the fact that this mummy does some damage. There are some violent sequences as stuntman Eddie Powell bumbles around and the finale is showy, with a linguist (Maggie Kimberly) uttering the magic words. But really, THE MUMMY’S SHROUD is a monotonous bore. Notwithstanding some fine work from the effects artists and Don Mingaye’s sumptuous art direction, Gilling doesn’t put any muscle on his lumbering monster tale and the film just lurches into dust.
Terence Fisher’s FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN is the fourth movie in Hammer Film Productions’ FRANKENSTEIN series and it is fascinating. Terence Fisher is the director, while John Elder is the screenwriter and Peter Cushing is the star. It comes on the heels of 1964’s THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN, which contended once more with the juncture of science and religion. FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN pushes further along those lines and finds the soul.
Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein is thawed after an hour of so-called death. He discovers that his soul did not leave his body and celebrates the find with Hans (Robert Morris) and the esteemed Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters). When young Hans is sent out to procure champagne, he gets in a punch-up with a bunch of punks and defends his girlfriend (Susan Denberg) from their abuses. He takes the long road to the guillotine and is framed for murder, which aids the Baron in the next step of his discoveries.
FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN asks some compelling metaphysical questions, with the Baron concerned about the soul and its capacity for transmission. He houses the soul in a sort of apparatus and wonders if the body somehow traps the soul. He pushes Hans’ soul into the body of another after a cruel turn of fate and discovers that motives and morals may be contained within the agitated scrap of conscience and matter.
Now, there’s a decidedly silly bent to FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN if Fisher’s flick is taken at face value. And there are certain delights along such a path, especially when the recreated woman promised by the title takes hold and exacts her merited vengeance on a pile of patrician jerks. The closing scene is one for the books. But the deeper questions elbowing the heart are worth examining, specifically as they take the Baron’s quantifiable cool and allow it full access to the inscrutable dominion of the soul.
THE REPTILE has all the trappings of a Hammer Film Productions horror flick. There is a village with hushed citizens suffering a cruel turn of fate. There’s a couple arriving to check things out. There’s a doctor. There’s an ancient curse from a far-off culture. And there’s a decadent abode that contains all sorts of bizarre events. The picture is directed by John Gilling and is fresh on the heels of his THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, with many of the same sets used in the production.
The action takes place in Clagmoor Heath, a village in Cornwall. People are dying of something called the Black Death and Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett) arrives after the passing of his brother. He brings his new bride Valerie (Jennifer Daniel) along and they move into the deceased’s bungalow with hopes of starting afresh. The locals are unfriendly and the neighbours aren’t any better, with the enigmatic Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman) keeping to himself. He has a daughter (Jacqueline Pearce) he doesn’t seem to like much and a servant (Marne Maitland) with some immoral secrets.
THE REPTILE is pretty overt stuff, at least when the secrets are revealed, but Gilling allows for a slow burn. The action is thoughtful and the plot unfolds with inaudible mystery. There is death in Clagmoor Heath and people are turning black and frothing at the mouth, but Gilling never quite gets to the heart of the matter until he’s good and bloody ready. That allows distinctive dread to settle over Cornwall like a fog, which in turn settles THE REPTILE to a careful, creeping sort of crawl.
Distilled to its essence, you could argue THE REPTILE becomes very much about a father and his daughter. Dr. Franklyn is destroyed by the affliction his daughter Anna suffers and he is beside himself, convicted to a curse from a foreign land. Willman does a great job revealing these sentiments, but Gilling’s direction keeps the rest of us at arm’s length. The villain(s) of the piece are contrasting in their allowances for empathy, with unusual beauty meeting dismaying fate in the comprehensive, odd heat.
John Gilling directs THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, a 1966 endeavour from Hammer Film Productions that manages to be one of the creepiest outings in the entire canon. Featuring a screenplay by Peter Bryan and cinematography by Arthur Grant, this picture features a horde of mindless, lumbering drones doing evil things for their evil masters. It also reminds of the 1932 horror WHITE ZOMBIE in its frantic depiction of voodoo and Haitian culture.
It is 1860 and the denizens of a Cornish village are dying. The doctor Peter Tompson (Brook Williams) can’t figure it out and his wife Alice (Jacqueline Pearce) seems to be suffering some sort of malaise. Help arrives in the form of Peter’s friend Sir James Forbes (André Morell), who attends to the problem with his daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare). The foot-dragging of the villagers to have any real investigation done piques Forbes’ curiosity, while the shadowy Squire Clive Hamilton (John Carson) is up to something.
THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES is a film ensconced in grave atmosphere and the chills are effective from the outset. Sir James and Sylvia arrive in the midst of a fox hunt and the sassy girl sends the hunters in the wrong direction, which sets off a chain of events that somehow ends with a funeral procession interrupted and the coffin toppled in a ditch. Whatever’s going on in the village betrays a sort of communal lunacy, which is why the movie’s men of reason struggle so.
Carson’s Hamilton is a unique beast. At first, he comes to Sylvia’s rescue when she’s set upon by the fox hunters. But there’s something ominous about him and the black magic in his past may have come home to roost. He seeks Sylvia’s blood and likes to wear masks. This sets him in contrast to Sir James and Peter, who use intelligence and science to understand the world. And this sets off yet another famed Hammer collision of science and myth, with a scorching plague of zombies doing the heavy lifting.