The Plague of the Zombies - Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray / Media Reviews' started by Michael Scott, Jan 11, 2019.

  1. Michael Scott

    Michael Scott Moderator / Reviewer
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    Apr 4, 2017
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    The Plague of the Zombies

    Movie: :3.5stars:
    Video: :4.5stars:
    Audio: :4.5stars:
    Extras: :3.5stars:
    Final Score: :4stars:

    [​IMG] Movie

    While I naturally love Scream Factory due to my love of horror films, I’ve been especially ecstatic due to their promise to dig into the Hammer Horror vault and start rescuing the older classics. Recently we had Dracula: Prince of Darkness and now we get a little taste of old fashioned zombies with 1966s The Plague of the Zombies. A flick which may seem a little quaint by modern zombie standards, but was instrumental in putting the undead at the forefront of our minds back in the days. It may be pre George Romero, but The Plague of the Zombies is one of the most instrumental of the zombie Hammer catalog titles, having influenced Romero greatly and acting as a blueprint for how the zombie genre would go for the next twenty years or so. This new release features restored video and audio (which sounds great by the way), as well as a host of new extras that makes this title a delight for fans of classic horror movies.

    In a remote Cornish village during the late 19th century, a plague is ravaging the humble town. Killing members of the village at an enormous rate, taking one family member after another. Desperate to find out what is happening in the village, young Doctor Peter Thompson (Brook Williams) calls in the aide of his mentor Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell) to help figure out what’s causing this drastic reduction in human life. Sir James himself figures that they’re looking for a plague of some sort, and bringing his daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare) for the trip makes his way to his old friend to offer his medical aide. However, there really is nothing to go on since there seems to be no signs of illness before death. Just a mysterious loss of energy and then poof. With nothing to go on for symptoms and cause, they do the only thing they can think of. Exhume the bodies of the deceased and perform an illegal autopsy to ascertain the cause.

    Digging up the bodies reveals something even more disturbing and horrifying. There ARE no bodies in the graves. Following a bizarre and macabre series of clues, the two men work their way back to a mysterious abondoned mine shaft where they discover a cult of black magic, a legion of undead zombified corpses, and the cause of everything that has been happening the to the townsfolk….. the dead themselves arisen!
    Hammer Horror films are known for their Gothic flair, macabre settings, heavy duty makeup, and campy moments that put a smile on your face. The Plague of the Zombies fits that bill to a T, and had me chuckling (respectfully) at how far the zombie genre has gone since John Gilling’s breakthrough effort. Plague flows a lot better than Gilling’s previous work in The Reptile, and has a much tighter and more period piece feel to it as well. The costumes are spot on for old 19th century Cornwall, and the makeup is deliciously cheesy. Now, while you’d think that this would make the film unwatchable after being accustomed to so many higher grade visual zombie movies, but Plague is easy sailing. The hammier moments play into the winking and nodding at he camera that Hammer films are known for, and while the makeup is pretty low grade by today’s standards, fits in well with the period piece themes.

    At the end of the day, The Plague of the Zombies delivers exactly what a Hammer horror film is expected to deliver. Mood, ambiance, Gothic flair, and just enough laughs to be entertaining without making a joke of itself. I can only hope that Scream Factory can find more of these Hammer Classics to put out, especially with the excellent restoration work that has gone on to bring this oldy to life.


    Not Rated by the MPAA

    Video: :4.5stars:
    [​IMG]Scream Factory is using the same restoration (and most likely master as well) as the 2012 Studio Canal release over in the U.K., and that is DEFINITELY a good thing, as the 2012 Studio Canal disc was a revelation. From my memory of the disc (I only watched it a few years ago, but don’t own it) the Scream Factory release is remarkably similar, giving us a very organic look to the old classic. The film is filled with old camera techniques such as “day to night” shots, heavy duty gray makeup for the zombies, tweaked color grading. The faces and clothing look remarkably detailed, with lots of primary pop to enjoy. Red blood is kind of orangish, and skin tones can sometimes be a bit bronzed, but that’s more a side effect of the 60s coloring rather than anything in the encode itself. There are no major artifacts to my eye, and the black levels maintain a healthy detail level as well. All in all, a fantastic restoration that looks great for it’s first time being domestically released.

    Audio: :4.5stars:
    Scream Factory boasts that they are using a newly restored audio mix, and the end results speak for themselves. The old 60s track is really precise and clean, with no sounds of distortion or major hissing going on. There’s still a teeeeensy bit of background hiss from the analog source material, but it’s almost unnoticeable unless you really know what you’re looking for. Being a 2.0 Mono track it doesn’t have wild amounts of dynamic range or swelling accompaniments, but this is a really really well done mono track. Everything is clean, clear, and evenly balanced, with voices showing no signs of echo or other problems. Out of all the Hammer Horror films I’ve seen over the years (including Warner Brothers great boxset from a few years back), I don’t think I’ve heard a track as good as this one of their ilk.

    Extras: :3.5stars:

    NEW Audio Commentary with filmmaker Constantine Nasr and author/film historian Steve Haberman
    • NEW Audio Commentary with author/film historian Troy Howarth
    • NEW Restored Audio
    • World of Hammer – Mummies, Werewolves & The Living Dead
    • Raising the Dead: The Making of The Plague of the Zombies

    • Restoration Comparison
    • Theatrical Trailers

    Final Score: :4stars:

    The Plague of the Zombies is a fun period piece zombie film that FINALLY gets a release over in the good old U.S. of A., and is pretty close to a direct port of the fantastic Studio Canal release as you can get. The film is expertly shot and utilized stunning makeup work (for the time), and has just enough campy laughs to be fully entertaining. Those of us who adore the Hammer Horror films as seminal works in horror ground work will appreciate the meticulous work that went into the video and audio, and the extras are well worth checking out. Here’s to more Hammer films being released! Recommended.

    Technical Specifications:

    Starring: Andre Morell, Diane Clare, Brook Williams, Jacqueline Pearce, John Carson, Alexander Davion, Michael Ripper
    Directed by: John Gilling
    Written by: Peter Bryan
    Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 AVC
    Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
    Subtitles: English SDH
    Studio: Scream Factory
    Rated: NR
    Runtime: 91 Minutes
    Blu-ray Release Date: January 15th, 2019

    Recommendation: Recommended For a Good Watch

    #1 Michael Scott, Jan 11, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
    tripplej likes this.
  2. tripplej

    tripplej AV Enthusiast

    Jul 13, 2017
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    Thanks for the review. Will check it out.

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