Scream Factory keeps putting the Hammer down — Hammer Films, that is.

The Plague of the Zombies is now available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.

I knew virtually nothing about this film going in, but as a Hammer fan I was more than happy to check it out — and I’m glad to have done so.

Strange things are afoot in a rustic English village town as its denizens begin to fall victim to a mysterious illness. Deeply concerned, the town doctor, Peter Tompson, send word to his mentor and friend, Sir James Forbes. The good professor soon arrives with his daughter Sylvia, herself a friend of Tompson and his wife.

Unlike one Dr. Van Helsing placed in a similar situation, Forbes isn’t initially interested in local superstitions or supernatural explanations — the answer must certainly be a medical one. But as strange happenings accelerate — mysterious murders, missing bodies, and even his own daughter having a terrifying run-in with some ghoulish fiend, Forbes realizes there is voodoo afoot — and a local aristocrat who spent some years in Haiti seems the obvious culprit.

The doctors are treated with resentment and distrust by some of the locals, and I also found it interesting that some of the film’s baddies wear creepy masks — both elements which reminded me of The Wicker Man.

Like many classic zombie films, Plague features zombies of the voodoo variety. Some of this aspect of the film feels a little “ooga booga” in the presentation of Caribbean culture, but not egregiously so. The zombies themselves are suitably creepy and frightening looking. It’s interesting to think that just two years later, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead would redefine that creature, making this one of the last films of its kind within the subgenre — a handful of films like Sugar Hill and The Serpent and The Rainbow would return the zombie to its Haitian roots, but these remain few compared to the modernized flesh-eaters.

The film itself isn’t particularly scary or dread-inducing, nor does it really even hold any surprises (it’s pretty obvious who’s responsible), but I found it an immensely fun and engaging watch with enjoyable characters and an explosive finale. It’s definitely Hammer doing their thing, and certainly worth checking out for lovers of the genre.

The Package

Scream Factory released The Plague of the Zombies on Blu-ray on January 15. The package features a reversible cover. I love the eye-catching green art that’s packed by default; the reverse is a classic poster design.

The disc is surprisingly stacked for what I perceive as a lesser known Hammer film from the 1960s.

Special Features and Extras

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Filmmakers Constantine Nasr And Ted Newsom And Film Historian Steve Haberman
  • NEW Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Troy Howarth
  • NEW Restored Audio
  • The World Of Hammer — Mummies, Werewolves & The Living Dead (24:55)
  • Raising The Dead: The Making Of The Plague Of The Zombies (35:27)
    A making-of retrospective featuring cast members and expert guests— quite excellent, especially considering the film’s age and relative obscurity.
  • Restoration Comparison (3:37)
    Makes use of both both split-screen and side by side comparions.
  • Theatrical Trailers (7:26)
    Three trailers for the film, one of which advertises a double feature with Dracula: Prince of Darkness

  • Still Gallery (7:10)

A/V Out.

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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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