The Plague Of The Zombies (1966)
When villagers keep dying from a mysterious plague, the frustrated local doctor calls on his friend, Sir James Forbes, for help. But when the physician and his daughter arrive, recently buried coffins are discovered empty, and dead people are witnessed wandering around near an abandoned tin mine.
This is the first Hammer Horror movie I've watched since I was a kid. Even after all this time, there's something reassuringly familiar about the Victorian Gothic style of the visuals. From the rich colours and textures in the set design, to the pretty women in Victorian bustles and ringlets (er, and 1960s make-up). It's all here. And on top of that it has an interesting story which is well told, well paced, and well acted. And yes - that really is Servalan from Blake's 7 playing the doctor's wife. Come on, what more do you want?
The Hammer zombies pre-date Romero's in Night Of The Living Dead by two years. But these aren't slow shuffling undead OR fast running ones. In fact, they move with a purpose. And it isn't wandering around trying to eat people's brains. The gore here isn't at the extreme level of the eyeball-popping, gut-munching zombie movies of the 70s/80s, but it still has some surprising moments. And the first startling view of a reanimated corpse is a pretty cool shock moment.
There are only a couple of negative things I found. Firstly there's a lot of day-for-night shooting, on what was clearly a bright sunny day with a blue filter over the lens. It's a pet hate of mine, sorry. And the impressively large-breasted voodoo dolls in mini papier-mache coffins made me laugh more than I was meant to. But other than that, it's a well written, well filmed mystery/horror, with likeable characters and some great theatrical moments. It certainly kept me entertained and interested throughout.