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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Plague of the Zombies [Blu-ray]

 

(John Gilling, 1966)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Hammer Film Productions

Video: Studio Canal

 

Disc:

Region: 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:29:53.208

Disc Size: 34,003,367,419 bytes

Feature Size: 23,392,954,368 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.38 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case inside cardboard slipcase

Release date: June 18th, 2012

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

Raising the Dead (34:01)
World of Hammer - Episode Mummies. Werewolves and the Living Dead (24:49)
Restoration Comparison (4:32)
• Trailer (1:55)

DVD available

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Within a remote eighteenth century Cornish village, an evil presence lurks within the darkness of the witching hour, a mysterious plague relentlessly taking lives at an unstoppable rate. Unable to find the cause, Dr Peter Thompson enlists the help of Professor James Forbes. Desperate to find an antidote what they find instead are empty coffins with the diseased corpses missing. Following a series of strange and frightening clues, Thompson and Forbes are lead to a deserted mine where they discover a world of black magic and a doomed legion of flesh eating slaves, the walking dead.

 

 

The Film:

A wonderfully atmospheric outing from Hammer Films, who diverged from their often successful variations on Universal's classic monsters into the world of zombies, a genre which had yet to receive its infusion of terrifying new blood with the 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. The plot, which owes a debt to the Bela Lugosi chiller White Zombie, involves a mad Cornish squire, who solves an annoying labor crisis in his tin mines by turning local villagers into voodoo-controlled zombies. Dr. Thompson (Brook Williams) and his daughter Alice (Jacqueline Pearce) soon discover the unpleasant nocturnal habits of the shambling undead slaves -- including their tendency to go on murderous rampages when not directly under the squire's control. At the request of Alice, Sir James Forbes (André Morell) arrives on the scene to investigate. The superb script by Peter Bryan employs an interesting subtext about the rift between the British aristocracy and the exploited working class, but the film is less a political allegory than a spooky, atmospheric horror opus that ranks among Hammer Films' finest.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Perhaps a little tame these days, compared with modern gore-shock, but Gilling's Hammer chiller about zombies being exploited by a Cornish tin-mine owner (echoes of the classic White Zombie) is highly atmospheric. Often imaginatively directed (in particular a splendid, nightmarishly green-tinted vision of the undead rising from the graveyard earth), it boasts really classy photography (Arthur Grant) and an outstanding performance from Jacqueline Pearce (the admirable snake-woman from The Reptile, here being beheaded to save her from untimely zombification).

Excerpt from Timeout located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Like most of the other Hammer UK Blu-rays, The Plague of the Zombies gets a pleasing transfer from Studio Canal. It is dual-layered with a high bitrate for the 1.5 hour feature. It has some color inconsistency - leaning to a yellow/greenish bias at times. Not misaligned but can give that impression. Generally speaking, the visuals are solid with a few exceptional scenes showing impressive clarity and depth. Primary colors can appear rich and there is no noise in the darker sequences. The 1080P supports acceptable contrast adding some minor depth in the 1.66:1 frame. I don't see heavy signs of manipulation but suggest it is merely the less-stable source.  It's quite clean showcasing a responsive, if not dynamic presentation. This Blu-ray provides a substantially improved video viewing over SD.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Studio Canal utilize a linear PCM mono track at 1536 kbps. It is clear, flat but has a bit of punch. India-born James Bernard (Dracula Prince of Darkness, These Are the Damned, Across the Bridge, The Curse of Frankenstein) score adds to the 'regal mansion' and 'quaint village' atmosphere and benefits from the lossless transfer. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

Raising the Dead is a 34-minute featurette and has John Carson and Jacqueline Pearce from the film discussing their memories of The Plague of the Zombies, with English film critic Jonathan Rigby, author of English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema and Studies in Terror: Landmarks of Horror Cinema, focusing on the historical relevance of the film in Hammer's vast stable of horrors. We get another World of Hammer Episode with Roy Skeggs - this one entitled Mummies. Werewolves and the Living Dead and runs just shy of 25-minutes. There is also a brief Restoration Comparison, with split screen demonstrations, a trailer and the dual-format package includes a DVD.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Plague of the Zombies was filmed back-to-back with The Reptile, and has similar looking sets, fans will note the village on the back lot at Bray Studios is the exact same. The lovely Jacqueline Pearce co-starring in both - her only two Hammer Horrors. This has a slow build but is rich with the studios appealing atmosphere. The Studio Canal Blu-ray provides a decent a/v presentation and includes relevant supplements. I'd certainly say this was above average in terms of placement with similar of the genre. There is a lot to enjoy here. Recommended! 

Gary Tooze

March 15th, 2014


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Gary W. Tooze

 

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