Yeah, I know this was all over Facebook yesterday, but damn if I’m not going to help spread the word a bit more! While I may be a huge Hammer fan, their 1966 film The Plague of the Zombies is one of my all time favorites of theirs. So I am more than thrilled to see this hit Blu-ray, thanks to Shout Factory!
This was Hammer’s only movie that dealt with zombies, though these are the voodoo type, not the flesh-eating type. Maybe because Romero didn’t unleash his until two years later. But this is a prime example of what Hammer did best. They had an great cast with two powerful leads, André Morell as Sir James Forbes and John Carson as Squire Hamilton. Morell is so much fun to watch, being so proper and the whole stiff upper lip, but yet still has a dark sense of humor. Carson, who plays the villain, was born to play this part. Whether it is his voice, which is very similar sounding to James Mason, or his evil stare, that can easily hide behind a smile. Of course, throw in Michael Ripper in a minor role, and it makes it even better!
Hammer Horror: The Warner Bros. Years (2018)
Directed by Marcus Hearn
Starring Veronica Carlson, John Carson, Steve Chibnall, Joe Dante, Jonathan Rigby, Peter Sasdy, Madeline Smith, Caroline Munro, Christopher Frayling, Wayne Kinsey, Denis Meikle
So…a new documentary on Hammer Studios? I’m there. Simple as that. Add to the fact that when the producers of this documentary started a Kickstarter fund to get this project off the ground, I immediately signed up. Honestly, I don’t remember which level I put in for, but I did get a nice poster print as well as the Blu-ray. Being a huge fan of this famous British studio, this review might be a little jaded, but I will try to be as honest and straight forward as I can.
If you ever wondered just what happened to Hammer Studios, as to why they went under, then this feature length documentary will either answer that, or at least give you some very strong contributing factors that might have caused it. Even though this studio was very successful in the late ’50s and ’60s, by the time the ’60s were coming to a close, things were starting to change. Not with just the audiences, but the ratings boards, other movies the studios were releasing, as well as where Hammer was getting their funding from.
Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1973)
Directed by Brian Clemens
Starring Horst Jansen, Caroline Munro, John Carson, Shane Briant, John Cater, Lois Daine, and Ian Hendry.
Trying to come up with a new series with a different kind of twist to it, Hammer gave us a swash-buckling vampire hunter. This is not your ordinary vampire movie, or vampires for that matter, as Kronos and his faithful companion Prof. Grost, travel the countryside seeking out and destroying vampires, in all of their varying guises. They are called on by an old friend for help. It seems that some of the local girls are being found basically drained of their youth, left dead as an old withering hag. But what is underneath the black cloak that stalks them?
Plague of the Zombies (1966)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring Andre Morell, John Carson, Diane Clare, Alex Davion, Jacqueline Pearce, Michael Ripper
In a small Cornish village, strange happenings are a foot! Some sort of deadly disease is creeping through the town and the local doctor is clueless as to what is the cause. He sends a letter of distress to Sir James, his former teacher, for assistance in this grave matter. Cutting short his vacation, Sir James travels to the village with his daughter to see if he can be of any assistance, but has no idea the evil deeds he is about to uncover there.
One thing is for sure about 2016, we have lost way too many genre favorites. From actors to directors to artists to cinematographers and everyone else in between….just way too many. There were some that I consider icons, such as Herchell Gordon Lewis, who paved the way for thousands of young filmmakers. Actor Don Calfa appeared in so many sitcoms and movies but was still able to come up with so many wonderful characters. Then we have Angus Scrimm, who really only appeared in a handful of features, but it only took one role for him to forever be remembered in the hearts of us horror fans. And while actor/writer Gene Wilder was mainly known for his comedic side, along with Mel Brooks, he gave us one of the best tributes to the classic Frankenstein pictures.
Hammer fans have lost another familiar face, that of actor John Carson. He may have only made three appearances in a Hammer Film, as well as one episode of their TV series, every time he came on the screen, he made his presence known. Of course, my personal favorite of Carson’s performances was as the evil squire, Clive Hamilton in John Gilling’s 1966 film The Plague of the Zombies, where he is slowly taking control over this small village. The evilness just oozes from him. With his James Mason-ish voice, his presence is always authoritative and imposing, as well as damn entertaining to watch.