“This disease seems to me to be more mental than physical.”
A young doctor (Brook Williams) in a 19th century Cornish village summons the help of his mentor (Andre Morell) in determining the cause of a mysterious plague killing off his patients. When Dr. Forbes (Morell) arrives with his plucky grown daughter (Diane Clare), they are distressed to notice that Williams’ wife (Jacqueline Pearce) — who is enamored by a local squire (John Carson) — seems sickly. Meanwhile, when attempting to conduct an autopsy, Morell and Williams discover that graves are being exhumed and bodies are missing.
Hammer Studios’ foray into zombie films evokes visceral memories of Val Lewton’s I Walked With a Zombie (1943) and foreshadows certain visual elements of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). On its own, it remains a reasonably effective, historically situated horror flick with fine cinematography and direction — particularly during a green-tinted mid-film zombie sequence which emerges as a freaky surprise and is genuinely disturbing. Other elements of the narrative strain credulity or are overly obvious, but that’s par for the course in a genre flick like this.
Note: Deep-voiced Carson — who film fanatics may recognize as Captain Kronos’ vampire-fighting partner — sounds remarkably like James Mason, don’t you think?
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Effective cinematography (by Arthur Grant) and direction (by John Gilling)
- The spooky mid-film zombie sequence
No, but it’s recommended for fans of zombie flicks.