Hammer Film studios started to suffer from two major issues first the dullness of their stories and that lead to a lack of return on investments, which effected heavily trimmed budgets. However, a few skillful artists would deliver some strong performances and give fans a glimmer of gothic horror. Hence director John Gilling, who already had a strong background in the horror genre, came on-board to head two back-to-back films the first was The Reptile [1966] and then used the cost-saving tactic of the same props and backdrops to helm this film. When released it would often be a double bill with the previous film listed and sometimes (only in London) with Dracula: Prince of Darkness [1966]; this is because it was originally intended to be part of four picture project, with Rasputin the Mad Monk [1966] being the final part. The intention was to minimize the costs, by using the same sets, props, and shoot them all back-to-back however for unknown reasons the plan had delays resulting in two months paused in the overall production and shooting schedules.

The film takes place in August 1860 and uses the concept of voodoo to receive the corpses back to the living status, with white-eyes and greyish skin tones, which appear like those of early horror tales, the movie emerges just 2-years before George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Hence, let us begin, an eminent surgeon Sir James Forbes (André Morell (The Mummy’s Shroud [1967])), whose demeanor excludes a bit of regal nobility; has received a curious and hastily written note from his former student Dr. Peter Tompson (Brook Williams), concerning some mysterious medical goings-on occurring in a relatively quiet Cornwall town. He wastes no time as he and his daughter Sylvia (Diane Clare (The Haunting [1963])) venture to this community; her primary reason for accompanying her father is visit her old friend Alice (Jacqueline Pearce (The Reptile [1966])) who is coincidently Peter’s wife. The Sylvia character is made sure not to have a backseat in the storyline, rather one of the first encounters she and her father encounter a very rude Fox Hunting noble group who are given false directions in their pursuit, as she hides her sympathies for the prey; it won’t be the only meeting with them. Upon their arrival they are greeted by a funeral procession, which they give silent and appropriate respect only to have the hunting disrupt the proceedings and scold Sylvia for spoiling their entitled fun. Finally, they arrive at Peter’s home, Sir James is informed about the plague and how the local townsfolk won’t allow for an autopsy inquiry thinking it’s marsh flu and retribution upon them by the Lord, a simply yet bold solution to venture to the graveyard a snatch a body on their own. But of course! It’s almost quite comical in the editing of the scene where this duo is caught in silence by the police, though reveal the dead are missing Sergeant Jack Swift (Michael Ripper (Torture Garden [1967])) agrees to help since his son one of the first to die. Sylvia is kidnapped by the huntsmen, expressly for unpleasantness taken back to an exquisite home they jokingly toy as they pick the high card to go first an intended gang rape; thankfully rescued by Squire Clive Hamilton (John Carson (City of Blood [1987])) who apologizes and sends her home. On her journey she encounters a zombie throws Alice’s body at her feet; therefore, opening the main plot of voodoo force zombies to work in dangerous tin mines as full slave labor and killing all surrounding threats, instilling fear into the townsfolks.

This includes one of Hammer Studios most featured actors, and frankly he had a name built for horror movies, Michael Ripper, staggering in an unbelievable 23-films; sometimes multiple features within one year. While the movie presents strong points in the areas of the plot and characters with excellent usage of gothic sets (though slightly wobbly), and hint of nobility rape to both the character of Sylvia and the townsfolk by taking advantage of what is not entitled to them, the upper classism. This underlying tone was far ahead of what some critics of today perceived about films of yesterday. Gilling needed to generate some gothic thick atmosphere using those tones, mentioned above but was rewarded with a fittingly solid cast. Clearly the zombies look nothing like the modern-day and weren’t on the level of Romero’s either they do work effectively well in the small appearances made on screen. Some critics have made comparisons between the two primary lead actresses, Pearce’s Alice and Claire’s Sylvia, elevating the role of Alice further however, that isn’t quite correct. The role of Sylvia is more prudish, but that is due to the upper-class education and demeanor, lessons learned in proper etiquette, yet the youthfulness allows her to express her views and opinions in a justified manner. Nevertheless, in the near gang-rape scene she delivers realistic mixture of anger and fear all in the correct proportional response therefore, both actresses achieved excellence in their individual performance.

Gilling generated a solid atmospheric horror tale, which has influenced other filmmakers, namely Clive Barker, and while it perhaps omits a polished look, likely due to the proper funding, it doesn’t prevent a quality gothic storyline from emerging onto the screen. It also would remain the studio’s only venture into the zombie subgenre, returning to mostly vampiric bloodsuckers and other anthologies. Therefore, it works on proving a story can work on substance rather than solely relying on star-power, it allows the audience to focus on the arc of the characters and situations unfolding before them.


  • Only The Lord Of The Dead Could Unleash Them!



IMDb Rating: 6.6/10

Baron’s Rating: 6.5/10