Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Plague of the Zombies was on TCM last night. This is the first movie that had zombies in it that looked like they had actually risen from the dead, looking decrepit and rotting. In previous movies the zombies looked like ordinary people shambling around with their eyes bugging out of their heads.

However, these zombies in Plague were still taking orders from their human masters who controlled them with voodoo as Bela Lugosi did in White Zombie. Granted, the zombie special effects in Plague were nothing to write home about, but they were an improvement over previous film zombies.

The zombies in Plague of the Zombies hadn’t yet morphed into independent flesh eaters that take orders from no one. That was to come later in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which presaged today’s Hollywood zombies. It was Romero that created zombies as we know them today–the carnivorous walking dead that eat human flesh and take orders from no one, mindless beasts wreaking havoc on the world for no other reason than to eat.

The zombies in my Zombie Apocalypse: The Chad Halverson Series take after Romero’s zombies.

 

Night of the Living Dead on Criterion

Is the new Criterion Blu-ray edition of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead worth purchasing? I’m of two minds on this question. Part of the eerie charm of the original edition is its low budget–its grainy black-and-white film, cheap sets, tinny music, and actors nobody ever heard of.
 
The Criterion edition attempts to enhance the cheap black-and-white print with Blu-ray technology. But do we really want it enhanced? Doesn’t enhancement take away part of the sinister charm of the grungy original?
 
On the other hand, it’s good to see that the movie is getting the attention it deserves from its groundbreaking reenvisioning of the zombie as a flesh-eating creature that feeds on living humans. Before this movie, zombies lumbered around with their eyes bugging out of their heads, looking spooky, but they were harmless. They were the walking dead without a bloodthirsty appetite, as in Bela Lugosi’s White Zombie.
 
Then along came George Romero and the invention of the modern zombie in Night of the Living Dead. And the zombie was forever changed. It has now become identified as the monster that is the most terrifying threat to humanity, much more terrifying than vampires and werewolves.