Greatest Zombie Films

Greatest Zombie Films

1960s - 1970s

Greatest Zombie Films
(chronological by time period and film title)
Introduction | 1930s-1950s | 1960s-1970s | 1980-1984 | 1985-1989
1990s | 2000-2006 | 2007-2009 | 2010s

Greatest Zombie Films: 1960s - 1970s
(chronological by time period and film title)
Title Screen
Zombie Films

Teenage Zombies (1960)
d. Jerry Warren, 71 minutes, GBM Productions/Governor Films

Tagline: "Young pawns thrust into pulsating cages of horror in a sadistic experiment! "
Setting: Mullett Island
Story: While waterskiing, four teens came upon the off-shore, remote Mullett Island used as a testing center, where they were held captive in cages. Dr. Myra (Katherine Victor), a deranged female scientist and agents from "an eastern power" (the Soviet's Red Curtain) were conducting unusual experiments with a secret nerve gas formula - to turn Americans into a slave race of easily-controllable zombies. Dr. Myra was aided by mute hunchback Ivan (Chuck Niles), and the local Sheriff (Mike Concannon) who was in cahoots with the evil foreigners, supplying them with test subjects (drunks, prisoners).
Notable: Filmed in 1957, but released in mid-April of 1960. A poorly acted and scripted, low-budget, teen horror-exploitation film, perfect for a double-bill at a drive-in. A box-office bomb. Remade by the same director as Frankenstein Island (1981).

The Plague of the Zombies (1966, UK) (aka The Zombies)
d. John Gilling, 91/90 minutes, Hammer Film Productions/Seven Arts/20th Century Fox

Tagline: "Only The Lord Of The Dead Could Unleash Them!"
Setting: In 1860, in the English countryside, in Cornwall.
Story: A mysterious plague-epidemic arose in a local English mining town after exploitative, mad Cornish Squire Clive Hamilton (John Carson) had turned the deceased villagers into voodoo-controlled, shambling zombies - now undead slaves who could turn murderous. The town's Dr. Peter Tompson (Brook Williams) and his wife Alice Mary Tompson (Jacqueline Pearce) sought aid from Professor Sir James Forbes (André Morell) (and his single daughter Sylvia Forbes (Diane Clare)), to investigate the problem. Alice died from the plague, and Sir James Forbes was shocked to discover empty coffins in the graves of the plague victims.
Notable: From Hammer Films, originally double-billed with the bigger hit Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966). The plot borrowed from White Zombie (1932). The film's best nightmarish sequence was one in which decaying graveyard cadavers dug their way up through the earth to surround the shocked dreamer and clutch at him with clawing dead fingers. Another notable dream image was a realistic zombie decapitation.

The Astro-Zombies (1968) (aka Space Zombies, or The Space Vampires)
d. Ted V. Mikels, 91 minutes, Ram Ltd./Geneni Film Distributors

Setting: Los Angeles, CA
Story: After being fired by a Space Agency, disgruntled rocket scientist Dr. DeMarco (John Carradine) became a vengeful, mad zombie master, with his knowledge of how to remotely control artificial humans who could endure for lengthy space missions. With mute, deformed hunchback lab assistant Franchot (William Bagdad) in a basement laboratory, he planned to revitalize the corpses and body parts (brains mostly) of mutilated murder victims to create a solar-powered (for the artificial heart organ), radio-controlled super-human monster (Astro-Zombie), with synthetic blood and silicon-enhanced skin. Unfortunately, an astro-zombie test subject escaped and went on a murderous spree with a machete. Astrozombies wore black, had white skull-like plaster masks, and a forehead with a red and silver crest for regenerating themselves with light. With the CIA on his trail led by Holman (Wendell Corey in his last film role), the government agents also pursued an international espionage ring led by the beautiful Communist Chinese agent Satana (Tura Satana, a busty Russ Meyers star) and her Mexican spy partners who wanted the doctor's taped knowledge for their own evil purposes.

Notable: A low-budget, incoherent, very inferior zombie film and cult drive-in classic, with poor production values, and some sexploitation elements (half-naked, gold bikinied female on a lab table, and a painted stripper-nightclub dancer). The film's poster advertised: "SEE Astro Space Laboratory," "SEE Brutal Mutants Menace Beautiful Girls," "SEE Crazed Corpse Stealers," "SEE Beserk Human Transplants." With three very poor sequels, from 2010-2012.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
d. George A. Romero, 96 minutes, Image Ten/Laurel Group/Market Square Productions/Off Color Films/Continental Distributing/Walter Reade Organization

Tagline: "They Won't Stay Dead!"
Setting: A deserted farmhouse in rural Western Pennsylvania.
Story: Indiscriminate, reanimated flesh-eating 'ghouls' lumbered stiffly out of their graves toward a barricaded house after killing Johnny (Russell Streiner), who was visiting the gravesite of his father with his sister Barbra (Judith O'Dea). Seven random, bickering people sought refuge inside the nondescript farmhouse as flesh-hungry, undead corpses stalked around outside. The most seriously affected was Barbra, catatonic from seeing her brother die. It was speculated that a radioactive NASA Venus space probe-satellite returning to Earth was deliberately exploded, and because of increasing radiation, possibly caused recently-deceased corpses to rise up, and become ravenous zombies. The terror came from their relentless attack on the fugitive survivors hiding to escape the zombies' infectious bites. They vainly tried to escape by acquiring gasoline from a nearby pump to fill the truck, but had to fight off dozens of hungry zombies. Soon the threat was coming from inside the house too, with a struggle for power between resourceful and smart black man Ben (Duane Jones) and impulsive, obnoxious family man Harry Cooper (Karl Hardman). Audiences were struck by the film’s despairing tone, tragically ironic ending, and depiction of a lifeless dehumanized society.
Notable: This was a low-budget, independent, genre-defining, zombie classic. It was the debut of the 'modern' zombie film (although they were never called 'zombies' but 'ghouls'), about the mysterious reanimation of the recent-dead. Part 1 of Romero's original zombie trilogy. It was the first of a canon of zombie classics, and it marked the rise of independent horror. It was also Romero's debut film. The low-budget black-and-white film was made documentary-style, with natural lighting and a handheld camera to accentuate the besieged farmhouse occupants' visceral fear. Remade as Night of the Living Dead (1990), by gore F/X expert turned director Tom Savini, with a revised screenplay written by George Romero (with a reworked beginning and ending). The film was also remade in a 3-D version by producer/director Jeff Broadstreet as Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006). With one of the first black heroes (Duane Jones) in the horror genre. With the memorable line of dialogue: "They're coming to get you, Barbra!'' It showed violated bodies and families torn apart by the living dead, illustrating how nothing was sacred in contemporary society. (A sick, zombified adolescent girl named Karen Cooper (Kyra Schon) killed her own mother Helen (Marilyn Eastman) with a garden trowel and then ate her.)

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1973, or 1972) (aka Revenge of the Living Dead)
d. Bob Clark, 87 minutes, Geneni Film Distributors

Tagline: "You're Invited To Orville's "Coming-Out" Party...It'll Be A Scream...YOURS!!!"
Setting: Island cemetery off the coast of Florida.
Story: Five desperate theatre actors and their bullying, mean-spirited troupe director Alan (Alan Ormsby) explored a remote Florida island cemetery (filled with criminals) and the nearby unhabited caretaker's cottage. Alan proclaimed that they were there to perform an after-midnight, Satanic, necromantic-seance black ritual with a book of spells (grimoire) to summon the dead to rise from their graves. They were forced to exhume the recently-deceased corpse of Orville Dunworth (Seth Sklarey). Although Alan revealed they were all just the butt of a practical joke, the group unwittingly unleashed cannibalistic zombies that emerged from their graves and surrounded the caretaker's house - and eventually consumed all of them (in the film's final third). In the final scene, the zombies set sail for the mainland.
Notable: A low-budget, zombie horror-comedy, inspired in part by Night of the Living Dead (1968). Directed by Bob Clark - his feature film debut. He was more famous for Black Christmas (1974), Murder By Decree (1979), Porky's (1982) and A Christmas Story (1983).

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974, Sp./It.) (aka The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, or Non Si Deve Profanare Il Sonno Dei Morti)
d. Jorge Grau, 95/85 minutes, Star Films S.A./Flaminia Produzioni Cinematografiche

Tagline: "They tampered with nature - now they must pay the price..."
Setting: English countryside.
Story: A new experimental, Department of Agriculture pest-control device (using ultra-sonic wave pulses to thump the ground and kill insects) have stirred zombies to awaken from the dead. In the anti-climactic police drama, the Inspector Sergeant (Arthur Kennedy) suspected two hippie newcomers, longhaired antique shop dealer George Meaning (Ray Lovelock) and his traveling companion Edna Simmonds (Cristina Galbó) as devil worshippers, and responsible for the local mutilation murders. They never suspected that the recently-revived living dead had a thirst for human flesh. Newborns also became vicious monsters.
Notable: A Spanish/Italian production, with many alternative titles for all of its international releases (others were Don't Open the Window, Do Not Profane the Sleep of the Dead, etc.).

Sugar Hill (1974) (aka The Zombies of Sugar Hill)
d. Paul Maslansky, 91 minutes, American International Pictures (AIP)

Tagline(s): "Meet SUGAR HILL and her ZOMBIE HIT MEN...The Mafia has never met anything like them!" and "The Devil Woman - Her Voodoo Powers Raised The Dead, She's Super-Natural!"
Setting: In the Deep South, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Story: Afro-haired heroine Diana "Sugar" Hill (Marki Bey) was a sexy, smart fashion photographer. She helped her boyfriend Langston (Larry D. Johnson) operate a voodoo-themed bar named Club Haiti. Langston was ambushed and beaten to death when he refused to pay off a bunch of syndicate mobster enforcers, headed by funky, pimpish black mob boss Fabulous (Charles F. Robinson). The main head boss was mean, playboyish villain Morgan (Robert Quarry). Vengeful girlfriend Sugar, who inherited the club, ventured into the swamps of her ancestral bayou homeland, to meet with 100 year-old voodoo priestess Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully, aka Mother Jefferson on The Jeffersons TV show). The priestess conjured up voodoo god and Lord of the Dead Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley), with two undead wives. In exchange for Sugar's soul, the Baron raised an army of shackled, cobweb-covered, machete-wielding, silver bulging-eyed zombies - ex-slaves from Guinea in the 1840s. With her undead army, Sugar sought seductive vengeance against the mafia thugs, threatening them: "Hey whitey! You and your punk friends killed my man!" There were many PG-death scenes: one thug was fed to hungry pigs, one was given a zombie massage, another died a voodoo doll stabbing death, and another was locked in a snake-filled coffin. Sugar's ex-boyfriend Valentine (Richard Lawson) was investigating, and found evidence of a slave shackle at one crime scene. Sugar used voodoo magic on him to send him down stairs and break his legs. Morgan was lured to Sugar's plantation, where he fled from all his undead minions (killed and reanimated) into the swamp and was drowned in quicksand. As payment for the retribution against the mobsters, rather than taking Sugar for himself, the Baron snatched Morgan's white racist, chain-smoking blonde girlfriend Celeste (Betty Anne Rees) and dragged her to Hell.
Notable: An overlooked horror-blacksploitation action film from the mid-1970s. The resurrected voodoo zombies weren't flesh-hungry, but they did function as murderous thugs following the commands of their evil master, similar to the zombies of the 1930s and 1940s. With the theme song: "Supernatural Voodoo Woman" sung by The Originals. This film was not to be confused with the later film with the same title, Sugar Hill (1993) with Wesley Snipes.

Shock Waves (1977) (aka Death Corps, and Almost Human)
d. Ken Wiederhorn, 85 minutes, Zopix Company/Joseph Brenner Associates

Tagline(s): "Once They Were Almost Human! Beneath the living... Beyond the dead... From the depths of Hell's Ocean!" and "The Deep End of Horror!"
Setting: Off Florida, on a remote island near the Bahamas.
Story: In flashback, rescued tourist Rose (Brooke Adams) told about the fate of her yachting party. She was onboard a Caribbean excursion boat named Bonaventure with partner Chuck (Fred Buch) and an argumentative married couple Norman (Jack Davidson) and Beverly (D.J. Sidney). The boat was captained by cranky and salty Capt. Ben Morris (John Carradine) with hunky first mate Keith (Luke Halpin) and the boat's heavy-drinking cook Dobbs (Don Stout). After having navigation problems and experiencing an orangish haze, at night the boat hit a rotting WWII freighter caught in a reef - the damaged boat was shipwrecked and the stranded tourists took a lifeboat to a nearby strange remote island. The Captain was missing and found drowned. The island's sole dilapidated, and deserted hotel was inhabited by mad German doctor (Peter Cushing), an aging, self-exiled Nazi SS Commander. Pale green-skinned, white-haired, face-scarred, dark-goggled zombies with black SS uniforms appeared from underwater at the site of the wreckage, and killed Dobbs. The SS Commander described how he had led a "Death Corps" (Totenkorps), composed of thugs and villains who were transformed into zombified super-soldiers who could live anywhere (even underwater) and fight with their bare hands - bred as an invincible weapon by the Nazis. The uncontrollable zombies (who could not distinguish between friend and foe) were never deployed, but recalled. When the war was over, the exiled Commander sunk his ghost-ship freighter The Pretorius with the zombies onboard. When the Bonaventure struck the same freighter, it awakened the dead cargo of zombies, who were now reappearing and threatening everyone - the Commander was even drowned by them. The film ended with members of the group fighting off the zombies, who drowned them one-by-one. The sole remaining survivor in a glass-bottom boat was the hospitalized Rose, now apparently insane from her ordeal.
Notable: The best of its low-budget sub-genre - the underwater Nazi zombie movie (other examples of Nazi zombie flicks were Zombie Lake (1981, Fr./Sp.), Night of the Zombies (1981), and Dead Snow (2009, Norway)). A moody cult film without much gore, but lots of atmosphere. This was director Ken Wiederhorn's debut feature film.

Dawn of the Dead (1978, It./US) (aka Zombi)
d. George A. Romero, 127/139 minutes, Laurel Group/United Film Distribution Company (UFDC)

Tagline: "When there's no more room in HELL, the dead will walk the EARTH."
Setting: Secluded Pittsburgh shopping mall (Monroeville).
Story: Unexpectedly, the dead were re-animating into flesh-eating zombies. Four people: TV anchorwoman (Francine Parker (Gaylen Ross)), her traffic helicopter-pilot boyfriend (Stephen "Flyboy" Andrews (David Emge)) , and two Philadelphia SWAT cops (Roger "Trooper" DeMarco (Scott Reiniger) and Peter Washington (Ken Foree)) flew in a helicopter from Philadelphia to Western Pennsylvania (the Pittsburgh area), where they barricaded themselves within a well-stocked mall for sanctuary. They were attacked by ravenous, shuffling zombies and a gang of post-apocalyptic nomadic bikers.
Notable: Part 2 of Romero's original zombie trilogy. The most profitable of all the Romero zombie films, and the one received most favorably by critics. It was the first film in the Romero "Dead" franchise to refer to the undead as "zombies." The biting social satire equated zombies with brainwashed automaton consumers slowly shuffling their way through malls as soothing Muzak played. It was explained why the zombies congregated there: "Some kind of instinct. Memory, of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives." Special make-up effects by Tom Savini. Included a memorable death - a zombie's head sliced by helicopter blades. The satirical film was a strong indictment of rampant 1970s capitalistic mall-consumerism. The survivors were living the American Dream in a barricaded storage area, distracted by their material luxuries while undead danger lurked nearby. Remade as Dawn of the Dead (2004) by Zack Snyder (his feature film debut).

Zombie (1979, It.) (aka Zombi2, or Zombie Flesh Eaters)
d. Lucio Fulci, 91 minutes, Variety Film Production/Jerry Gross Organization

Tagline: "When The Earth Spits Out The Dead...They Will Return to Tear the Flesh of the Living!"
Setting: Island in the Virgin Islands (Saint Thomas), Matool Island.
Story: The film opened with a zombie attack on two patrol officers when they investigated a seemingly-abandoned sailboat adrift in NY harbor (a scene lifted from Nosferatu (1922)). Afterwards, reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch) joined up with Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow), the daughter of the missing boat owner (scientist father Dr. Bowles (Ugo Bologna)). A note from her father claimed he had caught a mysterious, contagious disease and had died on the island of Matool, which was plagued by increasing zombie attacks. The two traveled to the tropical Caribbean island, to meet with Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson). He was attempting to cure a plague (caused by a voodoo curse) that made dead people come back to life - and attack the islanders. Menard told them that Anne's father had died, but was revived from his grave through miraculous voodoo. In the film's blood-splattered climax, a horde of flesh-eating zombies (all rising from their graves) attacked the few human survivors on the island in a siege on a hospital, similar to the attacks in Night of the Living Dead (1968).
Notable: One of the best and well-known of the violent Italian gore-zombie films, also with a sexploitation spin. Two memorable scenes: Paolo Menard's (Olga Karlatos) eye was pierced with a splinter of wood by a zombie, and the scene of a zombie fighting a shark underwater. As a promotional gimmick, the Italian rip-off title alluded to it being a sequel to Zombi (the Italian title of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978)), but the films were unrelated.

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