British actress Diane Clare passed away at the age of 74 on June 27. One of my favorite Hammer actresses from one of my favorite Hammer movies (and its her only Hammer appearance - 1966's Plague of the Zombies), I was getting ready to write a belated birthday post for her and came across the news of her passing.
Born on July 8 1938 in London, she appeared in 22 films from 1958 thru 1968 before retiring to raise her children. She had a small but memorable role at the beginning of Robert Wise's The Haunting from 1963 as Julie Harris's shrewish sister (where she pulls off an excellent American accent) and was in the weird off kilter 1968 British horror film The Hand of Night (where she pulls off an excellent French accent). Her best role was in the rarely now seen British drama from 1963 Whistle Down The Wind in which she plays a Sunday school teacher in small village where the children come to believe that escaped convict hiding in a barn is Jesus Christ.
A very under rated actress, Plague of the Zombies was probably her best known role and it most likely should have led to more roles (with Hammer at the very least), but she was over shadowed in it by a zombie Jacqueline Pearce. Although not a traditional Hammer "glamour girl", she had a very lovely natural beauty about her and had a great "sexiness" about her - even when fully clothed.
Produced at the time when Hammer was experimenting with filming two features back to back with the same sets and actors to save on money, Plague was the sister feature to 1966's The Reptile (which is also very good). Set among the Cornish tin mines (represented by Bernard Robinson's excellent set design), the film is one of the last ones (along with 1974's Sugar Hill) that has zombies with origins in traditional voodoo. Diane plays Sylvia Forbes, daughter of a doctor (Andre Morell) who both travel to a small village to investigate a rash of mysterious deaths. Not a traditional horror heroine, Sylvia is a pretty strong charactor who pushes the somewhat intialy ineffectual men into action. The opening where she gently prods her father into coming to the decision "on his own" to go to the village is a wonderfully under played scene by Diane and gives a hint to what she could do as an actress.