Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue (1974) (aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie etc)

Here's one of the gems of the horror genre that is much loved by the diehards and somewhat notorious. One of the benchmarks of the zombie genre that other films are generally compared to, this is one of the more intelligent entries in the pantheon of the undead, and there is actually something of an environmentalist message in there with all of the chaos and grue. It is also a strange film to watch due to its pedigree, as it was a Spanish/Italian co-production set in rural England!

Two mismatched travellers are thrown together when a girl in a car hits a guy's motorbike, meaning he has to ride with her while his bike is being fixed. A twist of weird science causes the dead to rise from the grave, and these two characters must fend off hordes of zombies who want to rip them to pieces and munch away on their flesh. Pretty standard scenario really, but it is handled with a huge amount of flair and an eye on the plot and pacing rather than just lashings of gore.

The violence is there in spades, as well as buckets of the red stuff, but more than anything this is a film that is surprisingly coherent and watchable despite the bizarre dub on some of the characters! This was one of the more notorious 'Video nasty' titles, and was banned for a while, which is a shame. The thing with this film is that the splatter is never gratuitous, and the zombies are much creepier than in many other films. The zombies themselves are rather pale and gaunt rather than the usual worm-food we have come to know in this type of flick, making them look much more frightening.

Directed by and starring Cristina Galbo as Edna and Ray Lovelock (best name ever or what?) as George, this film is one of the most important zombie flicks ever made, right up there with Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Zombie Flesh Eaters. This is down to it being very much its own entity and not generally being like anything else in the genre. It may be ridiculous in some places and truly horrific in others, but it is one of the strongest zombie films ever committed to celluloid.

Known by over a dozen titles around the world (including 'Let Sleeping Corpses Lie', 'Don't Open the Window' and 'Breakfast With the Dead' amongst others), 'The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue' is one of the truly special horror films that were made in that spectacularly productive period for the genre. It is impressive in its setting and its execution, along with being one of the few undead films to genuinely make you feel rather uneasy. Blessed with a chilling soundtrack, a cast bordering on pretty good and some of the most memorable visuals in any zombie film ever, this is a flick you need to own and need to watch and enjoy again and again.

The Anchor Bay DVD release of the film is fantastic, packed with extras and available with a lengthy booklet containing a comprehensive essay on the film and its history. Made just five years after George A Romero's seminal Night Of The Living Dead, this is a much more violent and grotesque film with a level of plot sophistication that is really rather unexpected. Oh, and the 'regional' accents dubbed onto much of the cast are hilarious, and pretty much worth watching the film for on their own!

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