The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue 1974 REVIEW

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The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue 1974 is original, tense and deeply funny but it will have you in a state of disbelief, says KATE INGLEBY-PARYLO

The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue 1974

TITLE: The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (Italian: Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti) and Don’t Open The Window
RELEASED: 28 November 1974
DIRECTOR: Jorge Grau
CAST: Cristina Galbó, Ray Lovelock, Arthur Kennedy, Aldo Massasso, Giorgio Trestini, Roberto Posse, José Lifante, Jeannine Mestre, Gengher Gatti, Fernando Hilbeck, Vera Drudi, Vicente Vega, Francisco Sanz, Paul Benson, Anita Colby

Review of The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue 1974

Driven by petty narrow-mindedness, an inspector hunts down a couple who he believes are responsible for a number of vicious murders. Unknown to him, those responsible are actually of the living dead variety. Stupid mistakes and avoidable deaths occur as the couple must defend themselves from something more sinister than the police.  

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue 1974 was directed by the Spanish director Jorge Grau, and despite its name, was mainly filmed in Italy. (Spooky Isles has an article about one of its British filming locations at Barnes Hospital in Cheadle, Greater Manchester.)

The film is also known as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and Don’t Open the Window, being changed to The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue for its UK release. 

It’s often been described as a cult zombie film and with good reason. From the beginning, the film has a strange almost Giallo-like feel to it, missing the sexploitation and slasher qualities, but taking the melodramatic crime aspects, and slapping them on a zombie film.

It’s an odd blend of awkward dialogue with lines such as “Now, doctor, you’re a man of science” to a fascinating take on the well-overdone zombie genre. Whilst the film tries to prevail with its witty dialogue, and atmospheric music, it is frequently hindered by cognitively challenged characters and pacing issues. 

We are soon introduced to our main characters Edna and George. Edna has travelled from London to visit her sister, whilst George is going to the Lake District. The pair soon clash as Edna accidentally damages George’s motorcycle, obstructing him from travelling further. In compensation, George instructs Edna to give him a lift. It’s quickly established the type of characters George and Edna are. George is rude, abrasive and to the point, whilst Edna is whiney, pathetic and helpless.

You might imagine this would make for an incredibly frustrating watch, however, whilst unlikeable, the characters are engaging thanks to the witty dialogue. When George automatically declares himself the new driver of Edna’s car, Edna allows him, explaining that she’s tired. It seems she is about to go on a self-indulgent monologue of her long drive from London, but, George’s sharp response of “then go to sleep” creates a rather comical tension between the two. One which is maintained throughout the film. 

At its best, the sound design is excellent and creates an eerie atmosphere; at its worst, it is downright annoying. When Edna is alone by the river, and the first zombie appears, a foreboding beat is heard. This music perfectly creates the tense atmosphere needed and holds it for as long as possible. When utilised like this, the sound design succeeds at evoking the emotions needed from the audience.

In this case, fear. Unfortunately, this is sometimes disrupted by the blaring sound of the experimental agricultural machine in the film. Whilst, this machine is supposed to use ultrasonic radiation to kill insects, it would be appreciated if it didn’t do this to audience members.

Most criticisms of the film seem to be in regard to the acting and slow pace. In particular, the performance from Cristina Galbo is overly melodramatic. This only adds to the film’s giallo atmosphere, however, the beautiful setting of the British countryside is consistently tainted by the whines of Edna (Cristina’s character). Some viewers may find this entertaining, whilst others will find it grating. 

Like most films, Manchester Morgue does suffer from some pacing issues. This is primarily because the main driving force of the film is the inspector trying to hunt down Edna and George, whilst they try and protect themselves from zombies. This leads to the characters making some illogical decisions as the inspector completely refuses to believe in the existence of zombies. Due to this, Edna and George are forced to stay in the area and often make stupid mistakes in order to create much-needed tension. 

The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue soundtrack

This is even more frustrating as the zombies are as threatening as an inept toddler. They walk slowly and strangle their prey; they shouldn’t be hard to avoid. Yet, because the plot needs it, the characters are constantly in avoidable danger from the horde. It is more frustrating when you realise the entire plot could fall apart if the inspector actually did a thorough investigation and went through the photos on the camera. On the camera, he would see that it was zombies all along. 

Overall, The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue deserves the hype if you know the type of film you’re about to watch. It isn’t perfectly crafted, it isn’t fast-paced, and it certainly isn’t to be taken seriously. It is original, it is tense, and it is deeply funny. If you are a fan of Giallo films such as Deep Red (1975) or The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), then this should suit you. For others, The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue could benefit from multiple re-watches as most of your first watch will be spent in a minor state of disbelief. 

The film is a little tricky to track down as currently, it doesn’t appear to be available via streaming. The Anchor Bay UK DVD release is long since out of print, but the American company Blue Underground did release a DVD/Blu-ray. This appears to be region-free, meaning it will play on UK players, but it is also out of print and will most likely be found on second-hand marketplaces for a moderate price.

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