Don’t Let the Sleeping Corpses Just Lie! Grab a copy of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” at Amazon!
After having a run-in with a beautiful woman, Edna, at a gas station who accidently wrecking his motorbike, Manchester antique dealer George offers to drive her car to her destination in the country, her sister’s place in Southgate, and then borrow the car to continue on toward his appointment in Windermere. However, upon their arrival in Southgate, Edna’s husband Martin has been brutally murdered and the police immediately suspect the two urbanite out-of-towners George and Edna of coming the heinous crime. In reality, the recently dead in a mile radius has their nervous system reactivated and directed to kill the living by a new sonar radiation technology aimed to destroy crop pests. With the police and the dead on their heels, George and Edna seek to expose the truth to the world before its too late and the experimental new pesticide’s range is extended to cover more ground.
Hitting the stop button here before we dive into our review of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue.” If you’ve never seen the Jorge Grau directed 1974 flesh eating zombie film then drop everything – you’re work, your kids, your winning lottery ticket worth millions – and take the next one hour and 33 minutes to enjoy the graphically gory, social commentary horror that not only cashes in on the George Romero “Night of the Living Dead” gamechanger undead horror but also rivals Romero’s film in story and in full, gorgeous color. “The Legend of Blood Castle” director Jorge Grau helms the Spanish-Italiano co-produced script penned by Sandro Continenza (“Uncle Was a Vampire”) and Marcello Coscia (“Teenage Emmanuelle”) and was provided to Grau by “The Eroticist” and “Don’t Torture the Duckling” producer Edmundo Amati who wanted to make a Romero-esque flesh-eating zombie film of his own. Also more widely known as “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie,” “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” is co-produced by Manuel Pérez and is a co-production between Star Films and Flaminia Produzioni Cinematografiche.
Hot off the presses of Italian action-crime dramas, Ray Lovelock (“Emergency Squad,” “Almost Human”) finds himself playing an antique merchant holding up shop in the metropolitan area of Manchester, England and as George Meaning, the relatively undisclosed personal experience as an antique merchant, Lovelock gets into character not on the business end but when the shopkeeper goes on holiday in the country, riding his motorcycle Windermere where he has arranged a meeting with some very important people that never flesh out in the end. Speaking of flesh, don’t expect the leading lady Cristina Galbó (“The House that Screamed”) to provide any as the panicky Edna Simmonds on her way to her sisters (Jeannine Mestre, “Count Dracula”) for an intervention toward her sister’s severe heroin use. Much of the only flesh to be hand in “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” is that is which ripped from the bodies and stuffed into rotten, undead mouths. In itself, the entire scenario between Edna and her druggie sister is a compelling enough story to warrant attention in accumulating a sense of sisterly betrayal and a sacrificial compassion to do the right thing despite the consequences. However, that pathway, no matter how distressingly prominent it may seem, does not carry over into the main plot points of an experimental pesticide treatment involving sonar inadvertently raising the dead to be superhuman zombies. Between an Italiano (Lovelock) and a Spainard (Galbó), who not throw in an American while we’re at it with Massachusetts born Arthur Kennedy (“The Antichrist”) to be the aging local inspector keen on pinning every murder on youthful urbanites with their hippie ways and satanists beliefs. “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” fills out the cast with José Lifante (“Night of the Walking Dead”), Vincente Vega (“Historias para no dormir“), and “Flesh+Blood’s” Fernando Hilbeck as the foremost feared zombie.
What makes Jorge Grau’s take on the living dead canon so impressive is not only the social commentary story that seeks to deconstruct ecological progression as an ironic destructive poison to the Earth and its inhabitants and the striking moments in gore effects from the team of Juan Antonio Balandin, Luciano Byrd, and Giannetto De Rossi (of Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi”) that have remained timeless in holding up and rivaling against many of today’s gruesome effects, but also the terror-inducing sound design that combines Giuliano Sorgini’s funky-spook with Antonio Cárdenas zombie-vision resonances of heavy breathing and resonating heart thuds that cues the lurking of an undead lurker. The effect is potent and full of imminent danger when included into Grau and cinematographer Francisco Sempere’s (“Death Will Have Your Eyes”) perfectly framed shots of the Romero-esque zombie lumbering toward their prey in an unstoppable hunger to kill and eat and, sometimes, convert to their infant-legion inside-and-out of the zombie perspective. Along the lines of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue’s” environmental theme is the juxtaposition of big city and countryside in regards to their pollution levels in the opening credit scene where George rides out of Manchester through the degradation of the masses who are popping pills, wearing face masks (like in today’s COVID climate), numb to shock (in the scene where a naked protestor runs in front of stalled traffic for peace and the motorists are blank to the moment), passing by death and polluted nuclear smoke stacks. Once the lead George reaches the countryside, he removes the scarf covering his nose and mouth and breathes in fresh air with a smirk on his face. From then on, the story moves forward with a cautionary tale of ill-fated modern progression, such as urbanism, seeping into a natural landscape and causing death and destruction, leaving an poignant aftertaste in the inevitably of man’s ignorance will kill us all. Grau’s film is a good candidate to be a promotional movie for the dramatic effects of climate change in today’s campaign for ecological change to reduce our carbon footprint.
Synapse brings “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” home onto a Blu-ray home video, restored in 4K from the original camera 35mm negative that includes the authentic and intact opening and closing credit sequences. The region free, AVC encoded release is presented in 1080p high definition of a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the picture is the gold standard of presentation with a vivid and stable color palette, controlled DNR without any posterization, and greatly detailed without an inkling of lossy image quality. Two audio mix come with the release – a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound remix and the distinctive to the Synapse release the original English theatrical mono mix. Though nice and nostalgic in the original English mono mix, the clarity and robustness of the channels on the DTS-HD track is by far superior with its reformulated by Synapse lossless quality and fidelity, especially in that aforementioned sound design by Antonio Cárdenas. The English dub on Ray Lovelock can be off-putting at times but the track is still beyond the best of the two available audio options. English SDH subtitles are available. Extras include two audio commentaries by author and film scholars Troy Howarth, Nathaniel Thompson, and Bruce Holescheck, a feature length (89 min) documentary Jorge Grau – Catolonia’s Cult Film King that explores the lift and films of director Jorge Grau, The Scene of the Crime is special effects and makeup artist Gionnetto de Rossi discussion on the film, another de Rossi feature of the SFX artist at a Q&A at the Festival of Fantastic Films in the UK (43 minutes), the theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, and a sleek black snapper case that wouldn’t be complete with a Synapse catalogue booklet. If you’re a diehard zombie genre fiend, Jorge Grau’s “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” must be at the top of your personal video collection. If it isn’t, kick yourself in the shin really hard and then check out Synapse’s gorgeous release of the Spanish-Italiano production that’s worth every second of your life viewing.