This movie has also been called Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. The copy I found via YouTube was titled The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue. Internationally over the course of several years, the film was released under fifteen different titles.
If you haven’t seen it yet beware the spoilers below and I’ll save you a bit of time by saying, yes, it’s worth watching; not a bad piece of horror at all.
These two posters are perhaps my favorites. The one on the left is the original theatrical release poster and reads: No Profanar El Sueno De Los Muertos or Don’t Speak Ill of the Dead.
The artwork is creepy and the stripped down imagery feels modern for the time. With a line of corpses or corpselike figures coming towards the viewer in a seemingly endless stream we just know this doesn’t mean good for anyone involved.
Something about it feels a bit like a Mike Mignola illustration.
- The plot revolves around a young man and woman, George and Edna, traveling through the English countryside after Edna crashes into the George’s motorcycle forcing the two together. They quickly fall foul of the police who suspect they are responsible for a series of murders which are actually being carried out by the undead who have been brought back to life accidentally as the result of an experimental machine used as an alternative to pesticide by some local farmers.
The machine works on very basic nervous systems like those of insects and it makes them go crazy tearing each other apart. It also turns out to work on babies and the recently dead who are then somehow able to bring back the not-so-recently-deceased.
This is a Cassandra-like tragedy where the main characters know what’s going on and try to warn people or elicit their help but no one believes them.
I have to say that the lack of romantic connection and the incredible ending were actually two of the best choices for the film and make a fairly cliche film feel a bit more original.
- The sound design is nicely done as well with a haunting sound track of ambient noise and music as well as some gruesome noises created when the dead are nearby. It’s a bit much to really be coming from one of them but it creates an incredible atmosphere and is used to good effect.
- It’s beautifully shot. Most of the setting and imagery outdoors was well framed with rich color saturation that I just fell in love with. Though the film takes place in England, most of the movie was actually shot in Italy with just a few locations created in Britain.
- Despite how slow and shambling the zombies are, they feel threatening in a very realistic way. It’s like being in a dream and not being able to run or run fast enough to get away from whatever is chasing you. No matter what you do, the threat slowly keeps coming at you.
- Like a lot of movies from the time, and let’s be honest from today as well, it relies on some funny science that’s been shoehorned around supporting the plot. Honestly it doesn’t bother me much at all as I like getting into the mindset of the time period. More often than not these kind of explanations reflect the popular science stories of the time. That’s why you always hear Bones talking about adrenaline on the original Star Trek. Adrenaline was a hot topic at the time just like DNA and cloning have been since the 90’s. The difficulty is that for modern audiences the science seems a bit silly after a certain time and ends up dating the film.
- I’d have to look into it but I have the feeling that when bodies were transported in 1970’s England they weren’t put in mysterious silver space-boxes with windows on multiple sides as we see this morgue using. This detail jumps out at the viewer and jars the sense of realism in an unsatisfying way.
- Although I like most of the soundtrack there are times where the dated nature of the music really interferes with my enjoyment. Instead of building tension it simply reminds me of watching educational programs from the seventies and eighties.
- Boobs. Boobs? Boobs!
There’s this odd scene in the beginning where a young woman runs naked through traffic. I suppose it was meant to signify the culture of the town of the time with the 70’s in full swing and all but other than a quick excuse for some T&A I can’t figure out what it was even doing in the movie. Was it meant to disarm us or throw us off our guard? Did it represent the counterculture or the perception of young people as wild hedonists?
- It doesn’t actually have anything to do with Manchester.
It’s understandable that films like this get shopped around and have their titles changed for international audiences. In this case the British release title includes the Manchester Morgue although the story doesn’t take place in Manchester. It takes place in South Gate. This would be like an American movie being called the Boston Morgue Murders but actually never taking place in Boston. For audiences it would definitely seem a bit strange.
There are small plot points that are a bit cliche. When a person important to the plot just happens to be in the right place at the right time it’s to move the story forward and advance the plot. This can be pretty unrealistic though like when George is at the asylum. A nurse gets hurt and the doctor simply hands her off to George, a total stranger saying “Look after her.” Moments later George is there interacting with the baby that injured the nurse. It moves the story forward and informs the viewer but it doesn’t feel at all realistic.
All in all this was a great flick to spend an hour or so with.