‘Let Sleeping Corpses Lie’ (1974) review

20 Aug

Some girls have always dreamt of a Knight in shining armour riding in on a white horse and saving them from danger, resulting in them falling deeply in love shortly after. For me, it’s Ray Lovelock as George in The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue that I’ll always be hoping will one day fight off zombies and save my life. That shaggy hair, that hippie beard, his wise cracking one-liners, his no-bullshit attitude, that hairy chest you just want to snuggle into… I could just rip that blue checked shirt right off…

Ahem, I digress. The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, an Italian/Spanish co-production shot and set in England, was originally released in 1974 and has the honour of having one of the greatest film names in the whole of cinematic history, whilst being known under a plethora of others. You may know it as Zombi 3, The Living Dead, Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue, No Profanar El Sueno De Los Muertos, Do Not Speak Ill of the Dead, Invasion der Zombies, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie or Don’t Open The Window. Directed by Jorge Grau and boasting special effects make up by Giannetto De Rossi (Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Beyond, Switchblade Romance), this is a slow-moving zombie flick that manages to grab your attention and stay with you long after it’s over.

Granted, for a zombie picture the plot is nothing less than your generic scenario seen countless times before and since. George (Ray Lovelock) is going away to the Lake District for the weekend and manages to get his motorcycle damaged by Edna (Cristina Galb) who also has a weekend excusion planned. After sorting out travel arrangements (George feels that Edna owes him a ride after knocking over his bike), the two make their way to Edna’s sister’s house passing a huge agricultural experimental machine in the nearby farming fields. The machine is supposed to cause insects to fight each other and kill themselves using ultrasonic waves. Except that it also manages to bring the dead to life within a 5 mile radius and things start to go from bad to worse…

The Living Dead has some great moments. Arthur Kennedy stars as The Sergeant determined to bring our two innocent leads down for fear they might be hippie Satanists, and if he can’t shoot them with a bullet he’ll try with some great lines instead (‘You’re all the same, the lot of you with your long hair and faggot clothes’). The zombies have a great design, with memorable contacts that look like red splashes in their eyes and an iconic looking zombie in the hospital patient who sports a huge scar down his chest where he clearly had a recent post mortem. Add on top of that a smack addicted sister, policemen who are excited about an apple crop, zombies who can’t be photographed, lots of gore, environmental scientists who probably wished they were around in this decade instead and some seriously strong newborn babies. This film is nothing but a winner.

While the film works as a fantastic entry into the zombie genre, to me it will always be a story about unrequited love. The two leads, Lovelock and Galb play off of each other’s performances so well even if, in the odd scene or two, they are just a tad wooden. They try so hard to stay alive that you feel so sorry for them when at the end of the film they both die and don’t even get to spend a dirty night together. But I guess that’s what you get from going to the Lake District. If you learn anything from this film it’s this; you’re more than likely to die if there’s a zombie outbreak in the quaint, quiet town you’re spending the weekend in because there’s simply no one around to help. That and the fact that the film is not even set in Manchester. Liars.

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