Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Dead By Dawn 2018: The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue (1974)

AKA Let Sleeping Corpses Lie.

A favourite among many zombie movie fans, The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue is as bizarre a blend of rotting cadavers, dubbing, and odd Britishness as you should probably expect from the title.

I should also say right now that it's not really as good as I remember, and it's hard to understand quite why it has maintained such an enduring reputation over the years. There are many good moments throughout, undeniabley, but the pacing is slower than a snail's pace, and the main characters are nearly impossible to like and root for.

Ray Lovelock is George Meaning, a young man (or damn hippy, depending on your viewpoint) heading out for a trip on his motorbike. Cristina Galbo is Edna Simmonds, a young woman who reverses into George's motorbike. That puts the two of them together for the rest of the movie, as they travel through the British countryside and discover a number of lively corpses that end up killing people. The police (led by an Inspector, played by Arthur Kennedy) obviously don't believe the truth. Because who would?

Directed by Jorge Grau, and written by Sandro Continenza and Marcello Coscia, this is a film that places atmosphere and one or two set-pieces above everything else. Which is fine, especially when you get to the set-pieces, and especially when you have the scenes that have the atmosphere laid on as thick as it can be (soil-covered, shambling zombies look great, tension is created, and there's also some good sound design to help). It's just not so fine for the other 50-odd minutes of the runtime.

It's hard to rate the performances of Lovelock, Galbo, and Kennedy, although the latter gets to spit out some wonderfully derisory soundbites, because the script is so bad in sketching out their characters. Lovelock comes across as a bit of a douchebag, at best, while Galbo is just too simpering and passive throughout. Kennedy is a horrible authority figure, but he's at least consistently amusing with it (not necessarily intentionally).

I can't say that this is a BAD film. The explanation for the reanimation of the corpses is a pretty good one, the plotting is silly but also a bit more focused than many other zombie movies, the undead all look . . . very peaky, and the punchline is a bit of a corker. It's just a shame that the script and performances drag things down quite a bit, although many other horror fans seem to be able to overlook those things while they bask in its redeeming qualities.


This zombie film can be bought here.

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