Monday, June 30, 2014

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Don't Look In The Window, Don't Speak Ill Of The Dead,Breakfast at Manchester Morgue, ETC, ETC...). 
Directed By Jorge Grau, Starring Ray Lovelock (1974).

Back in the days of dusty old bootlegs, Skunkape lent me a shitty dupe of this movie that was covered in a thick fog of VHS haze and Japanese subs. I couldn't really enjoy the film, which is one of the first ever influenced by Night Of The Living Dead. According to Jorge Grau, some Italian investors elected him as the man that would bring NOTLD to the world "in color" even before Dawn or Zombi 2. There's never been a moment when Italians weren't trying to capitalize on some cult hit or blockbuster and I'm grateful for that! They took the same political context of Dead only this time blaming the agricultural dept. for the zombie plague. 
   The version I'm reviewing is the souped up classic Anchor Bay one (back when that label meant something). Blue-Underground has since re-issued it. The print is head and shoulders above that horrid video I had seen long ago, before DVD's existed. 

Holy out of date product placement Batman!

   George the Hippie (played by a bearded Ray Lovelock) is first seen riding around metropolitan London on his motorcycle, as a freewheelin' streaker girl runs across a busy street. He bumps into a whiny redhead named Edna (Cristina Galbo) and hitches a ride with her through the lush countryside. They don't really get along and sort of bicker at each other throughout the duration. George is kind of a snotty arrogant prick and later on gets bitch smacked by Arthur Kennedy, who plays a grouchy hippie hating sergeant. 

In the future everyone will play metal detector golf

   A high pitched sonic wave meant to control parasites emits from a giant red machine and starts to jostle the dead, it even makes newborns homicidal! I love how the zombies have these zonked out red irises, which were created by Lucio Fulci's main effects man Giannetto De Rossi. That was one of the main reasons I had to track down this film, which was incredibly rare at the time. When De Rossi's involved you're pretty much guaranteed an all out splatter-rama! There's one incredible effect toward the end with a secretary whose breasts and stomach contents get pulled open and devoured like a giant sack of Taco Bell Economy Meat! 

Taco Bell now serving Menudo Rojo

   Manchester Morgue has the vibe of a Hammer Film and the countryside creepiness reminds me of The Blind Dead or Jean Rollin. It was actually filmed in London in the historical grave sight of Robin Hood's pal Little John. 
   Fernando Hilbeck is Guthrie the first lumbering corpse we see first or the Bill Hinzman (NOTLD) figure, he constantly looks soaked and on the verge of catching hypothermia. 

Lane Meyer would you mind if I took out Beth now?
   Another character that soon becomes a worm feast named Martin (Jose Lifante), has the gaunt features of Vincent Schiavelli and Argento. He has thick brows and a chicken bone nose. His wife has even worse problems, after she cooks up a spoon for a nice heroin shot, she gets rudely interrupted by a ravenous zombie.
   After Guthrie caves in Martin's brain with a rock, the next morning the cops show up. The bitchy Irish sergeant (Kennedy) is a panic attack waiting to happen and becomes the proverbial bug up everyone's ass. 
   I remember being bored to tears by this film as a teenager but now after re-evaluating it, it's still a little tedious but a very intriguing film. 
   There's a suspicious mortuary truck filled with freezer coffins that seems too strange to ignore.

New Wonka designed coffins
   There's a hilarious bit of dialogue between George and the angry hippie-phobic Sergeant that was used for a sound clip on an Electric Wizard song. Nick Alexander (Al Cliver's disembodied voice) also plays one of the cops.
   George says the dead only walk in "bad paperback novels", ironically his name is George but doesn't mention the Romero films. The zombie mythos is different in this film, they can reanimate other corpses by blood contact and die by fire, not brain destruction. 
   To try and prove to Edna that there is no real undead threat, fucktard Lovelock proceeds to enter a mausoleum bursting with corpses. They all spring to life of course as both main characters get locked in with the creaky, raspy groaning deceased. Aside from the zombies, the townspeople seem to have some mental problems going on with them as well.  
   We don't get any real gore until the last 40 minutes, so make sure you stick around for the big payoff, it's worth every penny!

Stop poking me in the ear, tiny lady on my shoulder!

   I believe this film paved the way for Lucio Fulci, the undead seem too familiar for it to not be influential, this is 1974 after all. Zombie would hit the grindhouses five years later and there are a lot of elements that would eventually become the norm for exploitation films. There are a few disembowelment scenes sporadically paced to keep the momentum of the blame on the irresponsible Gov. causing the ecological problems and the finale is another major nod to NOTLD.
   Ray Lovelock started off in Italian Crime films like Emergency Squad, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (one of Ruggero Deodato finest moments) and Almost Human, working with Umberto Lenzi. After he appeared in this, he went onto to Autopsy with Mimsy Farmer and avoided horror roles until he wound up in Murder-Rock in 1984.  
   Jorge Grau would go onto to other non-horror projects but will always be remembered for this film. If this film had never been made, someone else in Italian exploitation would've certainly come along and attributed the George Romero original. I'm sure Fulci would've still gone onto what he does best. Manchester Morgue remains one of the best early examples that would inspire others to continue and create more gruesome zombie spectacles, this one just paved the way for everyone else!

OMG! These horse guts are scrumptious 

Can you help me reach that whiskey?

Oooh, those stairs are very steep!


  1. Really excellent review. I've always really liked this and your right, it does combine the WTF weirdness of Spanish horror with the look of a Hammer movie. Great stuff !

  2. Thanks Alvin, Yeah I'm glad I rewatched this because I remember being annoyed at the video quality and japanese subs on the dupe. These restored DVD's are the best thing about the modern age.

  3. One of my favorite movies of all life ...
    Very good review ..

  4. It took me awhile to get see the beauty of this film, but now I understand.


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