The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue

10/08/2018 08:01

Film: The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (No profanar el sueño de los muertos)

Year: 1974

Director: Jorge Grau

Writer: Sandro Continenza and Marcello Coscia

Starring: Cristina Galbó, Ray Lovelock and Arthur Kennedy



This was a film that I was turned on to thanks to the Podcast Under the Stairs' Summer Challenge Series. This came up as one of the 10 best films from 1974, so it went on my list to check out. I've now given this a second watch as part of my Foray through the Fours.

Synopsis: a cop chases two hippies suspected of a series of Manson family-like murders; unbeknownst to him, the real culprits are the living dead, brought to life with a thirst for human flesh by ultrasonic radiation being used for pest control.

We start this with a man from London who is heading up to sell an artifact to a local shop. He is George Meaning (Ray Lovelock). He takes his motorcycle when he meets a woman at a gas station, Edna Simmonds (Cristina Galbó). She accidentally backs into his motorcycle. It needs repairs that won't be finished until Monday. To make up for it, she offers him a ride. She doesn't know where she's going so she has him drive. I do have to point out, George is a jerk here. He has the right to be mad, but he tells Edna what they are going to do and she puts up no fight whatsoever.

They come to a crossroads and he decides to go his way, but she freaks out. She is going to see her sister and she must get there as soon as they can. They are at a brief impasse because what he needs to do is time sensitive too. He gives in and goes to drop her off. I also found this odd, but she is going to let this man she doesn’t know borrow her car for the rest of the weekend. I guess it was a different time and country.

She isn’t completely sure where to go so they stop off for directions. They end up finding this experiment going on where they are using sound vibrations and radiation instead of pesticides. This bothers George and he gets into it with the group conducting this experiment. Back at the car, Edna is attacked by a man who is soaking wet. Turns out he is a zombie. George and one of the men come back as she is fleeing, but they don’t see anyone. There is a joke that she saw the ghost of a local tramp who drowned, Guthrie Wilson (Fernando Hilbeck).

That night her sister’s husband is murdered by Guthrie. The inspector (Arthur Kennedy) believes it was his wife, Katie (Jeannine Mestre), that did it. He also thinks that George and Edna are in on it. No one believes Edna, until George has a run in with the zombies as well. Guthrie can turn others who have recently died into one of the living dead. It becomes a race to stop the zombies while the police are after George and Edna.

That is where I'll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I'll start is that I enjoy the underlying theme of protecting the environment and how experiments can hurt the ecological balance of the Earth. That ends up being the way these dead come back. It is crazy this film came out in 1974 and we are still dealing with issues like this 50+ years later. I am a firm believer in science, but there must be testing to ensure things don’t hurt the environment. I'll move on.

Another positive is that this doesn't waste time and gets into it. It’s early on that Guthrie attacks. We get long stretches without attacks as they fill in story. This frustrated me the first time I saw this, but I didn't feel that this time. The zombies are good so that helps. These aren't traditional ones. I think this is a bit of trappings that we see in the Lucio Fulci's Gates of Hell trilogy in that the zombies don’t follow their own rules. As there are more of them, they do, but I don’t buy Guthrie not going after those early on when they appear. There are also issues where a car is traveling one place, but Guthrie seems to teleport there. This doesn't ruin the movie, but observations I have both times.

The setting of the film was something I needed to touch on as well. I thought it looked amazing with the hills and the isolated countryside. Plus, these are in smaller villages. That does allow people to not know, like the police, that there are zombies. Everyone also moves on after the attacks so they're seeing the aftermath. That was a good touch since this is the beginning of the attacks.

Let's discuss zombies. They do have super strength, which can be inconsistent. I did love that we get a Night of the Living Dead scene of the zombies eating people, just in color. It looked quite real as did the rest of the effects. They were practical which I loved and it showed in this film. The zombies also moved good so credit to them. I like how they were slow-moving. I do have to point out; they were almost running in one of the hospital scenes which is another inconsistency.

There isn't more to go into for the story so over to the acting. I thought it was solid. Galbó works as one our female lead. I didn’t like that she got bossed around like she does for a good portion. I do think that was partially due to the times and how it was written. She also wrecked George's bike. She does show good fear though. Lovelock was solid as her counterpart even though he is a real jerk. I do like that he does embody that hero as the film progresses. His worrying about the environment is also a plus. Kennedy is also quite hard but adds to an interesting dynamic. He believes in what is real and what he can see. He thinks that Galbó and Lovelock are the criminals and will stop at nothing to get them. It doesn’t ruin anything though. The performances fit what was needed by the supporting cast. There are odd characters that work.

All that is left then is filmmaking. Something that was great was the effects. I like that upon Martin’s (José Lifante) death we hear that all his bones in his midsection were broken. We see that they do eat their victims so that was why everything. Credit the sound design for that as well. Finally, is the soundtrack, which didn’t stand out to me. What is good though is the design. I do know that they used the radio at one point to listen about ecological problems due to chemicals and experiments. I thought that was an interesting way of introducing that angle as well as getting George’s feelings in it. There's also this noise that is emitted by the machine that results in radiation.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this the first time around and it held up with a rewatch. I thought the ecological angle was interesting and something that is still relevant today. Having an isolated location is good. I'd say that this is also well-made, which helps. The zombies are the best part with their look and how they move, even though there are inconsistencies with their abilities. The effects and cinematography are good. The gore was as well. I also like the sound design. I'd recommend this one if you want a solid, foreign zombie film.


My Rating: 7.5 out of 10