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Living Dead At Manchester Morgue (Special Edition), The
For whatever reason, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue (also known as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and Don't Open The Window) never seemed like a 'real' zombie movie to me. Though it has all the requisite elements of a modern zombie film - dead people coming back to life and instances of extreme gore - it simply stands apart. Now, with this reissue of a pretty recent release, (the same as the Limited Edition release from 2020, minus the steelbook packaging, collector's booklet, slipcover, and soundtrack CD) I have a chance to reassess it. And you know what? It STILL doesn't feel like a 'real' zombie movie, but what it is, is a pretty great movie with zombies, instances of extreme gore, likable characters and a plot that is engaging throughout. That's a hell of a lot more than can be said about many modern zombie movies.
Living Dead starts off in perfectly disorienting fashion, with scenes of busy Manchester traffic and pollution and naked ladies running through the streets, followed by a relatively implausible set-up that sets the stage well for the unbelievable events that follow. Edna (Cristina Galbo) is gassing up on her way to visit her sister in the country when she accidentally backs into the motorcycle of George (Ray Lovelock) who is more-or-less heading the same way. A broken bike and chippy exchange leads them to carpool together into the hinterlands, with an aggrieved George at the wheel. Meantime, the Ministry of Agriculture is testing a pest control device on the fields, one that employs sonic radiation or something. As George and Edna soon find out, that pest control device also has the pesky side-effect of bringing the recently dead back to life with, you guessed it, the desire to eat the flesh of the living.
Completely reasonable subplots round out the movie's verisimilitude, (such as it is for a zombie movie) including Arthur Kennedy as a non-believing Inspector with a hatred for hippies like George, and Edna's sister Katie (Jeannine Mestre) who's halfheartedly trying to kick a heroin habit. Complicating matters are the zombies, whose violent ministrations point the finger at George, at least as far as the inspector is concerned. A race against the clock, a little bit of siege mentality, some mild detective work and a few gory highlights rumble along before we viewers are sent blinking into the daylight, hoping not to have our guts munched-upon.
The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue has a lot going for it, not the least of which are a full slate of quite excellent performances, especially from the trio of Galbo, Lovelock, and Kennedy. Lovelock crafts a not-entirely-pleasant demeanor as George, cocky and impudent, but entirely willing to shoulder the burdens thrown at him. Galbo too comports herself with complete believability, scared, strong, and dedicated, while Kennedy's copper, cynical and hateful, is a spot-on depiction of the mistrust coming from old-guard conservatives.
Then there are the zombies, whom are the primary vector of diversion (at least in my addled mind) from your typical Italian or Stateside gut-muncher. (Though the movie is set in the English Countryside, director Jorge Grau was a Spaniard, and the movie a Spanish-Italian co-production.) These zombies are really fresh, (which ties into the machinations of their revival, plot-wise) so there's little in the way of rotting and shambling. In fact they're so fresh that when they decide to they can move pretty darn fast! (They may be the original fast zombies, in fact, predating Lenzi's Nightmare City by several years.) They're also much stronger than you'd expect, able to employ heavy tombstones like battering rams if necessary. Nor do they represent the typical horde. There's never more than three or four harassing folks at any given time. In appearance, they can be odd, especially the hairy guy in a diaper with a fresh autopsy scar. He's so unique-looking as to be symbolic of something, even in his odd mannerisms, as he kneels primly to snack. But, for the most part, the snacking they do will satisfy fans of old-school practical gore, with a few handfuls of viscera chewed-upon, torsos torn open, and breasts hastily ripped off. (It's OK, I know that's why you're here.) So, for gory agitators, they're alright, just not your typical zombies, nor is The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue your typical zombie movie. It's fairly believable, well-acted, moves at a nice pace, it's atmospheric, and delightfully disturbing. On the whole, I'd call this release Highly Recommended, assuming you didn't bite for the identical Limited Edition released by Synapse in 2020.
The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue is presented here by Synapse in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This 4K scan is the same as from the limited edition release in 2020, and looks great! Film grain looks natural, and while a bit heavy at times, certainly maintains the filmic feel. Detail levels are pretty great for the most part, outlining the crazy pupils of the zombies and swarms of fruit flies surrounding the lead zombie as he's munching on a liver, (must have been a nauseating scene to film) and hold up well in dark scenes too. The 35mm source can get a bit hazy in the distance during outdoor shots, but overall this looks great. Colors are vivid, especially so when blood is present, blood which looks quite natural. Film damage, dirt, and compression artifacts are not an issue.
Audio comes in two forms, an exclusive 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix (done for the Limited Edition release in 2020) plus the restored 'true original English language theatrical mono mix' also in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 format. The 5.1 mix beefs things up, adding separation to the evocative score, as well as bringing an intense dimensionality to most other audio aspects. Dialog is clean and clear, if not a tad on the treble side, and its strength in presentation accentuates somewhat that fact that it was dubbed. The mono track sounds fine as well.
All the extras from the 2020 release are ported over, including Two Commentary Tracks, one by Troy Howarth, and the other by Nathaniel Thompson and Bruce Holecheck. Both contain plenty of global information as well as behind the scenes tid-bits specific to the film itself, and both are well worth your time. You also get a Feature Length Documentary (89 minutes) about director Jorge Grau's career, which is wide-ranging and fascinating. Special effects and makeup maestro Gianetto De Rossi gets a 15-minute Featurette, The Scene Of The Crime, to talk about his experiences on the film, and in general, as well as his opinions on horror movies, etc. De Rossi also sits down for a 43-minute Q&A at the UK Festival of Fantastic Films in 2019. The theatrical Trailer, T.V. Spots, Radio Spots and English Subtitles round out the robust package.
The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue is not your typical zombie movie. It's fairly believable as far as zombie movies go, it's well-acted, moves at a nice pace, is atmospheric, and delightfully disturbing. On the whole, I'd call this extras-packed release Highly Recommended, assuming you didn't bite for the identical Limited Edition released by Synapse in 2020.