My videotape of The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue is living proof of how Eurotrash this movie is: not only do I find myself watching a Spanish/Italian film with an international group of actors filmed in the United Kingdom, I’m also watching the Belgian version: dubbed in French with Dutch subtitles. Yes, in just that one sentence I managed to include half of the European union (well, before the EU as it was before another ten countries joined in May 2004).
Let’s try the other Eurotrash test: does the movie own a wide array of alternative titles?
Let’s see: originally released as Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti, the film is better known as The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue, except in the US where Let Sleeping Corpses Lie was deemed a more appropriate title.
The working title was Fin de semana para los muertos and my Belgian tape goes by the name of Le Massacre des Morts-Vivants and the film is also known as Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue, Don’t Open the Window, No profanar el sueño de los muertos and Sleeping Corpses Lie.
In Italy, the ongoing attempts to cash in on the success of Romero‘s Dawn of the Dead (released as Zombi in Italy) resulted in the alternative title Zombi 3 (Da dove vieni?), even though The Living Dead is four years older than Romero’s classic. To complicate matters even further, there actually is a real Zombi 3 (made in 1988) and in the US Zombi Holocaust was released as Zombie 3, so make sure you don’t pick up the wrong movie. (On a sidenote: the film Virus has both Zombi 4 ànd Zombi 5: Ultimate Nightmare as alternative titles, which in a way is quite a remarkable achievement.)
Cast and crew
Manchester Morgue is an interesting addition to the Vault, as it combines the subgenres of a zombie film with that of eco-horror. Even more surprising, the film is rather decent.
The director is one Jorge Grau who wrote and directed 30 movies, most of them completely forgotten. Only two films have made the step to video and DVD, the other film being Ceremonia sangrienta (Grau’s take on the Bathory story which also has an impressive set of alternative titles). None of his films have been released on DVD in Grau’s home country Spain.
All this makes it hard to say if Grau is a good director or not, but at least we’re left with at least one good film.
You’ve probably seen the leads in other Italian cult classics: Ray Lovelock has played in over 60 films, the best known being Macchie Solari (a.k.a. Autopsy). Cristina Galbó played in many gialli and sleazy films (I haven’t seen Sex Life In A Women’s Prison, but I wanna bet it’s a bit of sleaze) of which La Residencia (by the director of that other Vault film Quién Puede Matar A Un Niño?) and What have you done to Solange? are the most acclaimed.
They’re joined by Arthur Kennedy, whose filmography of over 80 films is worth looking up, if only to come across a bunch of classics (incl. Elmer Gantry, Fantastic Voyage and Lawrence of Arabia).
One of the most startling scenes in this film is the first scene: we see the main character leave his shop and for some reason the camera moves towards a painting and suddenly green concentric circles start flashing before your eyes. And while we’re on the subject of flashing: after that first scene the movie treats us to a handful of urban views, one of which is a running woman who’s running naked through town. The relevance of this scene is still completely unknown to me.
Manchester Morgue is a slow starter, it takes quite some time before Grau gets to the main story of the film: experimental pesticides have a slight side effect of bringing the dead back to life. As mentioned before, this rather silly concept is worked out so well it makes Manchester Morgue worth checking out (and not for the reasons you’d usually check out films with improbable plots, like The Giant Claw). Less convincing is the subplot that tries to convince us the pesticides also make babies become aggressive creatures. This subplot is downright silly and it’s worked out so hastily it makes the movie lose some punch.
After all Manchester Morgue manages to deliver quite a few punches: some zombie scenes are quite effective and overall the movie has a gritty quality, especially in the last part of the movie. If the combination of a zombie film with an ecological message already seemed a bit weird, you should be warned that Arthur Kennedy’s role as a police inspector mainly functions to add a little detective flavour to the movie. At the same time the police angle helps and bothers this movie: it adds a bit of realism to the film, but it also bothers the plot from developing naturally.
The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue is an interesting film: it has its failures, but all in all it’s astounding a movie that is such a melange of a handful of odd subgenres, manages to work in the end. It’s definitely not a masterpiece, but an essential cult classic.