By Armando Inquig
Director Jorge Grau’s “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” is a hidden gem of the horror genre. Released in 1974, this Spanish-Italian co-production tells the story of a couple who inadvertently become involved in a zombie outbreak that takes place in the countryside of Northern England.
A striking aspect of the film is the social commentary and ecological themes, which were quite ahead of its time, as it highlights the dangers of industrialization and the exploitation of the environment. The message is subtle, but the plot is layered with political and philosophical subtext, atypical for a zombie movie of that time.
The film follows George (played by Ray Lovelock), a London-based antique dealer, traveling to the countryside to make a delivery. Along the way, he met Edna (Cristina Galbó) who is traveling to visit her sister.
As they travel through the countryside, they begin to notice strange occurrences, such as dead animals and machines that seem to be causing ecological damage. They soon encounter a group of aggressive zombies, but manage to escape and seek help from the authorities. However the local police, led by Sergeant McCormick (played by Arthur Kennedy), are skeptical of George and Edna’s claims of a zombie outbreak.
Meanwhile, a scientist named Prof. Dreyton (played by Ángel del Pozo) is conducting experiments involving ultrasonic radiation, which he believes can be used to stimulate plant growth. However, his experiments have unintended consequences, as they seem to be reanimating the dead and causing them to become violent zombies.
As the outbreak intensifies, George and Edna team up to navigate the treacherous terrain and confront not only the zombies but also the skeptical authorities who are slow to believe their claims.
The cast delivers solid performances, particularly Ray Lovelock as the rebellious George and Cristina Galbó as the innocent Edna.
The cinematography is gritty and atmospheric. The makeup and special effects are impressive considering the film’s modest budget. The zombies are grotesque, with enough gore, though not excessive which is credit to the film’s patient pacing, but it is enough to make genre fans squirm. The score by Giuliano Sorgini is haunting and atmospheric, with eerie synth melodies.
Overall, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is a standout horror film that is it thought-provoking and thrilling that make it a true classic of the genre.
“The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue”, also known as “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie” and “Don’t Open the Window,” is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray.