Friday, 8 February 2013

Review - The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974 - Dir. Jorge Grau)

A young evlkeith in training (age 8) was given a book for Christmas. It was a horror book. It was filled with stills from all manner of horror films, in particular the Universal monster films and Hammer Horrors. One particular image stuck in my mind of a man with a bandaged head and a large sutured scar running right down the middle of his body. My little underdeveloped mind dreamt of this forbidden film, filled with terrifying sights like this.

You may have guessed that the film in question is The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue. What you might not have guessed is that when I was a very little baby evlkeith they were filming this just down the road in the Peak District near Sheffield. I could have gone and been a baby zombie extra. But for a film with this title it didn't actually get that close to Manchester. Or to its morgue.

Title pickiness aside this is a pleasant surprise considering some of the other low quality zombie efforts from around that time. You can tell that Jorge Grau has thought carefully about his film. He refers to ecological disasters, is particularly irreverent towards the police and put a lot of effort into the sound design and music. Shame he didn't put more thought into cutting a distinctly dubious shot comparing a young girl with Down's Syndrome to a leering zombie face. 

George (Ray Lovelock) is a cheeky cockney fellow who runs a swanky art shop. He soon runs into Edna (Christina Galbo). Well, rather she runs into his bike. They embark on a journey to Windemere for various reasons but some naughty zombies have different ideas. The first of many iconic zombies we meet is Guthrie (Fernando Hilbeck) who drowned and died until he was dead. Another interesting move by the director was to constantly shoot Guthrie wet as if the zombies are permanently stuck in their moment of death. Things then go increasingly downhill for our two chums with them being accused of committing the zombie perpetrated murders by the slightly over zealous police Sergeant (Arthur Kennedy).

One aspect that lets down the slightly more intelligent feel of this film is the dubbing. It is more like Eurotrash. Ray Lovelock has a particularly unfortunate cockney accent and sounds similar to Eric Idle. Being a Spanish/Italian co-production it seems doubtful that there was ever an undubbed version. To be kind you could say that it adds an air of frivolity to counteract some of the more gruesome goings on.

The gore now is a tad on the tame side but the entrail eating was probably too much for Mary Whitehouse at the time. (It got on the illustrious Video Nasty list, perversely guaranteeing that everyone wanted to see it.) As with some other zombie films of this era (Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror and Nightmare City) the director included a scene of breast reduction surgery performed by a zombie. Not entirely pleasant.

It's worth watching, if only for the memorable zombies. Given that the make-up is nearly non-existent, they are still hold up well against the current crop of zombies. Throw in a couple of comedy scientists and a bizarre streaker incident, and an entertaining time post-pub on a Friday night is ensured.

(Average rating for the season so far = 5.8)

If you like this you could also try:
Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, Zombie Flesh Eaters, City of the Living Dead.

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