Blood, guts, and some dodgy British accents… you’ll find all these and much more in The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, the underrated schlock horror from Spanish filmmaker Jorge Grau.Made just six years after Night of the Living Dead hit cinemas and considered by many as a genre classic, Romero may have stolen Grau’s thunder when it comes to walking corpse tales but rest assured, this zombie film has just as much bite as its overseas counterparts.
George, a humourless cockney lad has his journey to Windermere cut short when he’s forced to escort Edna, a young flame haired trouble magnet to visit her addict sister Katie deep in the countryside. Meanwhile, local scientists testing out a new form of radiation designed to kill every farmer’s worst enemy, insects, are oblivious to the fact their state of the art equipment is having some unwanted side effects…
That’s right; it’s only gone and woken the dead! Bloody scientists…
After a scuffle with a recently deceased hobo leaves Katie’s spouse lifeless, George and Edna soon have a hardnosed copper with a vendetta against the youthful couple and everything their generation represents on their case convinced that they’re responsible for the murder. What follows is a series of Scooby Doo style encounters, with the radioactive undead terrorising our falsely accused pair and disappearing just in time for the arrival of the spiteful Police Inspector.
What makes Grau’s 1979 classic, well…a classic, is its wonderful balance of cliché flaws and moments of spot on perfection. With an almost entirely Spanish cast, Grau’s attempts at cherry picking the ideal voice over artists have some pretty hilarious results. With some truly bizarre accents on display, who knew small rural villages in the UK were home to such diversely sounding inhabitants? While the overdubs will keep you smirking for the first half of the movie, it’s when the dead finally rise where Grau proves his worth. Some inventive camera work mixed with an eerie, sonic landscape soundtrack, comprising of the moans and groans of Grau himself, gives the finished product a truly creepy quality. One nail biting sequence in particular involving George and Edna making a quick escape from a graveyard tomb with the lumbering undead dangerously close behind them will have you shouting at the screen.
From the outset – the grainy film quality, questionable special effects and a leading man who resembles a runner up in a Barry Gibb lookalike contest, the film looks more seventies exploitation than supernatural thriller, and in a way it is. All good zombie flicks are a social comment in disguise and The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue is no different: The good die young as the old and corrupt attempt to regain order, and it’s not until the movie’s final frames that some much needed justice is served. Having gained a cult following in the years since its release, not least because of its numerous, bizarre title translations, (in the USA it’s known as Don’t Open the Window. God knows why) it’s attracted countless fans including Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright. By today’s standards the film does look dated – you’d expect to find this living dead delight lurking on late night terrestrial T.V and you’d be forgiven for taking one brief look before skipping channels sharpish, but stay with it and you’d discover one of the genres best offerings.
Given a quick polish with this DVD re-release whilst holding on to its cobbled together charm, If you’re looking for a genuinely well made, retro scare then look no further.