.post-body img { max-width: 200px; max-height:auto; }

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Movie Review - "The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue" (1974)

In 1968 with The Night of the Living Dead, George Romero ushered in the modern take on the zombie that all know today; shambling, bloodthirsty, and hard to (re)kill outside of a bullet to the brain.  Throughout the next decade until his sequel, Dawn of the Dead, landed, there were many similar, or at least like-minded entries in the sub-genre out of Europe. Jean Rollin’s Grapes of Death (1978), Bob Clark’s Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1973), and Jorge Grau's Living Dead at Manchester Morgue are just a few. Here in the latter, as the synopsis reads, "A strange twist of fate brings two young travelers, George (Ray Lovelock - The Cassandra Crossing) and Edna (Christine Galbo - What Have You Done to Solange?), to a small town where an experimental agricultural machine may be bringing the dead back to life! As zombies infest the area and attack the living, a bullheaded detective (Arthur Kennedy) thinks the couple are Satanists responsible for the local killings. George and Edna have to fight for their lives, and prove their innocence, as they try to stop the impending zombie apocalypse!"

There's plenty to like about this oft-overlooked gem. Our main characters, though never romantically entangled, have a nice, believable bond (thanks to Lovelock and Galbo's work) that develops as they are given sideways glances by the locals and ultimately suspected of the foul play that develops because they're young "hippies". The effects by make-up artist Giannetto De Rossi are very well done and include what you'd expect - some disembowelment, "cannibalism", and plenty of blood (all of which landed it on the UK's dreaded "video nasties" list).  It should also be mentioned that cinematographer Francisco Sempere does an excellent job with the varied locations, from creepy crypts to beautiful exteriors (and everything in-between).
Like any zombie movie worth its weight, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue has a socio-political message.  The opening of the film gives us glimpses of a pollution-ridden London with smokestacks billowing out their smoggy clouds and trash littering the streets. At the time, the hypothesized solution to all of this industrial waste was nuclear energy, but here it’s sort of lumped in with the other problems; we see some cooling towers in the opening and the “experimental agricultural machine” mentioned in the synopsis uses radiation as part of its method of getting rid of the bugs that are destroying crops. Finally, there’s the clash between the old guard’s way of life (in the form of Arthur Kennedy’s police inspector) and that of our progressive-minded protagonists.
Initially, in 2020, Synapse Films took the original 35mm camera negative of the film and restored it, giving it a much welcomed 4K treatment, and released the film in a limited-edition three-disc SteelBook. While this release doesn't come with all of the extras that the SteelBook had (like a DVD copy and a soundtrack CD), it DOES contain a few new extra features and is a far superior offering than the Blu-ray that Blue Underground offered up back in 2009 with bloodier blood, fleshier flesh and much richer colors overall. So if you missed that 6000 unit release by Synapse a couple of years ago, this is most certainly the version of the film to get.

  • Exclusive new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative
  • New 5.1 English stereo surround remix made exclusively for the Synapse Films release
  • Two audio commentaries featuring authors and film scholars Troy Howarth, Nathaniel Thompson and Bruce Holecheck
  • Restoration of the true original English language theatrical mono mix
  • Jorge Grau - Catalonia’s Cult Film King (89 mins) – This extensive feature-length documentary explores the life and films of director Jorge Grau
  • The Scene of the Crime - Giannetto De Rossi in Discussion from Manchester (16 Mins)
  • Giannetto De Rossi - Q&A at the Festival of Fantastic Films, UK (43 Mins)
  • Theatrical trailer, TV spots and radio spots
  • Newly translated removable English SDH subtitles
  • Region Free

Directed by: Jorge Grau
Screenplay by: Marcello Coscia and Sandro Continenza
Genre: Horror
Distributed by: Synapse Films
Starring: Arthur Kennedy, Ray Lovelock, Christine Galbo
Running time: 93 minutes
Rated: NR
Aspect Ratio: High-Definition 1080p (1.85:1) Presentation
Format: 1080p Blu-ray
Region: All Regions
Release date: (original) September 30, 1974 - (Blu-ray) June 7, 2022

 "...if you missed the [limited-edition three-disc SteelBook] release by Synapse a couple of years ago, this is most certainly the version of the film to get."
-By Mike Imboden


No comments:

Post a Comment

People Seem To Really Like This Stuff