Title: Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974) a.k.a. The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue
Director: Jorge Grau
Starring: Ray Lovelock, Cristina Galbo, Arthur Kennedy
I’m on a life long quest to see every important zombie movie ever made, and so far, I thought I had pretty much seen all the “important ones”. Boy was I wrong! The film I will be reviewing today, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie should be considered amongst one of the most important and influential zombie movies ever made. It is so damn underrated! Let Sleeping Corpses Lie was made by Spanish filmmaker Jorge Grau. The film was released and distributed under many different titles. Here is a list of all its different titles just so you have an idea:
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Don’t Open the Window
The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue
No Profanar el Sueno de los Muertos
Do not Speak Ill of the Dead
Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue
The Living Dead
Invasion of the Zombies
The Revenge of the Living Dead II
The Living Dead Massacre
One of this films many posters, this one is for Germany
When a film is released internationally, the titles often times change, this is a common practice. But I think this is one of the films with the most alternate titles! In reality, the films name is “No Profanar el Sueno de los Muertos” which literally translates to: Don’t Profane the Sleep of the Dead. I know this cause I’m fluent in Spanish. After all, it is my native tongue! So anyhows, I think the title that comes closest to that is definitely Let Sleeping Corpses Die.
The story is about this young English art collector who is going on a trip to sell these statues to an art dealer on another town. So he takes his motorcycle and off he goes. At one point he stops to gas up and while he goes to get something to drink, a young lady who is also stopping for gas runs over his motorcycle by mistake! So what does he do? He leaves his bike there and has her take him to his destination. Realizing she was responsible for destroying his only means for transportation, she agrees, but asks him to take her to her sisters house first. Unfortunately for them, she forgets the way to her sisters house and they end up in the middle of nowhere! The guy gets out to ask for directions. While walking around, he sees these farmer/scientists experimenting with these new machines that use sound waves to kill ants and insects that might be dangerous to their crops. Unfortunately, these machines not only kills insects, they also bring the dead back to life!
Seriously folks; this film is one of the most underrated zombie films ever! It should be hailed as one of the best zombie films ever made. Its true, director Jorge Grau was asked by the films producer to do a film along the lines of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (“This is like Night of the Living Dead, but in color!”) and for all intents and purposes Id say that he succeeded. But the film does go its own way and it has its own style. Its even gorier then the film that it’s trying to emulate. Night of the Living Dead (1968) is a zombie film, but it’s not all that graphic or gory except for some key sequences of solid flesh eating. But in contrast, once Let Sleeping Corpses Lie turns up its juice, it turns into one hell of a gory flick! The thing about this movie is that it slowly builds up to the zombies, it takes a while before we actually get to see some zombie mayhem, but once the film opens its gory doors, its an onslaught of gory zombie madness. So you need to be a bit patient before zombies show up, but to be honest, the film is so beautifully shot, I didn’t mind this at all.
Jorge Graus direction and cinematography is one of the things that makes it special. Something that foreign films benefit from are these beautiful locations they can shoot in. Parts of this film were shot in Italy, Spain and England. As a result, we get these beautiful shots of mountain sides, city landscapes and nature that makes the film naturally beautiful without the need to resort to sets or special effects. They shot in a real cemetery in a historical English graveyard! The cemetery scenes were amazing, unfortunately Grau and his film crew where asked to leave the cemetery because some people thought they were treating the cemetery disrespectfully, which is really ironic when you see the films title! The opening sequence of the film is a beautiful montage of city scenes, where we get to see society indulging in pollution and over population. We see a decaying city, garbage on the streets, car exhaust, and a lady streaking through traffic for no reason whatsoever. I guess it’s a way of showing societies excesses, and the way we abuse the environment, because that’s really one of the films themes. But what I loved about that opening sequence is how beautifully shot it is. It shows beauty in ugliness. Then in contrast, the main character drives around his motorcycle through these amazing natural vistas that just made the film that much more beautiful.
Interesting then how all that beauty suddenly comes in clashing with the second half of the film which concerns itself with the living dead and so much gore! Once we get past all the set up and the getting to know the characters part of the film, we go to what we came here to see: some dead people coming back to life! The thing about this movie is that its not about hundreds and hundreds of zombies coming back to life. On this film, the machines only bring back to life about three zombies, and this in turn start to wake others up. This gives the movie its unique touch: zombies can bring other zombies back to life by smothering them with the blood of humans. So the blood can also bring the dead back to life. But the few zombies we do get to see are more then enough of a threat, cause they are vicious flesh eaters and represent a deadly threat to our protagonist who not only run from the living dead, but from the police as well. The police have not seen a zombie yet, so they think that all the murders are being committed by the two young protagonists. The police choose to believe that these kids are Satan worshippers and that this is why there are so many profaned graves and murders.
The film touches upon many themes, but not too deeply. The social commentary does not take over the film. The film puts these themes on the table for your consideration, but doesn’t overtly linger on them. For example, the main character is an art collector/seller who is carrying these statues with him to sell them to an art collector across town. When the police discover he has these statues with him, they ignorantly accuse him of being a Satanist. Another issue addressed here is how often times the government (in this case the police) wrongly accuses people for things they never did, and they have to pay for it. They get all the facts wrong and come to conclusions simply on assumptions. The movie also addresses the issue of generation gaps. Older characters in the film hate the young simply because they dress differently. In one scene the cop (who is made out to be a villain through out the whole film) sees the young protagonist and accuses him of dressing like a homosexual spewing lines like: “You’re all the same the lot of you, with your long hair and faggot clothes. Drugs, sex and every sort of filth!” Come on, the guy just likes to dress in style! In this way the film criticizes the one sided old fashioned mentality, that doesn’t want to allow new things to come and change the old. Add to that the films environmentalist message, and we got ourselves a zombie movie with some social criticism in its subtext.
One look at this film and you will immediately see just how many other films it has influenced. The zombies on this film all have blood shot red eyes, extremely similar to the red eyes seen in Danny Boyles 28 Days Later (2002). I’m sure Fulci’s Zombie (1979) was influenced by this one as well! And for all its gut munching glory Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985) truly do owe a lot to this particular film which did it all waaaay before Romero ever did in Dawn and Day. You thought that zombie baby in Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead (2004) was original? That’s because you had not seen this film! So my friends, what we got in our hands with Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is a truly influential zombie film that is extremely underrated! I got sucked into this movie right away number one because of the beautiful way it was shot and number two because once things get going, the events turn really grizzly! A zombie film that needs more attention, so if you’re a zombie head like me; do yourself a favor and check this one out!
Rating: 5 out of 5