The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974) DVD review
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A remastered and well-known 1970s zombie entry - but is it a classic brain-chewer...?
To understand the zombie sub genre you really have to either open your mind very wide or just simply leave your brain at the door; in the case of The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, the latter is recommended. You'll attract fewer zombies, and additionally be less disappointed.
This film, digitally restored or not, is shamelessly low budget, albeit offering more than an enjoyably sly nod towards George Romero's classic series of zombie films.
The main problem here is that the movie proceeds at the gait of a particularly disabled zombie, with no indication of where the story is going and why we should keep watching.
Our hero is George (Ray Lovelock), a Southern man: brooding, sunglasses, motorcycle -the lot. You can almost smell his masculinity penetrating the stench of re-animated flesh. George is paired with auburn haired Edna (Christine Galbo) through a crooked twisted of fate (she knocks over his motorcycle with her car), seemingly going in different directions but bonded together in the Northern moors.
As George searches for help, Edna is attacked by one of the undead, in a scene which lacks real suspense, with Guiliano Gorgini's keyboard theme used very fleetingly in the build up to the attack. George at this time discovers an insect-killing machine, which in turn is bringing the dead back to life, although this is not indicated at this time.
One of the cleverer moments is the first death scene, where we are given the indication that Edna's sister Katie is set to become zombie-fodder- but in a minor twist, her photographer boyfriend Martin is attacked instead.
In the aftermath the police do the best thing for Katie and send her to the local Mental Hospital - in the middle of nowhere. At the same hospital we find out that babies in the infant ward, are demonstrating homicidal tendencies (one of them bites George).
One of the finest set pieces is produced in a graveyard shortly afterwards, to peak interest again, as George looks to prove to Edna that the man who attacked her earlier on is actually dead and in his grave (of course he isn't). There is the disturbing imagery of our 'happy' couple having to escape an underground mortuary through an actual grave.
The zombies actually begin to get creative here as well, as they tear six foot gravestones out of the ground and proceed to use them as weapons against the police officers who accompany George and Edna.
"For a zombie film the lack of gore here is bizarre, with only one really gruesome scene where a receptionist at the hospital is literally ripped apart by a gang of zombies."
Of course the police don't believe George's story and proceed to arrest him for the murders, but he manages to escape.
For a zombie film the lack of gore here is bizarre, with only one really gruesome scene where a receptionist at the hospital is literally ripped apart by a gang of zombies.
The most surprising thing about Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is that we are not treated to a happy ending of any sort, which after a very drawn-out 90 minutes, is something of a let-down.. The Hammer-style, fiery finale doesn't fit with what has come before it, and feels out of place.
Manchester Morgue lacks pace and suspense, though the leads do try their best to pull the material out of the straight-to-video bin.
The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is released from Optimum Classic on the 7th June
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