• Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue



    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: 10/27/2009
    Director: Jorge Grau
    Cast: Ray Lovelock, Christine Galbo, Arthur Kennedy
    Year: 1974
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    The Movie:

    Jorge Grau's 1974 zombie opus, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue was originally released on DVD back in the glory days of Anchor Bay Entertainment's Euro-Horror binge under the alternate title of Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. The disc eventually went out of print a few years later. Blue Underground re-released that same disc last year and have since gone back to the well one last time with a new two-disc special edition that blows away all prior DVD incarnations of the film.

    A man named George (Ray Lovelock) leaves the city on his motorbike to get away to his country home for a few days of rest and relaxation. When he stops for gas, a cute girl in an Austin Mini named Edna (Christine Galbo) backs into his bike and does some damage to the wheel. The mechanic says he won't be able to fix it until Monday and so George insists that Edna drive him to the country and she obliges. On the way they pass a farm field where a big truck is using radio waves to eliminate pests. George, an environmentalist at heart, is curious about this.

    When they come to a part of the road that looks impassable, George gets out to wander around while Edna stays with the car. While she's alone, a crazed and sickly looking man attacks her. By the time George arrives back at the car, however, the man is gone. The pair decides to head to Edna's sister's house but when they arrive, that same crazed man is in the process of attacking the man she lives with. The cops, lead by a fairly fascist detective (Arthur Kennedy) suspect that George and Edna are involved and order the two of them to stay in town while the investigation is underway. Unfortunately for all involved, the recently deceased are rising from their graves with a hunger for human flesh!

    Suspenseful and very tense, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue holds its own alongside genre giants like Romero's Night Of The Living Dead and Lucio Fulci's Zombie but, like Jean Rollin's Grapes Of Death (a film it shares some themes with) it doesn't seem to get the recognition that it deserves. Grau directs the film with style and skill, moving the action along at an appropriate pace ensuring that we get enough character development to matter but not so much as to overshadow the action and carnage. Once the zombie attack begins and the sub-plot with Kennedy's character really picks up, the film will have you on the edge of your seat.

    On top of a smart script with some interesting political overtones, the film also benefits from three solid performances. Christine Galbo is good as the 'damsel in distress' but the real chemistry in the film is between Kennedy and Lovelock, two polar opposites in society who make no false pretense as to their feelings towards one another. Add to this some fantastic gore effects from Giannetto De Rossi and an amazingly eerie score courtesy of Giuliano Sorgini and The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue comes up a winner. It's a smart, stylish and scary zombie movie that holds up just as well in this day and age as it probably did when it was first made in 1974.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    It's obvious from the opening frame that this 1080p AVC encoded 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is an immediate improvement over other DVD releases. Flesh tones look good, color reproduction is just a bit more vibrant and lifelike, and there's a very big increase is noticeable detail and texture throughout the movie. The image is clean and clear without looking over processed meaning that while there's a bit of welcome film grain, there isn't much in the way of actual print damage to note save for some minor specks here and there. Shadow detail is very strong and the encoding is great in that there isn't anything in the way of compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement to note. The movie looks great here, Blue Underground have done a very nice job indeed on this transfer.

    Take your pick of an English language DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track or the film's original Dolby Digital Mono mix (sadly, not a lossless track but at least it's here). Both sound fine, with the mono track the choice for purists allowing those who don't mind remixing so much to enjoy the more open sounding 7.1 track. The score is spread out nicely with some strong punch in the lower end while the bulk of the dialogue and action comes from the front of the soundstage. Optional subs are provided in English, French or Spanish.

    In addition to the international theatrical trailer and a North American theatrical trailer (under the Don't Open The Window alternate title, both in anamorphic widescreen there’s a US television spot, a couple of radio spots, and a still gallery of promotional photos and theatrical poster art. Not listed on the packaging but present on the disc is a video introduction from director Jorge Grau who tells us that he wants us to suffer while watching the movie! More substantial is the forty-five minutes featurette, Back To The Morgue where the film's director takes us on a modern day tour of the locations where the film was shot. We not only get a look at the countryside area where some scenes were shot but also the town where much of the film takes place. The building that was the hospital is now condemned but many of the locations look very similar to how they appear in the movie and don't look to have changed all that much. Grau comes across as a sharp and likeable guy with a good sense of humor and it's a lot of fun to let him play tour guide on this featurette.

    Up next is the sixteen minute Zombie Fighter featurette in which Ray Lovelock sits down in front of the camera to talk about his experiences on the film. Lovelock talks about how he got his start doing commercials before moving to feature films, and how he wound up singing in a band with Tomas Milian! From there he talks about a few of his films before zoning in on Morgue where he shares his thoughts on the film and on the people that he made the movie with. He claims to have very fond memories of making the movie and states that everyone worked 'in harmony' though he does mention that Galbo seemed sad during the film.

    Zombie Maker is a seventeen minute interview with legendary special effects expert Giannetto De Rossi, the man who was responsible for the zombie make up used in the picture. De Rossi gives us a quick overview of his career and explains how he started working in the film industry thanks in no small part to the efforts of his father. From there he talks about a few of the movies that he worked on, such as Fulci's Zombie for which he remains best remembered. From there he goes on to discuss working on Grau's movie and he explains some of the techniques that he used and why he chose to use them. He talks about working with his brother-in-law on the film and about the difficulties of creating the 'zombie eyes' that are used in the picture.

    Last but not least is a twenty minute interview with Jorge Grau, shot in 2000 and carried over from the older Anchor Bay DVD release. Here the jovial director, at the age of seventy years old, talks in detail about the picture he remains best known for. He talks about how he was sold on the picture ('It's like Night Of The Living Dead - only in color!') and about how he wanted a certain sense of realism for the picture. He also does a good job of elaborating on Kennedy's character, explaining why he's so bitter in the film and why he wanted the character played that way.

    The Final Word:

    One of the finest European zombie films ever made hits Blu-ray in grand style and while it would have been nice to see the extras in HD, the transfer is great, the audio handled quite nicely, and all the supplemental material from the standard definition release has been carried over. Great stuff!
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. VinceP's Avatar
      VinceP -
      I don't know how I feel about re-created titles... it's obvious this was done for this release. The text is just way too incredibly sharp and the film itself looks so pristine. Normally the optical effect of placing the title cards over the opening scenes would give it that chunky grainy look with god knows what else in the way of artifacts, so I'm assuming they found the negative sans title cards and had them re-created digitally. The image looks fucking fantastic, but I still somehow feel cheated that it I'm not seeing the original incarnation of the opening. Still, it's very well done unlike some title recreations I've seen on certain trailer comps (Nucleus...).