English Zombie Terror

A European answer to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Spanish filmmaker Jorge Grau’s The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie aka Don’t Open the Window) is a certified zombie classic. Its graphic color filmmaking stands in stark contrast to Romero’s black-and-white zombie shocker, highlighted by bloody special effects from noted F/X guru Giannetto De Rossi, more prominently known for his gory work with Fulci. Academy Award nominee Arthur Kennedy, Ray Lovelock (The Cassandra Crossing) and Christine Galbo (What Have You Done To Solange?) star in the 1974 cult classic.

The whims of fate bring two plucky youngsters George (Ray Lovelock) and Edna (Christine Galbo) together, fighting for their very survival against the living dead. The gory tale sees them trapped in a small town, mistakenly believed responsible by an arrogant detective (Arthur Kennedy) for a string of suspicious deaths. Warnings of early ecological horror and mayhem underlie the macabre premise.

Spanish filmmaker Jorge Grau’s The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is a certified zombie classic

A nearby experiment in pest control by the British government has begun awakening the dead, turning them into unstoppable brutes with a taste for human flesh. Slow-moving but deadly, the rules for zombies were still being codified in cinema. What starts out as a creepy monster mystery cannonballs into one of horror’s most electrifying final acts as all hell breaks loose for the protagonists.

The atmospheric zombie film’s English landscape provides a perfect back-drop for Grau’s carefully crafted chiller. Setting a graphic tone for all following zombie movies, including Romero’s own Dawn of the Dead, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue’s grotesque suspense and spine-chilling terror has credible character development and convincing storytelling. Then there are its classic set pieces, including a hair-raising escape from a dusty crypt overrun by the foul creatures and a hospital going up in flames.

The climactic confrontation is unforgettable, a punch in the gut which has since become an overused trope in zombie lore. It’s horror that works even without the haunting blood and visceral gore. Lovelock and Galbo have good chemistry as performers, despite the real lack of any romantic sub-plot between their unfortunate characters. Lovelock is a solid leading man and it’s easy identifying with Galbo’s anxious portrayal.

Unsettling and bursting with innovative zombie conventions for its period, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue remains one of the genre’s high points. Anticipating later developments in the field with a pseudo-ecological message about man tampering with forces beyond nature, Grau’s terrifying classic is essential. Bloody, brutal and smartly written, zombies have rarely been handled so well as primal forces of darkness.

Living Dead at Manchester Morgue Blu-ray screen shot

Video

Don May Jr. of Synapse Films supervised the new 4K restoration of The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue in 2020 from the original 35mm camera negative. The excellent image harvest produces a crisp, film-like reproduction of Grau’s zombie flick. Definition is cleaner with more authentic detail visible. A more refined color grading pulls out deeper magenta tones as the zombies chew down for dinner. Hardcore fans may be impatient waiting to see the cult classic unleashed on UHD after seeing this disc. The film elements are in steady, undamaged condition.

The new-found clarity and definition maybe reveal a little too much of the zombie make-up effects, otherwise the film has never looked better on Blu-ray. Healthy flesh-tones, a lively contrast, and solid black levels reflect the film’s occasional softness. Interiors are a bit drab and less impressive, an issue in the source material.

The main feature runs an uncut 92 minutes featuring the original English credit titles, encoded in transparent AVC on a BD-50. Synapse Films knows their way around vintage horror cinema and this transfer represents yet another strong showing for the genre label.

Audio

A new 5.1 English stereo surround remix made exclusively for the Synapse Films release is heard in excellent 5.1 DTS-HD MA. It corrects some of the inconsistencies and problems people had with Blue Underground’s earlier 7.1 mix on BD.

The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue was one of the first Spanish films in stereophonic sound but the English track was entirely mono. The original English monaural mix is offered for the first time in crisp 2.0 DTS-HD MA. Blue Underground’s release had down-mixes for their supposed mono tracks.

The new surround mix is still strongly stereo in scope, less discrete in nature than modern soundtracks. It adds a nice boost to the psychedelic score. The eerie agricultural machine which lies at the heart of the madness hums with an ominous, overbearing presence. Dialogue reproduction is nicely balanced with the creepy action. Dynamics are decent with modest bass and fine high-frequency extension. There’s a certain charm in hearing the original English mix, which is punchy but loses a bit of atmosphere from the oddball stereo effects.

Optional English SDH subtitles are provided in a white font.

Extras

Back in 2020, Synapse Films released The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue in a limited-edition three-disc SteelBook with Blu-ray, DVD and the original soundtrack CD. The deluxe set was limited to 6000 units and extremely expensive for only offering Blu-ray. Now the label releases the Blu-ray from that edition on its own in a single-disc configuration without all the extra swag. If all you care about is seeing the new 4K restoration, this solo release solves your dilemma in the cheapest manner possible. It wouldn’t shock me if we get the film on UHD in a couple years.

The BD is coded for all regions, arriving in a black case. A 2022 product catalog for Synapse Films is offered inside. Two new commentaries and an extensive documentary on Jorge Grau highlight this batch of new special features. If you want the original credits restored and original audio, Synapse is the easy call.

It should be mentioned The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue hit Blu-ray once before back in the late 2000s from Blue Underground. That was from an inferior film transfer and featured a questionable surround remix, though it did contain differing special features.

  • Audio Commentary By Critic Troy Howarth
  • Audio Commentary By Authors Nathaniel Thompson and Bruce Holecheck
  • Jorge Grau: Catalonia’s Cult Film King (88:58 in HD) – 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 (15:24 in HD)
  • Giannetto De Rossi – Q&A at the Festival of Fantastic Films, UK (42:29 in HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (03:51 in HD)
  • TV Spots (00:57 in SD)
  • Radio Spots (02:07 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Europe’s answer to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is a zombie classic in its own right, a creepy spine-tingler with fantastic practical effects.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 58 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: