Monday, March 26, 2012

REVIEW: Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Director: Jorge Grau
Year 1974
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie AKA The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is a remarkably original zombie film that brings a new societal twist to the genre. By taking a move from the playbook of George Romero, the movie balances both the clashing of cultures with the frightening idea of the dead coming back to life. Filmed in an exceptional style, this zombie flick has a lot to say, while still keeping the story simple enough in order to satisfy the people just expecting to see blood, guts and walking corpses. No matter what you call this flick, it’s damn good.
The film starts out on the bustling streets of London as young urbanite George sets off on his motorcycle for a ride in the country. After a small accident, with a young woman named Edna, that wrecks his bike, the two decide to travel together for the remainder of their journey. What at first appears to be a nice quiet afternoon drive in the country turns into a ride through hell when, unknown to the newfound driving companions, there is an experimental farming machine in the area that is unexpectedly turning recently dead people into fleshing eating monsters. To make matters even worse, the local inspector, played by Arthur Kennedy, thinks that the people behind all of these killings are George and Edna, blaming drugs for sending them on a psychotic murdering spree. With the law after them and zombies around every corner, can George and Edna figure out how to stop this growing horde of walking corpses and at the same time clear their name? Who knows, but this is definitely going to make for one hell of a wild ride.

Ray Lovelock plays the role of George, a sensible young man who just wants to escape the congested city life and spend some quiet time in the country, far away from the lifeless and monotonous tone of urban lifestyle. Lovelock does a commendable job with the character, portraying a rather straight laced man who has been wrongfully pegged as a drugged up hippy by the people of this sleepy country town and especially the shortsighted inspector. His character in a sense is the most noble of the bunch, fighting tooth and nail to save the people from this unreal menace, while at the same time trying desperately to keep his newfound friend Edna safe. Lovelock has tons to do in this film and he really nails the underdog role of George, with a fiery passion that helps move the story along and into some exceptionally hair raising moments.

Cristina Galbo brings a different kind of sensibility to the role of Edna, making her character more of a pacifist when it comes to progressing the story into exciting territory. Of course she is very influential in the beginning portions of the movie having been the only one to actually see the zombies roaming the countryside and being the only person misfortunate enough to have encountered one. Those moments when she’s desperately trying to convince people the reality of the zombies and their impending danger on the community, are dire ones filled with brooding atmosphere and we genuinely feel her pain in not getting through to them. Galbo does an amazing job with these scenes and these moments help us springboard into a more foreboding kind of film. For the rest of the flick, the character of Edna plays the more formulaic role of the damsel in distress, but even in that narrow confine, she manages to make it worthwhile and engaging.

The pacing of this film is a gradual one, allowing the viewer to familiarize themselves with the lay of the land, so to speak, and get to know some of the main characters, including the slowly expanding cast of zombies that begin to rise from the dead as the film moves along. That is one of the nice touches that this movie brings to the table. We start with one lone zombie, a local man who has drowned a few days prior, and we then branch out from there as he makes his way across the country side feeding as he goes. With every fresh kill, we are introduced to another number to the zombie legion, giving us an inside look on how some of these monsters lived before their lives were cut short. It’s an interesting and intimate approach, and it’s one that works wonders for the quality of the film.
The location of the English countryside is also another positive aspect of the production that brings an essential quality to the proceedings. With its picturesque landscapes during the day, filled with rolling hills and lush views, and the overwhelming darkness that night brings in these secluded locales, the film makes for an exceptional viewing experience that is just ripe for a zombie uprising. Two of the most memorable locations that appear in this atmospheric wonder of a film would be the gothic graveyard and the creepy hospital that comes into play in the end portion of the movie. These places are just perfect, with their iconic imagery and cryptic nature. Jorge Grau utilizes each location to its fullest, pulling every inch of atmosphere that he can from these naturally picture perfect places. The choice to film in these expressive locales is one that adds highly to the overall look of the production and gives the movie a much needed dimension of macabre-like flavor.
Rounding off the exceptional elements of this enjoyable zombie masterpiece is the zombies themselves. The effects work is outstanding and like the film, it is represented in small portions, gradually building until we arrive at the gore filled conclusion. Stomachs are opened up, flesh is torn, and blood pours from freshly inflicted wounds, making Let Sleeping Corpses Lie a surprisingly violent and gore-centric feature. The quality of these horrific effects are astounding, providing some very unsettling moments that show us just how bold this film can be. This is definitely a well put together zombie film that is both diligent in creating the believable effects that you need in order to tell a sufficient zombie tale, while at the same time providing a prominent group of actors to portray the decomposing ghouls in all their ghastly glory. The film has the goods and it knows how to use it.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is an outstanding Spanish/Italian co-production that benefits highly from its extraordinary caliber and unprecedented appearance. With its unusually dark tone and dramatic atmosphere, the movie sets the standard on how to continue in the footsteps of George Romero, while still bringing something wholly original to the genre of flesh eaters. The setting of this moody zombie story along the English countryside is absolutely perfect, giving us so many gothic injected visuals that it will make your head spin in delight.
The film’s approach to zombie make-up, and the subsequent effects that come with such macabre efforts, is a joy to witness in its brilliant execution and masterful application. The violence of this picture is remarkably vivid, never pulling back from the gore that flows so willingly throughout this blood soaked tale. With a nice balance of traditional horror concepts and thematic metaphors, the movie brings to light a genre effort that has something more substantial to say other than the hack and slash nature that usually comes from such fare. In cinema in general, the zombies themselves are a mindless horde with one soul purpose, which in their case is to devour flesh. This grotesque concept is fully realized in Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, defining the general view of the inspector and his stubborn view on both George and Edna. The comparisons between the inspector, our superficial society, and the stereotypes that reside from within us, is poetically sprinkled across this narrative, giving us pause to question whether we are in fact the mindless corpses that feed on our own personal views of what the truth is or if we are in fact an enlightened individual destined to be slaughtered by the uninformed masses. Poetically speaking aside, the film is just a damn good zombie film that really needs to be seen by a good deal more horror fans. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is a……

Just look at this mad trickster!

What the shit does this do again?

Is this a zombie or some fancy pants opera?

Let me get a closer look at these. Pervert!

What do you mean you hate gingerheads?

You're up to something milkman, you sneaky bastard.

This zombie means business!

Your hippy stench makes me sick!

Hi! I'm the dirty and dangerous hippy.

Dinner Time!

Looks like it says on your chart that you're a zombie. Hmm.

I love to SING!

Looks like you've got something on your face ther buddy.

Look out behind you Edna!

We're gonna take you downtown and give you a bath!

These zombies are starting to be a real pain in the neck.

Sleeping on the job again?
We've talked about this... but I guess the talking just doesn't work!

I'm speechless over this ending!


  1. Indeed an excellent movie. It was one of the flicks that made me fall in love with the genre, I watched it as a boy in an awful theater!

  2. Thanks for checking out the review Edward. I also started to fall in love with the genre after checking this one out, along with Fulci's Zombie and The Beyond. Unfortunately I was a little late in the game, having discovered it during the beginning of the DVD era. I would have loved to see it in the theater, even if it was at an awful one.. Haha. Thanks for taking the time to check out the review. Take care.