.............................................................TRAPPED INSIDE A WORLD UNDER LEAGUES OF OCEAN........................................................

Saturday, October 20, 2012

movies: let sleeping corpses lie (1974)

"You're all the same, the lot of you, with your long hair and faggot clothes.  Drugs, sex, every sort of filth.  And you hate the police, don't ya?"
"You make it easy."

Aka The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, aka Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue, aka Don't Open the Window, Do Not Speak Ill of the Dead, aka Zombi 3, aka at least half a dozen other titles depending on the country in which it was released, Jorge Grau's zombie opus Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (the title on my Blue Underground DVD) has an international pedigree worthy of its plethora of monikers.

Directed by a Spaniard, starring a half Brit-half Italian (Ray Lovelock), a Spaniard (Cristina Galbo), an American (Arthur Kennedy), and a host of Spanish and Italian character actors in minor roles, and shot mainly in the English countryside around Manchester and Yorkshire, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is a strange and wonderful horror film.  Taking cues from Night of the Living Dead, the Manson murders, environmental fears and generational unrest, it is shocking to realize Grau's film presaged Romero's Dawn of the Dead by four years.

We begin with George (Lovelock) locking up his London curio shop and goin' up the country for a weekend of R&R.  An ill-fated gas station encounter with spacey Edna (Galbo) leaves the two of them traveling together, not by choice, to Edna's sister's house.  A couple wrong turns and an unfamiliar landscape soon see the pair among markers such as rolling hills, oaks and streams instead of signs for Leicester Square.

As they stop to ask for directions, Edna is attacked by a man with blood red eyes (this is, coincidentally enough, 28 years before the rage virus induced similarly scarlet orbs in 28 Days Later...) and a like thirst for the crimson stuff.  George, who was over the hill asking a farmer for directions, shrugs off Edna's hysteria as a mixture of fatigue and the possibility of her exaggerating an encounter with a tramp.  Later that night, Edna's sister's husband is killed by the same man who attacked Edna, and as the police get involved, there is an immediate friction between the inspector (Kennedy) and George.

The anti-authoritarian, long-haired, bearded and hiply-garbed George doesn't go over well in small town England a mere five years after the Tate-LaBianca murders, and nor does the inspector's hard-headedness and bigotry sit well with George.  As bodies begin to pile up and the dead begin to rise (highlighted in one chilling scene at the...uh, the Manchester Morgue), the two poles of George and the inspector pull further apart and we see the clash between rational thought and blind belief taken to the extreme.

Having more in common with Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man than, say, Lucio Fulci's Zombie (though there's enough graphic grue on display to please the gorehounds), Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is a smart, well-acted, moody (owing largely to the chilly, grey, misty English countryside) horror film in which the director's reach does not exceed his grasp.  If you count yourself among the zombie faithful and have yet to see this one, move it to the to the top of your pile.  Highly recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment