So Bad it's Good!

Shaun vs. The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

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Directed by Jorge Grau

Starring Ray Lovelock, Cristina Galbo and Arthur Kennedy

An antique dealer’s weekend is ruined when his bike is run over at a gas station.  The rest of his life is ruined when the police are after him for murder when it was actually the fault of the dead come back to life.  That escalated quickly!


George (Lovelock) has just bought a new home and is anxious to start work on it so he closes up shop early and gets on his motorcycle to meet up with friends.  Unfortunately, he stops at a gas station to fill up and a WOMAN DRIVER, I mean, Edna (Galbo) accidentally backs up and runs over his ride.  A little miffed, he asks that Edna drive him to his place to make up for her terrible driving.  She accepts but asks that they go to her destination, having to look after her drug addict sister, and then he can take her car afterwards.  He agrees on the condition that he can drive her sweet Mini Cooper because only men can drive well, you see.  Ah, the 70s.

 

Shut up.  One sec.

Along the way, they pass a crop farm and stop to ask for directions.  It just so happens that some people are there testing a new machine that they say will eliminate insects without using pesticides.  It uses something called ultra sonic radiation, which attacks the nervous system of the poor little bugs and they attack each other instead of munching on sweet, sweet tomatoes.  How? Science!  Good thing they stopped to hear that bit of information.

Keep up with me here.

Edna is attacked by a man who emerged from a nearby lake but takes off when she runs for George.  He thinks she’s a loon and they continue on so he can drop her off.  However, that man runs into Edna’s sister, Katie, and her husband, Martin, who were out taking pictures of a waterfall.  The man attacks Martin and viciously kills him as Katie runs back home as Edna and George arrive.  They go to the police where the hilariously over-dubbed Irish rogue of a police sergeant is certain crazy Katie killed Martin. 

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Good thing this isn’t “The Exorcist.”

Later on, more of the dead start to rise and kill people while George and Edna are suspiciously close by.  The sergeant pegs them as devil worshipping murderers and thinks all the zombie talk is poppycock.  While he’s looking for them, George and Edna are fighting for their lives trying to stop the machine from bringing more dead back to life.

Isn’t that fun?!  Huh?!  Where you going?

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Yeah, ok, I have to admit the set up is silly and the method to bringing the dead back is scientific nonsense.  The first half is as boring as it sounds and it’s not really until the final third of the film when the zombies finally get out to do their thing as they are pretty sporadic before that time.  But this is fairly typical of European zombie flicks – to establish the main characters and personal story lines and slowly build up to the final crazy moments with zombie guts galore. 

This pacing style is definitely not for everyone, usually it’s not for me either.   The film isn’t an instant recommendation, the first two thirds are incredibly slow paced, enough to make people turn the film off to be honest.  If you can soldier on though, you’ll be treated to a pretty good final act and let me tell you, them Europeans sometimes don’t believe in happy endings, this one does not end well.

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The fact that this zombie movie is more about a guy trying to prove his innocence by way of proving the dead are coming back to life is a unique take on the genre, but the “machine” that brings back zombies by trying to kill bugs?  Points for originality but taken away for being too silly. 

TL;DR

Story: 6  It’s certainly different from other European zombie films, but the slow pace will not be for everyone’s taste.

Blood: 7 – When the zombies finally come out, they tear into everyone stomachs to munch on their innards.  They tear a woman’s breast off, they grab an axe and stick it in some guy’s melon, and there are lots of bloody gun shots wounds.

Nudity: 2 – There’s a few quick glimpses of female nudity but the one scene that might count is ruined by a zombie ripping off her boob.

Overall: 6 – The last third is the zombie film you are looking for, and you’ll enjoy it as long as you can get through the sluggish pace and, ugh, character development.

Trivia

-“The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” has sixteen alternate titles from various international releases.  Another popular title is “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie” and the North American release saw it called “Don’t Open the Window” even though there’s nothing to do with windows in the film.

-That “Don’t Open the Window” title inspired director Edgar Wright to contribute a mock trailer called “Don’t” for the 2007 film “Grindhouse.”

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