The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974)

No matter what title you watch this movie under —  from the original Spanish title, No Profanar el Sueño de los Muertos (Don’t Disturb the Sleep of the Dead) or alternates like Let Sleeping Corpses LieThe Living DeadBreakfast at Manchester Morgue and Don’t Open the Window — it’s an intriguing slice of early 70’s shock. At once a portrait of the young, hip and now generation and a zombie film, Jorge Grau’s film features scenes that still freak people out over forty years later.

I first learned of this film from the Electric Wizard song “Wizard in Black,” as a sample of the Inspector arguing with George starts the song.

George (Ray Lovelock, Murder Rock) runs an antique shop in Manchester and decides to go work on a house with some friends. At a gas station, Edna (Cristina Galbó, What Have You Done to Solange?) hits his motorcycle with her car, so she agrees to give him a ride. On the way to see Edna’s sister, they hit a dead end. George finds a short cut that takes them past an experimental insect killing machine in the fields. It uses ultrasonic radiation and is supposed to be safer than DDT. Meanwhile, a mysterious man attacks Edna.

That night, Edna’s sister Katie and her husband Martin (Jóse Lifante, Dr. Death from The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) argue. Martin goes to take photographs while the same man who attacked Edna menaces Katie. Martin tries to save her, but is killed just as Edna and George arrive.

They go to the police to report the death, but the police sergeant thinks Katie was the killer. They all decide to stay at the Old Owl Hotel, as George gets film developed from Martin’s camera.

Meanwhile, Katie has gone insane and is hospitalized. For some reason, newborn babies are biting people with murderous intent.

The developed photos only show a homeless man, who traps them in a crypt and brings back to life numerous bodies simply by touching their eyes with his bloody fingers. They make a hole to escape, but only Edna does, as the zombies won’t let go of George. A police officer named Craig, who has been following them, saves them but the zombies give chase. He soon discovers his gun has no effect as they overwhelm him and rip him apart, eating his vital organs.

As the zombies trap George and Edna, they throw an oil lamp at the horde, which saves them. They decide to split up. Edna will inform the police and George will destroy the machine. Unbeknownst to them, the police — and more specifically, the inspector (Arthur Kennedy, The Antichrist) — think that they are Manson-like Satanic killers and have issued an order to shoot to kill.

Edna is nearly killed by her brother-in-law in zombie form, but is saved by George, who drops her off at a gas station. He’s then caught by the police, who take him and Martin’s body to the hospital and switch the machine on again. The zombies — now including Katie — come to life, killing everyone in their path and menacing a sedated Edna.

Sadly, George is too late. Edna is a zombie and pushes him into a room where the police inspector shoots him four times, killing him. He even claims that he wishes that George would come to life again just so he could kill him one more time.

He gets his wish, as an undead form of George comes for him, but now, bullets cannot stop him. And in the field, the machine keeps working.

I’m in pure love with this movie. From the way it depicts the blight of early 70’s England to the way the cops treat our heroes to the downbeat ending, it’s everything that is perfect about horror movies. And the close in the hospital is packed with shocking gore that will truly stay with you. No matter what title you see this as, make sure to see it.

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