George and Edna looking like a couple of hipsters
Above: This is the most French Spanish-Italian movie set in England I’ve ever seen.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

🧟🧟🧟 Two women witness zombie attacks but the men have to have their faces practically chewed off before they’ll believe it happened.

Reading time: 3 minutes.

Sometimes movie distributors seem determined to make things as difficult as possible. Take this movie, for example, which debuted in 1974 under the Spanish title No profaner el sueño de los muertos, then two months later in Italy as Non is deve profaner il son die morti. Both of these translate to “Do Not Profane the Sleep of the Dead.” That’s a mouthful, but there’s a logic in it. In the United States, it was initially released as Don’t Open the Window. It was known as The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue in the UK, but the morgue is in Southgate. A more idiomatic title, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, was used for the first DVD release.

A road winds through grass-covered low mountains

I don’t think we’re in Manchester anymore.

This movie is a slow build with tens of zombies. Given more modern treatments, it’s maybe a little underwhelming. The first zombie shows up slightly fifteen minutes into the movie; the next sighting is almost thirty minutes in. This is not an action zombie movie. This is an atmosphere zombie movie. Set your expectations accordingly.

Our main characters are a man named George and a woman named Edna. “You look like an Edna,” George says. I did a Google image search and I have to disagree. But George is an unpleasant, smug jerk. I am actually pretty impressed that Ray Lovelock captured the essence of 2016 hipsterism in 1974.

Naming Things is Hard

Bad names seem to be a pattern for Lovelock. Even though this movie is called The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue it has nothing to do with Night of the Living Dead. It’s just a rip-off of the brand. A few years later, Lovelock did Last House on the Beach, a rape/revenge film that had nothing to do with Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left. In Oasis of Fear he starred as “Dick Butler,” which sounds less like a name and more like a job title.

To be fair, Edna did get off on the wrong foot when she backed her Mini over George’s motorcycle. He demands that she give him a lift because it’s “the least you can do.” The correct answer here, of course, is “I will pay for your cab.” But Edna agrees, and we have this movie’s meet-cute. When they get lost, and George stops at a farmhouse for directions where Edna is accosted by a zombie. George thinks she is nuts.

Edna in an oubliette

“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

I think it’s worth pointing out at this moment that much of the movie was actually shot in Italy, but they had some excellent English weather. Everything is very moody and overcast. The rural setting is claustrophobically mountainous enough to remind me of my own home in rural western Virginia, right down to the locals’ attitude. The location and the acting nearly save the movie from its nonsense science. Most zombie movies now days don’t bother to explain too much. “Um, bio-engineered virus!” says Resident Evil. “Um, bio-engineered virus!” says 28 Weeks Later. “Shut up, a zombie is eating your face!” says Night of the Living DeadThe Living Dead at Manchester Morgue spends a lot of time critiquing industry farming. Zombie movies are much better off not explaining too much.

Followers of the Great Zombie Debate will want to know these are slow zombies except in one memorable instance where a zombie apparently teleports many miles to take out someone specific. They are also tool-using zombies and shockingly collaborative, like the night-shift IT team. They have really creepy red eyes, can barely keep themselves upright, and are ravenous — also like the night-shift IT team.  

closeup of zombie eyes; the irises are deep red and serrated.

When the zombies have teeth in their eyes you know you are in deep trouble.

Aside from the zombies, there’s the Inspector (five-time Oscar nominee Arthur Kennedy) who is confident that Edna’s heroin-addict sister Katie murdered her husband. Never mind that Martin was killed by having every bone in his torso crushed. When more bodies turn up, the Inspector assumes George is an addict and murderer, too, and finally concludes that both George and Edna are Satanists. He believes these young punks are up to no good and assigns all evidence to that theory. 

Thus my wife calls this one Confirmation Bias: The Movie, which is a perfect name. Much better than The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue. Maybe they can use that one for the 4k release. 

Edna looking suspiciously over her shoulder.

“What does he mean, ‘You look like an Edna?’”

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