Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)
By: M. Walsh on November 11, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Anchor Bay (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. 93 minutes
The Movie
Director: Jorge Grau
Starring: Ray Lovelock, Cristina Galbo, Arthur Kennedy, Aldo Massasso, Giorgio Trestini
Screenplay: Juan Cobos, Sandro Continenza, Marcello Coscia, Miguel Rubio
Country: Italy
AKA: The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue; Don't Open the Window; Non Si Deve Profanare Il Sonno Dei Morti
I am always surprised when some people, usually those with little to no knowledge of European horror films, immediately equate poor ADR work with poor filmmaking. Before sitting down to watch Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (known also as Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue) I was asked by a "some people" if this was one of those films that was so bad it's good. "No", I replied before grimly inserting the disc into the player. "It bloody isn't".

Spanish director Jorge Grau has crafted a film that both compliments and, in some ways, transcends those that it emulates. From the very first scenes of Let Sleeping Corpses Lie we know that this is going to be far cry from the poorly dubbed, shlock assaults of Hell Of The Living Dead, not that that film isn't massively entertaining in its own way. But from the visual compositions, to the experimental soundtrack and even the use of locations, it is pretty clear that Sleeping Corpses is most certainly a different animal all together. Except, perhaps, for the poor dubbing.

George (Ray Lovelock), an absolute bastard of an antique dealer, finds himself having to ride shotgun with Edna (Christine Galbo) after she backs into his motorcycle at an out-of-the-way petrol station. Seeing as it is going to take some time for his bike to be repaired, and owing to the fact that both he and Edna are traveling in the same direction, George takes it upon himself to commandeer her vehicle and drive them both to their destinations. He is heading out to the country for some much needed rest and relaxation and she is on her way to visit her sister, a junkie who is facing a mandatory stint in a rehabilitation clinic. The two companions, of course, do not get along. The blame can't really be placed on Edna, though. She's merely a bit flighty whereas George is just a complete and utter prick.

After getting them both lost, George wanders around the countryside looking for someone to help them find their way. What he finds, instead, is a trio of workers testing an experimental pesticide device that emits sound waves instead of chemicals. George gives them all a piece of his mind and, somewhat surprisingly, they give George some directions. Edna, on the other hand, has been abandoned with the car beside an old, misty cemetery. Did I mention that George took the car keys with him? Bastard.

I think we all know what's going to happen next so I'll leave the synopsis there. The major selling point of this film, though, is the pure skill in which Grau brings this, let's be honest, B-movie to the screen. There is genuine artistry here, a gorgeous visual sense, a grim and serious tone and some pretty intense bloodletting for its time. Sound like any other "B-grade" zombie film you can think of? The performances are decent without being exceptional, but even that is enough to help distance Let Sleeping Corpses Lie from an opus such as, I don't know, Nightmare City.

This is far from a perfect film, of course, and the middle section is, in all honestly, pretty dull. But when the protagonists find themselves locked in a darkened crypt just as the undead assault hits full stride (one of the film's truly great set-pieces), all is quickly forgiven.

As for the "some people" that I watched this with...let's just say they weren't convinced. Not that they didn't enjoy it, mind you, but it took a viewing of Nightmare City a week later to help put things into perspective. This is certainly not "so bad it's good". It is, for my money, a genuine overlooked classic and I urge everyone who hasn't seen it to do so immediately.
Almost everything about this transfer was of an impressively high order. Colours were vibrant, print damage was minimal, there was no digital artifacting or edge enhancement. An anamorphic transfer would have been nice, and perhaps when this film is eventually re-released that call will be answered. A special mention must be made of the astonishing black levels on offer.
The 5.1 option is far too aggressive and flamboyant with the type of artifical directional effects that are more distracting than immersive. The 2.0 mix suits the film far better and is a much more subtle, and restrained, affair. Either way, both tracks are crisp and clear so I suppose it all come down to personal preference.
Extra Features
Apart from the reverse-sleeve liner notes that provide a decent enough read while you're waiting for the Anchor Bay logo to disappear, the special features package also offers up some radio spots, photo galleries and a highly entertaining interview with Jorge Grau that has been conducted, seemingly, for this release.
The Verdict
A great entry in the walking dead pantheon and a very respectable film to boot. It may wear its left-wing ideologies on its sleeve, but there are a certain series of films in this genre that are guilty of doing exactly the same thing. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. And the heavy handed politics in Let Sleeping Corpses Lie can surely be justified as an "homage". Surely.
Movie Score
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