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Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
(a.k.a. Breakfast At Manchester Morgue & The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue & Don't Open The Window)
(1974)
 

Director:Jorge Grau                                
Cast:
Ray Lovelock, Cristina Galbo, Arthur Kennedy


Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is one of the first European rip-offs of Night Of the Living Dead, and also one of the closest to the original source material. It isn't just close in some aspects of the script, but also in the mood, with a strong feeling of isolation present in many scenes. There is also more of an emphasis on generating horror through atmosphere rather than gore, though this being a European zombie movie, when blood is shed, it flies more vigorously than any American movie of the same era. So it's not surprising to find out this hard-to-find movie has a cult reputation. I was filled with anticipation when I finally got a copy, but I was sort of feeling let down by the time the end credits were rolling. The movie isn't terrible at all, but it's more "interesting" than actually entertaining in one form or another. I guess it's worth seeing, though only under certain circumstances.

Though an Italian/Spanish co-production, the movie was filmed and takes place in England. In London, George shuts his shop for the weekend and takes off on his motorbike to Windermere, passing by a woman who takes off her coat and runs into the street completely naked. (Yes, you read that right - there's no explanation for her action, and it is never brought up again in the movie!) At a gas station, he literally runs into Edna - actually, her inept driving makes her hit his motorbike, and she feels obliged to give him a ride. She convinces him to go with her first to Southgate before lending him his car, so she can get to her drug addict sister and photographer brother-in-law quickly. We hope she'll get there soon and out of the movie, because Edna here (and elsewhere in the movie) is an incredibly annoying character, with a "You MUST help me!!!!" whiny attitude. She is also so dumb, she doesn't even know the exact location of her sister's home, nor did she apparently get a map and check before making the journey.

Because of this, George stops to ask for directions at a farm, and while he's away from the car, Edna is attacked by a stumbling, ashly-looking figure in a scene almost directly taken from the first zombie attack in Night of the Living Dead. Edna manages to escape and run to the farm, where George has just gotten directions from some scientists. These scientists are in the process of using a device ("It's experimental") operated by a hand-held unit that's a cross between a rake and a metal detector that destroys all insects and parasites in the area. (For the sake of farmers, let's hope the device doesn't kill bees or earthworms.) Edna's concerns are dismissed as overimagination, but could there be some connection between the figure and the scientific machine? Well, since the zombies in Night of the Living Dead were resurrected by a man-made device (a returning space probe), what do you think?

There are some other things similar to stuff found in Night Of The Living Dead - George's discovery of the body in the mortuary come across like the discovery of the body in NOTLD's empty farmhouse, people barricade themselves in another place at one point and are unable to get out, and there is also a somewhat downbeat ending. Actually, the movie then adds an extra ending after the "official" ending, concerning the fate of an annoying character, possibly to try and not let the ending be totally sour. Speaking of annoying characters, I didn't have any sympathy for any of the characters. Arthur Kennedy plays possibly the stupidest and bullheaded police inspector on the beat; his character's stubborn insistence on not even entertaining the slightest possibility that something strange is going on is aggravating. As George, Ray Lovelock is helpless in making his character likable, having a "Shut up and let's go" attitude, and making some unbelievably stupid decisions. At one point, he convinces Edna to help him steal from a police car film from a camera which might have proof of their claims, reasoning, "Police never like to admit they are wrong!"

The story seems very padded, and should have been tightened in the editing room, though that would have possibly given it a running time short enough to be of concern to the producers. It's also very slow moving at times, taking forever to get to some serious zombie action. There isn't as much zombie action as I would have liked, and the attacks are lacking style. In the first big attack, the zombie basically stumbles quickly into the scene and pounces on his victim. It could have been made into a sudden shock sequence, but instead it comes across more as casual. Some of the attacks, with the potential victims struggling to get away are suspenseful, and the successful attacks have a few moments of serious gore, which is always welcome. And there is some genuine atmosphere; the hills of the countryside have never looked so eerie, showing no signs of life, and sometimes with no sound present. Other times, the silence is suddenly punctured with the sound of birds or heavy breathing, and that's effective as well. The theremin-like music is a nice touch at times, though it sometimes comes across as silly, like when it is played when that dumb police inspector states out loud one of his completely wrong deductions.

Despite that, the stupid and annoying characters, and the relatively slow pace, I didn't really dislike Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. It has its moments, and it is interesting to see just how closely Night Of The Living Dead influenced this movie. Certainly, for the European zombie genre, it's way above average. However, it mostly comes across more like an experiment than an actual piece of entertainment, more like it's to be studied than enjoyed. I found it interesting to study, so I am giving this movie a recommendation under certain reservations - that you know clearly what you're getting, and that you are in a mood where, if you decided instead to take a trip to your local science center, you would still be satisfied.

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See also: Curse Of The Cannibal Confederates, Mutant, Nightmare At Noon

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