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The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue (Synapse Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue (Synapse Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Synapse Films
    Released on: June 7th, 2022.
    Director: Jorge Grau
    Cast: Ray Lovelock, Christine Galbo, Arthur Kennedy
    Year: 1974
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    The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue – Movie Review:

    Jorge Grau's 1974 zombie opus, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue was originally released on DVD back in the glory days of Anchor Bay Entertainment's Euro-Horror binge under the alternate title of Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. The disc eventually went out of print a few years later. Blue Underground re-released that same disc last year and then went back to the well one last time with a new two-disc special edition that blew away all prior DVD incarnations of the film, before then issuing it on Blu-ray in 2009. In 2020, Synapse Films reissued the film on Blu-ray with a fresh transfer and a host of new extra features in a limited edition steelbook package and now in 2022, as a standard edition release.

    But first, the movie.

    A man named George (Ray Lovelock) leaves the city on his motorbike to get away to his country home for a few days of rest and relaxation. When he stops for gas, a cute girl in an Austin Mini named Edna (Christine Galbo) backs into his bike and does some damage to the wheel. The mechanic says he won't be able to fix it until Monday and so George insists that Edna drive him to the country and she obliges. On the way they pass a farm field where a big truck is using radio waves to eliminate pests. George, an environmentalist at heart, is curious about this.

    When they come to a part of the road that looks impassable, George gets out to wander around while Edna stays with the car. While she's alone, a crazed and sickly looking man attacks her. By the time George arrives back at the car, however, the man is gone. The pair decides to head to Edna's sister's house but when they arrive, that same crazed man is in the process of attacking the man she lives with. The cops, led by a fairly fascist detective (Arthur Kennedy) suspect that George and Edna are involved and order the two of them to stay in town while the investigation is underway. Unfortunately for all involved, the recently deceased are rising from their graves with a hunger for human flesh!

    Suspenseful and very tense, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue, also known as Don’t Open The Window, holds its own alongside genre giants like Romero's Night Of The Living Dead and Lucio Fulci's Zombie but, like Jean Rollin's Grapes Of Death (a film it shares some themes with) it doesn't seem to get the recognition that it deserves. Grau directs the film with style and skill, moving the action along at an appropriate pace ensuring that we get enough character development to matter but not so much as to overshadow the action and carnage. Once the zombie attack begins and the sub-plot with Kennedy's character really picks up, the film will have you on the edge of your seat.

    On top of a smart script with some interesting political overtones, the film also benefits from three solid performances. Christine Galbo is good as the 'damsel in distress' but the real chemistry in the film is between Kennedy and Lovelock, two polar opposites in society who make no false pretense as to their feelings towards one another. Add to this some fantastic gore effects from Giannetto De Rossi and an amazingly eerie score courtesy of Giuliano Sorgini and The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue comes up a winner. It's a smart, stylish and scary zombie movie that holds up just as well in this day and age as it probably did when it was first made in 1974.

    It’s also worth pointing out that this release features the original opening and closing credits intact.

    The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue – Blu-ray Review:

    Synapse Films brings The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue to region free Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that is taken from a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm camera negative. Taking up 28.8GBs of space on the 50GB disc, the feature looks fantastic on this disc. The colors really shine here, looking remarkably bright and vibrant but never oversaturated or boosted looking. The scenes that take place inside, often in dimly lit locales such as a tomb, show strong shadow detail and thankfully avoid any noticeable crush, while depth, detail and texture all excel in pretty much every frame. There’s no noticeable print damage here at all save for maybe a handful of tiny white specks, the picture is more or less immaculate. At the same time, it always looks appropriately film-like, with a nice, natural grain structure. Noise reduction, edge enhancement and compression artifacts are never an issue. Overall, the move looks beautiful on this disc.

    This new disc also includes a new 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio remix done exclusively for this release in addition to a restoration of the ‘true original English language theatrical mono mix’ in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono format. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The 5.1 mix does a nice job of spreading out the score and the effects work in the movie pretty effectively, while the mono track obviously keeps everything up in the front two speakers. Both tracks are clean, clear, concise and have nice range and depth to them.

    Extras start off with the first of two audio commentaries, this one courtesy of Troy Howarth. This starts off by going over the influence and impact of Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead on this and other movies, and then goes on to talk about the film’s connections to Lucio Fulci, the international financing that got this movie made, his thoughts on the two leads and the warmth and humanity they bring to their parts, details on the different cast and crew members that worked on the picture, where the Spanish cinema scene was during this period in time and why Spanish locations became a hip spot to make movies for a while, the use of humor in certain scenes, details on Grau’s life and career, the film’s score and its composer, locations used for the film and the movie’s climax as well as quite a bit more.

    The second commentary track pairs Nathaniel Thompson and Bruce Holecheck. The talk about the different titles and title sequences that exist for the movie, different home video releases that the film has received, the film's oddball nude scene early in the picture, how Grau came to direct the picture as well as how his career shaped up in the years leading up to this movie, locations that were used for the shoot, the influence of Romero's Night Of The Living Dead, details on the cast and crew, influences that may have worked their way into the picture like Rear Window, how coy the film is with its nudity, the use of music in the picture, the macabre twist of the killer baby scene, the quality of the effects work and the contact lenses used to create their weird eyes, the films that Grau made after this picture, the color of blood in the film and lots more.

    From there, jump into the eighty-nine minute documentary, Jorge Grau - Catalonia’s Cult Film King, directed by Naomi Holwill that is made up of interviews with Grau himself as well as academics Ross Hunter and Calum Waddell, authors and critics Kim Newman, John Martin and Rachel Nisbet, special makeup effects wizard Giannetto De Rossi, composer Giuliano Sorgini and Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival Deputy Director Mike Hostench. It covers how Grau worked with an Italian producer to make a movie that looked like Night Of The Living Dead, the director's thoughts on the script, the ecological and social themes that it explores, intentionally avoiding jump scares, Grau's early days in the industry and evolution as a filmmaker and his directing style, run ins with the Catholic Church, some of the more memorable films he's made within and without the confines of the horror genre, what sets his films apart from some of his contemporaries, what makes some of the stand out scenes from the feature work as well as they do, influences that worked their way into Grau's output, why specific locations were chosen, the performances contained in the film and the casting process, the use of color in the movie, the effects work featured in the film, how the film compares to other zombie films made around the same time period, the film's score and what went into creating it, the different working titles that were proposed for the movie, the movie's theatrical release, the legacy that the film and its director have left behind and plenty more. It's a pretty thorough overview of Grau and his film that covers a lot of ground.

    The Scene of the Crime - Giannetto De Rossi In Discussion From Manchester is a sixteen minute piece with De Rossi and author/critic Eugenio Ercolani that covers how De Rossi came to work on the movie, his thoughts on working with Grau and what he was like to work with (he is quite complimentary to Grau), shooting on location close to Manchester, what makes the film different from a typical zombie film, dealing with budgetary restraints, De Rossi's personal relationship with the horror genre, working with the different cast members and how some of the effects work he did in this picture compares to other movies he was involved with.

    Giannetto De Rossi also appears in a forty-three minute Q&A At The Festival Of Fantastic Films, UK featurette shot in 2019 and again moderated by Ercolani. This pieces goes over De Rossi's experiences in the film industry, thoughts on Billy Wilder and working with him, the trickiness of doing effects on a movie when you don't really know what it's about, the importance of loving your work, working with Donald Sutherland, interesting anecdotes from various projects that he's worked on over the years and quite a bit more.

    Finishing up the extras are the film's original theatrical trailer, two TV spots (both under the alternate Don't Open The Window title), and two minutes' worth of radio spots (again using the Don't Open The Window title). Menus and chapter selection options are also provided.

    Note that the extras created for the Blue Underground release remain exclusive to that disc and have not been ported over to this reissue.

    The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue - The Final Word:

    One of the finest European zombie films ever made gets an excellent Blu-ray reissue from Synapse Films, with a fantastic presentation and a nice array of new, exclusive extra features.


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue Blu-ray screen caps!

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