Reviewed: April 1975
aka Fin de Semana para los muertos
Spain / Italy, 1974
Length: 93 mins
Director: Jorge Grau
L.P.s: Ray Lovelock, Cristina Galbo, Arthur Kennedy, Aldo Massasso
Plot: An experimental insect repelling machine causes the dead to come alive in the middle of the Lake District.
Critique: So close to Romero's Night of the Living Dead as to be almost a crib, and burdened with a magpie script by Sandro Continenza, The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue nevertheless survives the insidious onset of deja-vu and reveals in Jorge Grau a director with a genuine talent for the macabre mood and unsettling detail. (Grau was initially heralded in the mid sixties as part of the much-vaunted renaissance in Spanish cinema, but his career seems lately to have gone into eclipse).
Fot all the potential fascinationin the intersection of the themes of ecological disaster and gothic horror, the films diverse strands are never developed quite as closey as they may have been: on the one hand drawing out the implications of the science fiction conceit of the insects being manipulated to destroy each other; and on the other suggesting a society in the grip of creeping catastrophe. Katie's drug addiction seems, like the heavily ominous shots of the mother and daughter at the roadhouse, more of a red herring than anything else.
Grau does, however, lend innumerable scenes an uncanny power and convincing urgency. The cinema verite sequence of rush hour crowds spinkled with the odd smog masked face, or the shots of stony faces that remain unresponsive even when a girl sheds her clothes, make a fine opening and invovle just the kind of subtle dislocation and casual terror so rarely found in British films. (Living Dead is, incongruously, a continental co-production shot in Britain by a Spanish director). The use of Lake District locations, with their inevitable associations with Romanticism, is similarly astute and inventive.
It is typical, however, that having set up the extraordinary sequence in which Katie, her husband and the zombie engage in a life or death struggle in front of a robto-like automatic flash camera, no one seems able to incorporate the idea into the rest of the film (the subsequent business with the photos is banal).
Similarly, little is made of the crop-dusting machine's ability to affect the new-born as well as the recently dead, and in the context of so many careful explanations, the habit acquired by the undead of resurrecting others (apparently long dead) by touching their eyelids with blood seems something of an anomoly.