Wednesday 31 August 2011

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)

LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE is an Italian zombie horror film by Spanish director Jorge Grau that was originally released in Italy as Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti in November 1974; it is also known as 'The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue'.  It stars Ray Lovelock as George, a rather camp and short-tempered young man who befriends a young girl, Edna, (Christina Galbo) trying to get to her sister's house in the north of England.  When they eventually get there they find her sister virtually catatonic and her brother-in-law brutally murdered.  An even more short-tempered police inspector (veteran Arthur Kennedy) turns up and takes an immediate dislike to George, suspecting him of being the murderer.  However, it soon transpires that there is an even more horrific explanation.

George and Edna on their way to Windermere
I've said before that when Italian exploitation flicks are shot in England you often get an off-kilter, almost dreamlike feeling because while the locations obviously look familiar the cast are usually foreign and just don't seem quite right.  It's definitely the case here as you get Arthur Kennedy - not really bothering to attempt the accent - as a tough copper and a load of hairy Italians as good old fashioned British bobbies wandering about chasing zombies through Dovedale and Cheadle.

Despite that, the sheer energy and bad taste of Italian exploitation cinema carries it through.  There are some very tense sequences, notably when George and his chums are trapped inside a church beseiged by hordes of recently awakened corpses, and at the titular 'Manchester Morgue' as he tries to save Edna.  The ending is great too and manages to be downbeat and upbeat at the same time.

Ray Lovelock is an interesting character, an Anglo-Italian who has worked almost exclusively in Italian films.  His first role was the ill-fated Evan in Giulio Questi's bizarre spaghetti western Se sei vivo spara, aka DJANGO KILL.  He has worked with the likes of Carlo Lizzani, Michele Lupo, Umberto Lenzi, Ruggero Deodato and Lucio Fulci.  Very occasionally he has made a more mainstream picture, such as FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and THE CASSANDRA CROSSING.  Still only 61 he continues to work on the continent.

Ray Lovelock as George
Arthur Kennedy is probably best remembered as Jackson Bentley, the reporter who doggedly follows Peter O'Toole in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA [1962].  Jorge Grau had a very patchy career of which this film is probably the high water mark.  He also directed the very obscure but reputedly very intense crime drama Coto de caza [1983]; stay tuned for a review in due course.  One final film anorak point: the visual effects and make up are by Giannetto de Rossi, who as well as working on big budget Hollywood pictures like David Lynch's DUNE [1984] has had a hand in most of the most popular Italian exploitation films, including several with the aforementioned Lucio Fulci.

Arthur Kennedy

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