Thursday, February 11, 2016

Don't Open The Window!

Video Nasty #35


 The Living Dead



Actual Title: Non Si Deve Profanare Il Sonno Dei Morti (Literal translation: Do not profane the sleep of the dead.)
Other alternate titles: Don't Open The Window, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue
NTSC Running Time: 92:49
Directed by Jorge Grau
Written by Sandro Continenza, Marcello Coscia, Juan Cobos, and Miguel Rubio
Produced by Manuel Perez
Makeup & Optical Effects by Giannetto De Rossi
Starring: Cristina Galbo, Ray Lovelock, Arthur Kennedy, Jose Lifante, Jeannine Mestre, Fernando Hilbeck
Body Count: 17
Region 0 DVD and All-Region BluRay from Blue Underground as The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue

BBFC Status

Why it's a Nasty: Face-ripping, gut-munching zombie action.
What was cut: Unspecified cuts were made to an already pre-cut submission when submitted for theatrical certification on January 20, 1975, gaining an X certificate.  The uncut film was released as The Living Dead on video, it was this version that was seized during the Nasty Panic.  An additional 26 seconds were cut when submitted for video certification on November 15, 1985 (making it one of the earliest Nasty titles to attempt going "legit").  The first 18-cert uncut release was approved on May 1, 2002 for Anchor Bay's Let Sleeping Corpses Lie DVD release.
Current UK Status: The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue currently holds an 18-cert for the uncut version.
All-Region BluRay from Blue Underground, R2 DVD from Studiocanal
The Living Dead was seized, but not prosecuted.

London, 1974.  Hip antique salesman George (Ray Lovelock) hops onto his motorcycle and heads out to the country, despite the presence of a lovely young streaker dodging through traffic.  He's got a new house to decorate and wants to get to Windermere before dark.  He stops at a petrol station for a cold drink and is waylaid when Edna (Cristina Galbo) backs her Mini Cooper into his bike, incapacitating it.  The garage attendant is happy to fix it, but there won't be any part deliveries from Glasgow until next week.  Edna agrees to take George to his destination for his inconvenience, and the two are on their way.

Whipping through gorgeous countryside, and bulling their way past a truck designated as belonging to the morgue in Manchester, George agrees to drop Edna at her sister's house, despite the delay this will cause.  Edna's sister Katie (Jeannine Mestre) is strung out on white horse and her photographer husband Martin (Jose Lifante) is planning to put her in rehab (Sequestering themselves far from the city for a year has apparently done nothing to prevent Katie from scoring a fix).  Edna is determined to be there for her sister, but doesn't remember how to get there.  George stops at a local farm to ask directions and is troubled by extermination equipment being employed by the farmer: a new technology using radiation that causes insects to become aggressive and kill each other off.  And while George is getting directions, Edna steps out of the car for a smoke only to be set upon by a filthy drifter (Fernando Hilbeck) with bright red eyes and an unquenchable thirst for blood...

This Spanish/Italian coproduction is a somewhat unique take on the zombie subgenre, and it's refreshing.  Neither a voodoo-curse scenario nor a George Romero imitator, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue starts out slow and gradually increases in intensity until it becomes all-out mayhem in the fiery, blood-soaked finale.  (Most of the violence takes place in the final half-hour.)  Although the interiors were filmed in Rome, the exteriors were filmed on location in the North of England and the scenery is beautiful, all skillfully lensed by cinematographer Francisco Sempere.  Beautiful too, but in an entirely different way, are Giannetto De Rossi's makeup effects.  De Rossi, who worked with Lucio Fulci on numerous occasions, contributed to no less than FIVE Video Nasties (Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Beyond, The House By The Cemetery, and Cannibal Apocalypse) and is still working today.  With multiple instances of gut-munching and a fantastic axe-to-the-head, his effects hold up well even by today's standards.  (It was also Edgar Wright's inspiration for the fake "Don't!" trailer in the Rodriguez/Tarantino Grindhouse project, based on the original English-language ad campaign under the Don't Open The Window title.)

The cast is competent and gives the material more than they likely thought it deserved.  Lovelock is outstanding as George, with his hippie good looks and cheeky-bastard attitude, he's a lot of fun.  Galbo, who left acting in the 1980s to become a professional dancer, does damsel-in-distress with aplomb, and Arthur Kennedy (an accomplished American actor who appeared in over one hundred films beginning with the 1940 Jimmy Cagney potboiler City For Conquest and continued up until his death in 1990) gleefully munches the scenery as a violent lunkheaded police sergeant who smacks suspects whenever he pleases.  His disdain for George and his "faggot clothes" keeps him conveniently focused on the red herrings while zombies terrorize the countryside and newborn babies maim hospital staff (the infant in question is so small, new, and adorable you'd have a hard time believing it was capable of such savagery, and I found myself wondering who allowed their clearly newborn infant to participate in this project - whoever they are, I salute them).

It's easy to see why this one still garners attention.  Besides the technical success and quality cast, the story, motivation and behaviour of the zombies, and the truly awesome setting all helped to propel this many-titled diversion from the sea of imitators into exploitation fandom (being banned as a Nasty certainly helped as well).  It takes quite a while for things to turn grisly, but the viewer is never bored, and once the festivities truly get underway, you won't be able to take your eyes from the screen.  (Although, despite the title, the film doesn't actually take place in Manchester, but rather South Gate.)  I heartily recommend watching this one on BluRay because of the restoration.  The film looks great and even the mono soundtrack is clear as a bell.  I didn't have much expectations towards enjoying this one (it looked rather dreary in trailers), but I was pleasantly surprised at what a crowd-pleaser it turned out to be.  Seek it out.

So, if there's a truck in your neighborhood purporting to be the latest and greatest in pest control, send them on their way.  They might be dispensing something more sinister than they could ever know.  I'll be sticking to flypaper and Raid.  Because my name's Justin.  JustinCase.

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