42nd Street Cinema

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)

Jorge Grau's zombie masterpiece. Starring: Ray Lovelock, Arthur Kennedy and Cristina Galbó. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie has a whole host of alternative titles including:

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue
Don't Open the Window
The Living Dead
Breakfast at Manchester Morgue
Breakfast with the Dead
Brunch with the Dead
Weekend with the Dead
Invasion der Zombies
Da dove vieni?
Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti
No profanar el sueño de los muertos
Non profanare il sonno dei morti
Das Leichenhaus der Lebenden Toten
Levende Doden in het Lijkenhuis
Massacre des Morts-Vivants
Dejen que los Muertos Duerman
Zombi 3 - Da dove vieni?
Fin de semana para los muertos
(shooting title)

The film opens with George (Lovelock), an antique dealer shutting up shop and setting off on a trip to the Peak District for the weekend. Cruising through the inner city streets on his motorcycle, a sequence which demonstrates Grau's underlying subtext regarding the effects of pollution, something which becomes increasingly prominent throughout the story. He makes a brief pit stop at a petrol station, unfortunately his motorcycle gets damaged by Edna (Galbó) accidentally reversing her Mini in to it. Edna is on her way to visit her troubled sister. George acting like a complete jerk somehow manages to persuade Edna in to giving him a lift to his destination, or rather he ends up driving and she sits nervously in the passenger seat. Forming an unlikely duo they set off bladdering through the countryside in a Mini Cooper.

Stopping to ask for directions George encounters a group of scientists testing out an experimental agricultural machine designed to kill insects using ultrasonic radiation. Unbeknown to them it also causes the deceased to rise up and roam around, soon enough Edna is attacked by the freshly reanimated town drunk. The sequence is overtly atmospheric, built through the use of photography and backed by an eerie soundtrack, something that reoccurs whenever a zombie is present on-screen. I also love the contact lenses used for the zombie's eyes. Shaken, she tells George what happened who denies any possibility of a dead person returning to life. However when Katie's (Edna's sister) husband is killed by the same stumbling cadaver that attacked Edna the Police begin an investigation. The Inspector (Kennedy) initially believes Katie is responsible for her husband's death due to her addiction to heroin, he also has an incredible distaste for George reinforced by one of the most memorable lines in the film "You're all the same, the lot of you, with your long hair and faggot clothes".

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie sits next to Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) for professionalism when making an undead themed picture. The story remains believable and the characters aren't cliche teenagers waiting to add to the body count. The soundtrack has an authentic haunting and sorrowful quality to it.
The first half of this film is considerably slow paced however it is time spent on character development and setting up for the second half where more zombies join the legion and in doing so, the gore factor intensifies. This film also predates Fulci's Zombi 2 (1979), which Giannetto De Rossi would later work on, not surprising as he gave Grau's zombies such a terrific visage.


Franco Macabro said...

I reviewed this one a while back, check out my review here if your interested: (http://filmconnoisseur.blogspot.com/search/label/Let%20Sleeping%20Corpses%20Lie%20%281974%29)

I thought this movie is so underrated! Its an excellent zombie movie! It should defenetly get more attention. I got the vibe that 28 Days Later was a bit influenced by this one with the look on the zombies eyes, the bloodshot red.

Great review!

James said...

i have to agree with you. it is soo underrated, for zombie fans it is something of a 'rite of passage'. yeah 28 days later, the rage virus turned their eyes red too, you're right!

Anonymous said...

One of the best (and unknown) Zombie films out there.

iain said...

Undoubtedly a well-achieved movie... but what you think is 'one of the best' lines - George Kennedy's 'long hair and f****t clothes' is what turned me off. Obviously you're heterosexual, otherwise you too might feel kicked in the teeth by relentless homophobic insults used by lazy dialogue non-writers ('American Werewolf in London' is another case in point; 'Prince Charles is a f****t'). It's worth remembering that the selfsame word is what Matthew Sheperd's murderers screamed as they beat him to death and left him to die, tied to a fence in Wyoming. I wonder if relentless use of 'ni***r' would be acceptable to you, or your black friends, when it's used in a throwaway, lazy fashion. I yield to nobody in my love of the horror genre, particularly as it consistently subverts socio-political norms and overturns the nuclear family - viz. the murderous child in 'Night of the Living Dead', Leatherface's 'anti-family' and Craven's understanding of the brutal self-interest at the core of the subruban family in 'The Hlls Have Eyes' and 'Last House on the Left' (interesting that the 2009 "remake" of the latter is in complete antithesis to the nihilism of the original, and celebrates the well-heeled, monied nuclear family rather than subverting it). Nonetheless, while horror stakes out dark psychosexual territory and ruthlessly interrogates gender roles, the playing to a (wrongly) perceived straight 18-25 male demographic means there's a lot of carelessness about gay-baiting language. Odd, since so many gay people are involved with the horror genre and its creation. But I live in Hollywood and know first-hand how gay people embrace the closet rather than risk what they see as career suicide (a mistaken notion). I also have the benefit of some time on the planet. Like your Dad, I saw 'Dawn of the Dead' (under the title 'Zombies', and heavily cut) on its theatrical release in the UK - in fact I saw it at a midnight preview in Leicester Square. I now live in both the US and UK, and have had the benefit of 22 years in the United States in which to take my fill of uncut, readily available horror movies and all the exploitation subgenres. My (male) partner, after more than 2 decades, still avoids slashers and rape-revenge movies, but I've had them on my dvd shelf for quite a long time now - for instance I have a signed copy of Nick Palumbo's execrable 'Murder-Set-Pieces' which the BBFC have banned outright in the UK, and the also-banned 'Texas Vibrator Massacre' (yes really) and 'Grotesque' (the Japanese mutilation horror) are readily available over here. So when I raise an objection to gay-baiting hate speech (which is what 'f****t' is) I don't do it lightly. And on my visit to the UK last week my time spent in London and Manchester convinced me that they are 2 of the most gay-inclusive and gay-friendly cities in the world. I don't think for a minute that you have a homophobic cell in your body; just that in the US 'f****t" is a word charged with really, seriously, ugly hostilty and hate.

One other thing, if I may politely point it out, you do tend to use an apostrophised "it's" when you are using the word in a possessive sense (i.e. 'the cat chases it's tail') which, although common, it is a grammatical misuse. The cat chases its tail is correct. In Texas Chainsaw, for example, I might say that "the film has a perfect villain among its many pleasures." Not "among it's many pleasures". "It's" is only apostrophised when used as an abbreviation for "it is". Good grammar gooes a very very long way to improving the quality of your excellent blog, clearly a labour of love, and I salute you for your splendid efforts. The pics and posters are brilliant.

James said...

iain i appreciate your comment greatly. my reasoning for the choice of that line was due to the blatant ignorance and probably homophobia of Kennedy's character. one of my best and closest friends is gay and i am far from homophobic and by no means do i promote it.
i also thank you for the correction of its/it's. i'm glad someone set me straight as i'm never sure of the correct use. i failed english at school, but i was a different person back then.

iain said...

Thanks for your measured and thoughtful response - when I've made similar points on the imdb.com boards, the insults tend to come back at me thick and fast! No, as I said, I never, for one moment, assumed you are remotely homophobic. My point remains though; that it is a very lazy way for a writer to convey the ignorance of a character - in this case, Kennedy's - and ends up suggesting that a similar ignorance pervades the scriptwriter's thinking. Re: grammar, thanks for being so agreeable; you might easily have countered by pointing out that I didn't spell-check my own comment, and it's littered with typos! Once again, thanks for a superb - a really superb - site.

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