Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Arthur Kennedy, Ray Lovelock, Christine Galbo, William Lyton
Extras: Director Interview & Intro, TV Spot, Radio Spot, Still Gallery

I often claim to be a fan of zombie films, but when I really think about it, I usually find most films about the living dead to be a bit slow. The filmmakers often seem to be mimicking the sluggish pace of the zombies themselves and we get a film where nothing ever really happens. Well, I think I’ve finally found a zombie film to change that image.

’Let Sleeping Corpses Lie’ is a very stylish and well-made zombie movie that chooses quality over quantity. While there are no more than 7 or 8 zombies in the whole movie, overall, it’s one of the best living-dead films that I’ve ever seen. Doomed to obscurity by the fact that it’s gone through multiple title changes over the years (it’s perhaps best known as ’The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue’), ’Let Sleeping Corpses Lie’ emerges as a film that overcomes its seemingly low budget and triumphs. The film is set in the English countryside, where George (Ray Lovelock) and Edna (Christine Galbo) end up travelling together after a fender-bender. George is on holiday and Edna is going to visit her sister. Things get strange when they stop at a farm for directions and see an experiment in progress. The government is using ’sonic radiation’ to kill the pests that feed on crops. Unfortunately, an apparent sideeffect of this process is that it brings the dead back to life. Edna is attacked by a zombie, but no one believes her. Soon however, the bodies at the local hospital begin to rise and all hell breaks loose.

While this film isn’t a non-stop action-fest, there are several exciting set pieces and the movie certainly never drags. One thing that really struck me was the level of violence in the film and the effectiveness of the gore effects. Sure, I’d expected blood, but I didn’t expect a low-budget foreign film from 1974 to have such realistic flesh-ripping. The film has a definite political agenda, but when viewed today, it comes off like an episode of ’Dragnet’, where the cops are always squaring off with the hippies. The only thing working against ’Let Sleeping Corpses Lie’ is the fact that George is one of the most annoying ’heroes’ in film history. His bad haircut and chauvinistic attitude had me begging for a zombie to eat him within minutes. Nonetheless, the film is very well-made, competently acted, has a semi-logical plot, and the appropriate nihilistic attitude. Fans of zombiedom should not miss ’Let Sleeping Corpses Lie.’

I can’t say that Anchor Bay brought ’Let Sleeping Corpses Lie’ back from the dead, but they sure gave it a great face-lift. The digital transfer is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and has been enhanced for 16×9 TVs. The image is simply beautiful. It’s very clear, showing only a slight hint of grain at times. Surprisingly, there are few defects evident from the source print, and only slight artifacting is present. The colors come across wonderfully, and are best expressed in the fiery redness of Christine Galbo’s hair. Also, the bizarre red contact lenses worn by the zombies is eerily effective. The blacks in the film are very true, and add depth to the picture. The audio on the DVD is equally nice. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is very effective, considering the attention to audio details in the film. The zombie’s have a signature breathing/wheezing sound, and this is made all the more spooky by the surround sound. Also, anytime a zombie strikes or pounds on a door, the sound reverberates through the rear speakers, and the subwoofer as well.

The ’Let Sleeping Corpses Lie’ DVD has several special features. There is a one-minute introduction to the film by director Jorge Grau. Following the film, you can see Grau again in a 20-minute interview, which can be viewed with or without subtitles. In the interview, Grau speaks openly about the origin of the film, the production, the actors, and his influences. He claims that the film was to be ’Night of the Living Dead’, but in color. That’s not a bad description. There is a 25-second TV spot, which is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and several radio spots. In these ads, the film is being advertised under the title ’Don’t Open the Window’. As you listen to the radio spots, you get to see ad slicks for ’Don’t Open the Window’. Lastly, we have a still gallery which features many different posters for the film, under its various titles. One of the posters has the film listed as ’Zombi 3’. It is my belief that every film that’s ever opened in Italy has been called ’Zombi 3’ at one time or another. (I think that ’The Grinch’ just opened in Rome as ’Zombi 3’.)

The ’Let Sleeping Corpses Lie’ DVD certainly isn’t DOA and I think that anyone with a pulse will really enjoy it.