aka Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti; No profanar el sueño de los muertos; The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue; Don’t Open the Window
93 min., 1974
Directed by Jorge Grau
Language: English (some dubbed dialogue)
IMDB • Netflix
For zombie enthusiasts only.
* * *
A set of unfortunate circumstances brings together a young woman named Edna together with a London antiques dealer named George on a car journey in the north of England. When George stops for directions, Edna is attacked by a mysterious stranger. Later on, her brother-in-law turns up dead, apparently at the hands of the same attacker, but the police suspect Edna and George. But the truth is far more horrific–the murders are being committed by corpses reanimated as a side effect of a new, experimental pesticide being tested at a local farm…
So here’s an interesting one for ya: a zombie movie made several years before the big zombie explosion, with Spanish and Italian money (and featuring a mostly Spanish and Italian cast), but taking place in England and largely shot there. So how’s it turn out? A bit weird, but does that surprise anyone?
Story-wise, it’s pretty much business as usual. There are a couple of things that might strike you a bit odd about the zombie plague and how it’s transmitted, although my defense of that is going to be that the zombie “rules” weren’t really written in stone by this point. I guess my one problem is that it combines a science-fiction element (the radiation/pesticide thing) with another element that seems almost mystical or something (I don’t want to spoil because it’s a genuine surprise). It could be that the filmmakers were trying to for something that felt more along the lines of voodoo, I don’t know. It didn’t really work for me, but maybe it will for you.
Other than that, apart from a couple of nice scenes and a climax-and-ending sequence that absolutely rocks, there is not a whole lot in the realm of storytelling that is going to take the average fan by surprise. Pacing-wise, the film starts very slow but does eventually pick up about halfway through. I enjoyed the character development–there’s a bit more depth than movies like this usually have. The one exception is the unnamed police inspector (the credits literally only identify him as “the Inspector”) leading the investigation; he’s little more than a contrivance to keep putting obstacles in George and Edna’s way.
A decent performance could have helped the character out a bit, but unfortunately Arthur Kennedy (the only member of the ensemble anyone’s likely to recognize) doesn’t bother bringing any life or credibility to the role…and it doesn’t help that Kennedy’s Oirish-cop accent can’t stay together for more than six words before it slips into pure Brooklyn. The rest of the dubbed voice cast (of course there are dubbed voices, because this is ’70s Eurohorror) is a bit on the flat side; sure, I’ve heard a lot worse in my time, but it still doesn’t make it good. The one ray of sunshine here is Ray Lovelock, whose command and charisma guarantee that George is likeable even when his behavior’s a bit dickish. (Very few people could pull off commandeering Edna’s car the way he does.)
As far as the zombies go…well, they’re actually pretty good. The performances are strong (particularly Fernando Hilbeck as Guthrie, the zombie who attacks Edna) and the makeup is excellent–honestly, I think this could be the best zombie makeup between Night and Day. Jorge Grau’s direction is undistinguished, but one thing I’ll give him is that he integrates the English and continental locations seamlessly; I had initially thought the whole thing was shot in England.
I think, these days, it’s going to be the zombie aficionados that get the most out of this one. As I’ve said in the past, for whatever reason, I’m a bit bored with zombies by now, so if there’s something here that elevates it above the teeming masses of other ghoul flicks I’m not seeing it. To me, it’s just decent…not a waste of 90 minutes, but hardly essential.Have You Read...?