Like another movie I own, Planet Of The Vampires, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is a film that has been released under a bewildering array of titles. Released in 1974 this is a zombie movie that is post-Night of The Living Dead (1968) but preceded both films that ushered in the Zombie Apocalypse®, Zombie and Dawn of the Dead (1979.)
Placed in such a unique position in zombie movie chronology The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is a film particular to its time and place in history. For quite a while it was wholly unavailable on home video and therefore rarely seen. I myself had not heard of this Italian/Spanish co-prpduction until it was mentioned during Zombie week at tor.com.
Today the Zombie Apocalypse® is a well established meme in the greater trans-world culture. Nearly everyone knows what is meant by the Zombie Apocalypse® and it is a common parlor game to thought-experiment your survivalist victory against the hordes of undead. In these thought-scenerios the undead are nearly always the ghouls envision by George A Romero in his film Night of The Living Dead. If one is a heretic, you propose an apocalypse of Zack Snyder’s fast zombie from the re-make of Dawn of The Dead, but most purist reject these zombies. (I do not, I own both versions the 1979 and the 2004 on home video.) If one is utterly desiring of death and failure, you might go with the Dan O’Bannon zombies of Return Of The Living Dead, but really who is interested in an apocalypse of indestructible zombies?
Because this film, 1974, pre-dates the Zombie Apocalypse® and the nearly universally accepted Romero’s view of the undead, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue actually invents their own zombie for this tale. The zombies here are the most dangerous zombies I have seen in film, excepting the indestructible intelligent zombie’s of Dan O’Bannon’s creation. These undead are destructible, but not as easily as Romero’s.
Also harking back to Night of The Living Dead, where a returning space probe is suggested as the cause for the ghoulish attacks, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (man, that is along title to keep typing.) have a cause and an origin, but to solution, if there is one, is not as easy as removing the cause. This film hints that an apocalypse may be occurring — fitting for a mid-seveties production — without explicitly putting the world on the all flesh diet.
The story is simple, and constrained in locale and characters. A pair of people, through together by chance, confront an outbreak of undead and their attacks, in a small English village. One of the things that sets this film apart is that the authorities and their biases are part of the plot. Unlike the other films, Night of The Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, etc, where the world falls apart so quickly taht the authorities are forced to confront the unholy truth quickly, or films like Zombie where the action is in a remote and isolated locale without authorities, this movie has a small enough outbreak in a populated region that a copper’s first view is murder not the end fo the world.
I think this adds to the horror in the film. The heroes can’t just ignore convention and grab all the weapons, food, and any local mall for survival. They must deal the the undead and the undead mentality of the law.
Rated R for Gore and nudity this is not a family fun-time movie, but if you a fan of the genre that is zombie movies I think you should see this. It is entertaining, and it’s different. A zombie that is not just a copy of Romero’s.