‘The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue’ Rise Again in HD [Blu-ray Review]

Over 20 years ago, back when collecting Anchor Bay horror DVDs was all the rage, I can remember buying the limited edition tin for Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)—one of this film’s many, many alternate titles—and finding the movie to be “a bore”. And I haven’t watched it since. So when the new Synapse Films Blu-ray landed in the mailbox my brain’s initial thought was to dismiss it because 18-year-old me didn’t like the picture. And boy, let me tell you how wrong that guy was. Coming six years after George Romero’s seminal Night of the Living Dead (1968) and four years before Dawn of the Dead (1978) would further bolster zombie movies, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974) feels like it perfectly bridges that cinematic gap.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is a film steeped in mood and atmosphere; grim and unsettling. It’s a film where the two leads are a man and woman forced together by circumstance yet they aren’t made to fall in love. It’s a film where the zombie outbreak is new and not widely known. A film where the local cops would rather suspect people of murder than believe the dead have returned to life.

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While en route to deliver an art piece antique dealer George (Ray Lovelock) has his motorcycle hit by Edna (Cristina Galbo). And, of course, it’ll take a few days to fix. Perturbed but persistent George tells Edna she has to give him a lift to his destination, and she agrees, but Edna first plans to visit the home of her sister. They get lost during the trip. George hops out to ask for directions from a group of agriculturists who are operating a new piece of machinery that uses ultra-sonic radiation to kill insects.

Edna, who is waiting in the car nearby, is attacked by a man who waded out of the river… a man who looks an awful lot like a local who recently died. Eventually, after night has fallen, George and Edna find her sister’s home—but only after she and her husband are attacked by the same man Edna saw earlier. The police are unconvinced George and Edna are totally innocent and the two are forced to stay in town while the investigation continues. This is all happening while the local dead rise from the grave.

Director Jorge Grau sets a serious tone, eschewing any levity, and focusing instead on the harsh reality of George and Edna’s situation. Only they have seen the dead shambling about, and only they have found a way to destroy them. The problem is by the time cops arrive there are only bodies, and bodies mean murder. So George is by default the likely culprit. Strange things are happening around town, like babies being born hyper-aggressive, and the aforementioned local vagrant who drowned suddenly being seen wandering around the foothills.

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Though the dead are few they make up for it in savagery, brutally killing anyone they get their decayed hands on. Someone correct me if I’m wrong but I think The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is the first to feature the now-classic Romero pull-apart death, as an unlucky soul is eviscerated and torn limb from limb in the cemetery.

Adding to the eeriness is composer Giuliano Sorgini’s score, which starts with an upbeat, funky tune that fits in with the counterculture vibes given off by George. That mood doesn’t last long and eventually, the score settles into something foreboding and creepy, perfectly matching the macabre ghoulishness unfolding on screen.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is quite the mouthful of a title and distributors across the globe decided to change it for different regions. Alternate titles include Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Don’t Open the Window (the inspiration for Edgar Wright’s faux trailer in Grindhouse), Zombi 3, Murder at the Manchester Morgue, Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue (my personal favorite), Invasion of the Zombies, Do Not Speak Ill of the Dead, and many, many more.

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There was a 2009 Blu-ray release put out by Blue Underground (that has an awfully huge spoiler right on the cover) but for this release, Synapse has created a new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative. Although I haven’t seen the BU edition, there’s little doubt Synapse blows it away since the company famously delivers some of the highest-quality restoration work for the home video market. The 1.85:1 1080p picture is swimming with ‘70s film grain. The colors look natural and well-saturated. Overall, everything looks crisp and finely defined.   

Synapse offers two audio options: an original English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track and a newly created 5.1 surround sound remix made just for this release. As much as I love enveloping audio I tend to be a purist, so my viewing was with the mono track enabled. It sounds great, though at times it did come across as a bit thin. That’s likely a source issue. I sampled the multi-channel mix a few times and it’s thoughtfully done without over amplifying the track. Subtitles are included in English SDH.

Two audio commentary tracks with notable film historians are included—one with Troy Howarth, the other with Nathaniel Thompson and Bruce Holecheck.  

“Jorge Grau – Catalonia’s Cult Film King” (HD, 1:28:58) is a feature-length documentary on this film’s director, covering his entire life & career.

“The Scene of the Crime – Gianetto de Rossi in Discussion from Manchester” (HD, 15:24), the special effects wizard discusses his work on Grau’s film.

“Gianetto de Rossi – Q&A at the Festival of Fantastic Films” (HD, 42:29) offers more insight about the feature and the effects work.

An original theatrical trailer (3:51), two TV spots (0:57), and two radio spots (2:07) are also included.  

Special Features:

  • EXCLUSIVE NEW 4K RESTORATION from the original 35mm camera negative
  • NEW 5.1 English stereo surround remix made exclusively for the Synapse Films release
  • Two audio commentaries featuring authors and critics Troy Howarth, Nathaniel Thompson and Bruce Holecheck
  • Restoration of the true original English language theatrical mono mix
  • Jorge Grau – Catalonia’s Cult Film King (89 mins.) – This extensive feature-length documentary explores the life and films of director Jorge Grau
  • The Scene of the Crime – Giannetto De Rossi in Discussion from Manchester (16 Mins.)
  • Giannetto De Rossi – Q&A at the Festival of Fantastic Films, UK (43 Mins)
  • Theatrical trailer, TV spots and radio spots
  • Newly translated removable English SDH subtitles
  • The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue
  • Special Features


Synapse delivers the goods with this standard Blu-ray edition, featuring a lovely 4K restoration, improved audio, and a decent selection of extras. The company previously issued a limited edition steelbook release that also includes the soundtrack. Completists who own the prior Blue Underground release may want to hang onto it for the exclusive extras. If all you care about is the best a/v quality, however, this edition is highly recommended.

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