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The Nostalgic Attic: Soundtrack Spotlight: The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

17 June 2014

Soundtrack Spotlight: The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

Last week I received a mystery package from my good chum-pal Bill over at Spartak Mixtapes, and when this beauty popped out I was suitably blown away. Bill introduced me to Death Waltz Records last year, when he was showing off his lovely edition of Halloween III's incredible score. Since then they've been high on my radar, but I had yet to thrown down for any of their releases. So thanks Bill, for busting my Death Waltz cherry!

It's currently too hot to be doing much of anything in Dublin right now, other than sitting in the shade, listening to some music and reading or writing. For anyone who's working indoors.. you have my sympathies. The score to Jorge Grau's cult zombie shocker seems like the perfect record to go with today, as for some reason it always seemed like a hot and sweaty kinda film... despite being shot in Yorkshire. Maybe it's just the fact that the film opens with a streaker running through the streets of Manchester, and that's kinda what I feel like doing right now. I gotta catch a breeze somehow...

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is also known to a few of you under the title, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, or possibly, the unimaginative Don't Open the Window. Whichever title is familiar, it's still the same film - something strange and zombie-ish is happening in Yorkshire, and it's up to a hippy, George, (Ray Lovelock) and his stressed out lady friend, Edna (Cristina Galbo) to get to the bottom of the local murders and put an end to the ghost-like zombies for good. If for some reason you haven't seen it, then do yourself a favour and get on it - the film makes great use of the British countryside which only adds to the bag loads of atmosphere it has, and it all nicely balances out with the glorious early 70's gore. It's definitely one of the best post-Night of the Living Dead cash in's, and feels very different from the Italian splatter entries that came much later in the decade.

The score though, is something quite different. I have to admit, beyond the opening, upbeat sounds of 'John Dalton Street', it was never a score that I had ever thought of seeking out on its own. How wrong I've been, as what's on display here is excellent. Not only has it got that groovy, euro-horror vibe, but it has some truly creepy ambient sections that any self respecting horror score fan would love. The use of atmospheric rumblings coupled with the shrieks and cries of the dead (allegedly made by the director himself, according to the linear notes) really is quite effective, and although not anything on the same level as the discordant psycho-sexual shrieks that Morricone was doing at the time, it is a similarly forward-thinking way of scoring a horror picture. The soundtrack as a whole has a gloriously claustrophobic feel to it, almost like the breathy sounds of the corpses are in the room with you...

The packaging is lovely on this release; they really have done a great job on the artwork (by Luke Insect), and the linear notes include some brief commentary from genre expert Stephen Thrower, and an insight into the recording by the composer, Giuliano Sorgini. There is a nice looking poster for the company packed in, featuring the sleeve artwork. Overall, it's an eerie collection of sounds, and well worth dipping into. The problem I have now is figuring out which one to get next from these guys, as they are amassing quite a catalogue at this stage.

Now, if only it wasn't too hot to sit inside watching the film, I'd be happy...

and the second part:

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At 17 June 2014 at 09:54 , Blogger Alvin Brickrock said...

I love these Death Waltz releases. I've just ordered Ms.45 and also want to pick up City of the Living Dead at some point. This looks like a winner also !


At 17 June 2014 at 10:06 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

I'd highly recommend it, Dick, especially if you are already into the company. It's a lovely package, and I really don't know what to go with next!

At 18 June 2014 at 01:39 , Blogger Wes M said...

Yeah, this is a beauty indeed. The Death Waltz stuff has an undeniable fetishistic quality. I'm actually listening to an mp3 rip of the score now and it really has that classic riff-driven Euro-70's vibe to it, and aside from the more experimental stuff, these tunes could have been lifted from a particularly taunt Italian Poliziotteschi film. But it's the quieter passages of the soundtrack that I really dig, like the track that closes Side 1, The Death Of The Dead, or the modular synth weirdness of The Torment of the Dead. And those witch cackles are pretty unnerving too...

The film is of course completely wonderful and one of Cinema's finest zombie movies. The film takes its cue from Night of the Living Dead, but doesn't really belong to any tradition - it anticipates a lot of the later Italian zombie films, but stands apart I think... John that's funny that you get that hot sweaty vibe from the film, with me it has a damp bottle-green flavour... Back in the fanzine days, when editors were pedantic as hell about European Cult Cinema, every mention of this film would come pre-loaded with a tortuous litany of alternative titles... The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (aka Non Si Deve Profanare il Sonno dei Morti, The Living Dead, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue, Don't Open the Window, and so on...)

At 18 June 2014 at 01:46 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Yeah, as I said, it definitely ties in with the contemporary scores coming from Italy alright, and as you so rightly mentioned, the more low key, somber tracks are where it really shines with its own personality.

Ha, yes - it's very possible that I'm just projecting my current, sweaty state into the film, but I totally see where you are coming from in terms of 'dampness'. The film really is an oddity in terms of the different types of genres it pulls from; exploitative cult hippy murder mystery with supernatural, sci-fi zombies... all bashed together in one tidy little atmospheric, package. Yeah, I refused to go any further than three alternatives for this one, you'd have a sore wrist by the time you got done typing! I'm not sure there is even a window in the film that makes any sense to the 'Don't..' title??

At 18 June 2014 at 03:04 , Blogger Grimm said...

Nice score! I just watched this a few weeks ago. Of course, I know this movie as 'Let Sleeping Corpses Lie', but I still love it. Seriously underrated. I love old vinyls and soundtracks to old movies, if not just for the collectible sake of things. Congrats dude!

Wes M said it right!

At 18 June 2014 at 03:45 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Cheers chief, it has always been The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue for me - I just think it's a great title! agreed that it's underrated, though it definitely has a good cult following at this point. Luckily we have some great writers who are fans of exploitation cinema and obscure horror who have been championing the likes of this for a while now.

At 19 June 2014 at 20:42 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

I first heard of this movie when I gained an English pen pal thanks to one of those Fangoria subscriber ads given me when I signed up for a year of home delivery. I asked for 10 Best/Worst Horror Movie lists to be sent to my home, and I got mail from all over the US and one from Reading England. That guy listed this movie as one of his Top Ten - and despite adding it to my list of To See - all these decades later I still haven't! *sigh* Maybe one of these days...

At 20 June 2014 at 12:22 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Craig, there is no better time than now to jump on this one - the Blu Ray from Blue Underground is lovely, though not much in the way of extras are on the disc. Still, I think you will like the mood of this one, definitely worth getting around to. It's never too late!

At 20 June 2014 at 14:57 , Blogger Maurice Mitchell said...

That is amazing artwork JP! They managed to capture the raw gritty feel of the film using color and textures. Very well done.

At 21 June 2014 at 04:07 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Thanks for stopping by, Maurice. To be honest, my photos don't do the package justice, it's definitely a display piece!


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