"Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti" is Spanish director Jorge Grau's answer to Romero's Night of the Living Dead, and the director quite readily admits that he was told to basically deliver the same film in color, with just some minor changes to avoid any legal hassles. Grau took some of the demands to heart, but, thankfully, not all, and delivers what is my second favorite Zombie flick of all time, right behind Romero's original. The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue is a beautifully made horror film that was shot mostly* in England, and uses the countries lush grasslands and rustic locales to great visual effect. The sheer scope of the production is somewhat epic, despite the film's very low budget, and the story is fresh, inventive twist on the then-young zombie genre!
The film begins with Edna (Galbo') and her recently acquired travel mate George (Lovelock) traveling out of London; she to see her soon to be committed sister; he to vacation with friends at a country estate. Edna makes a deal with George that he can take her car and return it to her at a later date if he helps her find her way to her sister's off-the-beaten-path home, and while George - who is only traveling with Edna because she backed over his motorcycle at gas station miles back - is less than pleased, he accepts. They stop for directions, and, when George happens upon a farmer and two Ecological Science Department workers testing out a new insect killing machine, he engages in an ecological debate about said machine's safety. The two workers insist that the machine puts out a very low level radioactive frequency that only works on the most primitive of nervous systems, and causes the affected creatures to kill each other off in a frenzy, thus eliminating crop infesting insects. George doesn't buy it, but relents, as he is eager to get on with his travels.
Meanwhile, Edna notices a strange man shambling about in the woods. In a scene that is obviously lifted from Romero's classic, the man attacks her in the vehicle. She flees across the river and meets up with George and the farmer, tells them of her ordeal, but, of course, the man is now gone, and Edna is told she is just being hysterical. That point is given more credence since her description of the man matches that of the local drunkard who'd died a week prior. Edna's claim is dismissed, and the two venture forth to her sister's home, just in time to discover that her sister's husband has been murdered by the very same man Edna saw earlier. Soon, it becomes clear that the dead are rising from their graves. As the body count grows, so do the legions of undead, and it is up to George and Edna to stop them, and also make the public aware of the dangers of the Ecological Science Departments new invention.
The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue comes to Blu-ray in a 1080p 1.85:1 transfer that longtime fans of the film need to see to believe. It looks positively fantastic, even when compared to Blue Underground’s recent reissue DVD of the film (which boasted a completely remastered image). The lush greenery of England’s Peak District has never looked so vivid and wonderfully detailed. Blacks are rich and true, giving the image a nice sense of depth, while fine details are evident throughout, especially in close-ups on faces and in textures. While HD aficionados unfamiliar with the film probably won’t appreciate the transfer, fans will be floored!
The Blu-ray’s lossless DTS-HD 7.1 track sounds fine, but given LDAMM’s age and budget, the film hardly capitalizes on the technology. This is a decidedly front heavy mix, with most of the action occurring in the subs, center, and satellite speakers. There’s an occasional ambient effect or two floating around the soundfield, but, for the most part, it’s all pretty neutral. Dialogue is crisp and well articulated, bass is meaty and full, and the film’s score is lush and distortion free. Blue Underground includes the original mono soundtrack for comparison’s sake, and, believe me, you will appreciate the new mix a hell of a lot more once you give the mono mix a whirl.
Extras are ported over from the aforementioned reissue DVD and are all presented in standard definition. Supplements include three lengthy featurettes; Zombie Fighter -- Interview With Star Ray Lovelock; Zombie Maker -- Interview With Special Effects Artist Giannetto De Rossi and, the best (and, at nearly 45 minutes, the longest) of the lot, Back to the Morgue: On Location With Director Jorge Grau in which Grau returns to visit the film’s shooting locations. Other extras include original television and radio spots, an older interview with Grau carried over from the Anchor Bay release, a stills gallery, and the film’s theatrical trailer (in HD).
If you are a fan of zombie films you owe it to yourself to seek out The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue in any of its incarnations, but, for now, Blue Underground have released the definitive edition of this little-seen gem on Blu-ray. It's not the scariest or goriest example of the genre, but it's definitely one of the most visually impressive and unique zombie films I have ever had the pleasure to see, and it looks even better on Blu!