This European production, which was also released as Don’t Open the Window, marks an earlier attempt to capitalize on George Romero’s seminal Night of the Living Dead. It is reasonably well-acted with excellent production values and manages to maintain a vision of its own despite a derivative story.
The film features Ray Lovelock (Autopsy) and Christine Galbo (The House That Screamed) as a 70s’ quasi-hippie couple that meet in the English country side in a manner not unlike a vintage romantic comedy. There is more bickering than romance between them for much of the film and they eventually find themselves contending with the titular living dead; corpses reanimated by an experimental device for killing insects.
The corpses, of course, have an appetite for human flesh. Unlike other films of this type, they add to their number by putting blood on the eye lids of other corpses. They can also only be destroyed by fire.
Oddly-cast American actor Arthur Kennedy (Lawrence of Arabia, Fantastic Voyage) steals the film as an abusive police officer despite his slightly fake accent. According to commentary by director Jorge Grau on the VHS tape of the film from Anchor Bay, Kennedy realized his best acting days were behind him and brought genuine bitterness to the role.
Grau’s directing uses the rural setting perfectly. Beautiful photography and a moody musical score distinguish the film from too many other zombie films. The climax, which is set in a hospital, is exciting and in a peculiar way allows audience sympathy for the zombies.
The earlier parts of the film will drag slightly for those expecting horror action immediately. The subtext regarding pollution seems preachy and dated. A subplot involving the heroine’s sister, who is a heroin addict, doesn’t add much to the movie and seems tacked on for the sake of (then) trendiness. But despite these flaws, Living Dead of Manchester Morgue comes highly recommended.