377) The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974) Dir: Jorge Grau Date Released: XX 1975 Date Seen: November 1, 2009 Rating: 3/5
In principle, I admire how hard Jorge Grau tries to recreate the seriousness of the original Night of the Living Dead in his The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue. As much as I love Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead and Fred Dekker's Night of the Creeps, there's something to be said about Grau's declarative insistence on a slow build-up and a character-driven plot. Grau unfortunately only delivers the former, confusing the latter with a story that has more in common with a murder mystery than a melodrama. The characters are ultimately inconsequential in Manchester Morgue, never developed beyond the surface level of character types. Which is frustrating considering how George (Ray Lovelock) is not supposed to be the free-love hippie/Satanist that the malevolent Inspector (Arthur Kennedy) vapidly pegs him as. What he is is unclear but it's not his leather jacket, his slang or his disrespect for authoritah, man.
The film's four screenwriters break their own rules when it comes to the Inspector, putting him down for pursuing a pointless vendetta against George instead of the facts. This is in spite of the fact that the reason George and Edna (Cristina Galbo) give the Inspector as to why zombies are loose--radiation waves used as fertilizer; go figure--is in fact implausible. They produce no credible evidence to back up their claim but they're not supposed to according to the film. The police are just supposed to bite a bullet and believe their key suspects so that innocent lives can be saved. Which is like saying, "The reason why an outbreak is spreading shouldn't be important to the characters but nevertheless, let's give our audience a ridiculous, over-done one about the dangerous side-effects of radiation poisoning." The film's confrontations with the dead are fun, or at least, they can be when no emotional gravitas is expected of them--last scene or two fall flat--but that's about it.