Anchor Bay // 1974 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 4th, 2000
THEY tampered with nature and awakened the dead...and now WE must pay the price!
Spanish director Jorge Grau directs this ghoulish tale of the dead returning to life. Hot off the heels of George Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead and a few years before Dawn of the Dead came Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, the "color [and British] version of Night of the Living Dead" (so says Grau). Anchor Bay has released this overseas horror classic on DVD with bonus materials to boot.
After stopping at a gas station and hitting a motorcyclist's bike, Edna (Christinie Galbo) is forced to give George (Ray Lovelock, who has the best last names in movie history) a ride into town, as his bike is damaged and won't be fixed until Monday. Edna is on her way to Southgate to see her sister and brother-in-law at their new place while George is on his way to Windermere on vacation to hang out with some friends and help fix their place up (deep breath). After a while Edna decides that it will take too long to drop off George and get to her sisters, so George reluctantly decides to drive Edna to her sisters and borrow the car for the weekend (huh? I'd like to see THAT happen in America..."oh sure, just met you, borrow my car for the weekend and bring it back when you're done." Only the Amish and Grateful Dead fans would go with this kind of thought process).
On the way to Southgate George gets lost and has to stop to get directions (a first in the history of the male species). As George is over asking some local farmers about directions and the strange farm equipment they are using which gives off ultraviolet radiation to kill pests, Edna is attacked by a deranged man. George returns but finds no trace of the man and assumes Edna is making it up, so off they go to Southgate. Why is it in all these films when someone IS attacked, no one believes them? Well, Edna later sees the man's face in the paper, which says he is dead! How can this be? A dead man attacked her?
What you talkin' bout Willis?
Once they get to Edna's sister's place they find Katie (Jeannine Mestre) hysterical, as her husband Martin (Jose Lifante) is now dead. Bummer. Katie says that an unknown man did this (which is true), but when the Police Inspector (Arthur Kennedy) arrives, he thinks that all these people are nuttier than the Planter's Peanut guy. Katie is also a heroin addict. Double bummer.
I know what you're thinking..."Geez Judge Patrick, this sure is a lot of exposition for a goofy zombie flick." I understand. I'm with you. Bear with me.
SO, the police think it's this group of yahoos that killed Martin. As the plot starts to thicken and take some twists and turns, George takes Edna to the cemetery where "the man" is buried to prove it couldn't be him (you can start snickering now, as we all KNOW what's gonna happen). During their lil' rendezvous they're bombarded by the newly living dead, and that creepy guy that attacked Edna. Now it's up to George and Edna to find out what's bringing the dead back to life and stop them before it's too late!
Well isn't this film a hoot. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. On one hand we have a typical zombie splatter film filled with some disturbing images (such as one woman's breast ripped off by a zombie). On the other hand, this is all hokey second rate filmmaking, basically because it's just a rip-off of Night of the Living Dead (even the director admits this). But there are good things about it.
The script is peppered with dialogue that will make you howl for days, most of it being spoken by the Inspector. During an argument with George he blurts out (in a thick Irish accent) "You're all the same, the lot of you, with your long hair and your faggot clothes. Drugs, sex...every sort of filth. And ya hate the police, don't ya?" Hmm, with that kind of attitude it's hard to wonder why. Down under I think he's a big pussycat though. Coming from anyone else, that might sound very PC. But from this old fart it's a classic movie moment. He's like Rudy from "Survivor." He also supplies us with the great line "I wish the dead could come back to life, ya bastard, so then I could kill you again." A cry for love if I've ever heard one.
Pardon me while I fetch a hankie.
The character of George is an arrogant S.O.B., and milks it for all it's worth. What other kind of hero would tell the attractive heroine when she attempts a crack at just ONE joke "Do me a favor, darling, don't try and be funny." Oh, excuuuuuse us, George. We didn't know that you already had a corner on the comedy market.
The rest of the cast is ho-hum, just running and screaming and getting their insides pulled out by zombies, then shown to them. Fun for the whole family. The script is decent for the genre, with some neat ideas along the way (especially these weird iron tubes they store their dead in). The film struggles a bit to explain where the dead came from, and much of the dialogue is throwaway. That can be overlooked, especially since the director had the braskahonies to include a scene of a zombie eating a man's eyeball. The gore in Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is sufficient, though some of it looks a bit cheesy. Some of it may also make you ill, so it all evens out in the end.
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and looks..."eh." Anchor Bay has done a good job of cleaning up the print, but flaws are still found throughout. There was much grain present, and scratches could be spotted in certain scenes. During many scenes there were two lines that went through the screen from the negative that were somewhat annoying. I've seen much better transfers in my DVD experience. The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 is passable, with the mix doing what it needs. I heard no drowning of dialogue under the effects of music, and overall there was no hiss or distortion.
Anchor Bay has produced some nice extras to go along with this film, including an interview with the director as he discusses the influences for this movie, such as Night of the Living Dead (as Gomer Pyle used to say..."surprise, surprise!"). This whole interview is done in subtitles, as Grau speaks only Spanish (even though I hear the Anchor Bay boys tried to get some English out of him with hot lead and a cattle prod). Mostly this interview gives some back story as to who the film got made and what it took to get it to the screen.
Some radio spots and a TV spot are also included. The TV spot is anamorphic and a fun little watch (in these spots the title of the film is Don't Open the Window). The radio spots reminded me of the old '80s radio commercials for local haunted houses ("For those of you with a taste of zombies, the dead are alive..."). Fun but ultimately throwaways.
Finally there is a poster and stills gallery of promotional shots and overseas posters. If you're a fan I'm sure you'll get a kick...if not, press "skip" on your remote.
Inherently, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie has flaws. The script is essentially really just a cheap knock-off of Romero's superior Night of the Living Dead. Take an old script, add a few different plot twists and you get Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. I've often wondered why filmmakers tinkering in the zombie genre haven't come up with new or fresh ideas instead of just lightly plagiarizing Romero's original vision.
The acting is often over the top, and although some dialogue is fun, most sounds hollow and unreal. Then again, this was the '70s. I'm sure they'll say the exact same thing 30 years from now about the '90s films.
Finally, the transfer, as stated, could use some work. I don't doubt that Anchor Bay put a lot of time and effort into making it look as clean as possible. However, with a little more time and money this print could have looked much more crisp and clear.
When compared to such classics as Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead or even the horror comedy The Return of the Living Dead, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie ultimately pales in comparison. Although this is not a truly bad film, it really didn't lack the spirit or originality of other zombie films out on the video shelves. You can certainly do worse in the living dead film world, but not by much.
Or maybe I'm being too harsh. After a few margaritas, this may end up looking like a classic. For the price of around $24.99, fans clamoring for Let Sleeping Corpses Lie won't be too disappointed (and there is an even more expensive tin set you can buy as well).
Eh...I guess it's free to go, but Let Sleeping Corpses Lie needs to get a better transfer and some original material.
Review content copyright © 2000 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Exclusive Interview with Director Jorge Grau
* TV Spot
* Radio Spots
* Still and Poster Gallery