Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)
Cast: Ray Lovelock, Christine Galbo, Arthur Kennedy, Aldo Massasso
Director: Jorge Grau
Nutshell: Scientists meddling with mother nature unleash a wave of ghastly undead terror
“this works against all the odds” Time Out
Horror fans the world over were delighted when this rare Spanish entity with a big reputation was recently unleashed by those fine folks at Anchor Bay. The movie had earned quite a devoted cult following and it doesn’t take long to see that it is far more stylish an exercise in terror than is normally the case with low budget euro horror.
The plot, however full of inconsistencies and requiring numerous pinches of salt, is chillingly topical and reflects modern day horrors such as AIDS and especially Mad Cow disease. In this instance, the nefarious Ministry of Agriculture, as always out for a quick killing (no pun intended), is hell bent on producing a new strain of radiation inducing sound waves that will help eradicate the scourge of the insect kingdom. The men in white coats from the Ministry are busily transmitting waves of some pseudo-radiation sound waves into the earth and appear thrilled at their success. Yet, they are quite oblivious to the horror they are about to unleash as they go about meddling with mother nature….always a very bad idea, especially in movies. Unfortunately the radiation waves are not only wiping out the local roach population but they are also seeping into the souls of the recently deceased and somehow managing to reanimate them.
The Italian Spanish production largely shot in the UK has been directed with considerable visual flair by Spaniard Jorge Grau who has been massively influenced by the greatest of all undead shockers, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. The tone of the film and many of the scenes and indeed much of the nightmarish, doomsday like scenario’s that Romero presented are reflected in Grau’s film. The film features two young people on their way from London to the Lake District for their own reasons who literally bump into each other by chance and become embroiled in the unfurling of the most hideous events. On their way they stop at the place where the Ministry are conducting the anti-bug experiments with a contraption that looks like it was borrowed from Pinewood Studio’s Dr.Who set. Its almost an anticlimax that one doesn’t spot a Dalek or two streaking across the countryside. Alas for the young travelers after the brief encounter with the Ministerial dabbling, their lives are changed forever.
The film is none too subtle about making its “green” statement about messing with nature and the ecosystem, but perhaps people weren’t so aware of such issues back in 1974 when it was released. The movie contains better acting then one is accustomed from the euro horror genre and is shot with considerable style by Grau who attempts to live up to the masterly visual flair displayed by Armando Di Ossorio, a fellow countryman in his zombie classic Tombs of the Blind Dead. Indeed the films strongest moments are the set pieces involving the zombies while they attack and pillage and devour anything in sight and the gore reaches guignol levels with intestines and the like being slurped up in gorgeous Technicolor. All this set to the backdrop of the pristine English countryside renders the film a very Hammer-like atmosphere especially with the fog endlessly drifting about the pastures. The music is also fairly effective and the sound effects especially the strained breathing of the undead, the pounding of their undead hearts and the swirling countryside wind all add up to create an atmosphere of distinct unease. It shares the same sense of nihilistic doom that Romero’s classic reeked of.
Perhaps doesn’t quite succeed in topping Tombs of the Blind Dead and indeed Hammer’s masterful Plague of the Zombies as the best of euro Undead, but manages a very honourable runner up position. A point to be mentioned, and a fairly important one at that – much of the success of a zombie movie is to do with the hideousness of the creatures themselves, and in this regard, Sleeping Corpses passes the test, though a far cry from the magnificent zombies of Night of the Living Dead or the marauding Templar Knights from Tombs of the Blind Dead.