harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Reviewed: Let Sleeping Corpses Lie ... (part II)


Scene 33: In the ‘Old Owl Hotel’, Edna and George get checked in -- separate rooms -- Edna takes care of the paperwork. George calls his friends, who are no doubt frantic to know where the hell he is and whether he plans on showing up at all.

At the desk, the hotel owner asks if Edna is one of the people involved in the murder business, and gives her a message that has been waiting for her to arrive.

Edna rushes to the phone booth to interrupt George frantically. The message, you see, was to tell her that poor Katie has completely lost her shit and has been sent to the local hospital for observation/some heavy tranquilizers.

Now, George has really, really had enough of all of this. But then Edna gives him the wide eyed, “I can’t even think anymore! You must help me!” so he agrees reluctantly.

Commentary: This shot always bugs me. Not the part where they film from inside the booth, while George and Edna are discussing Katie outside of it. That was an unnecessary flourish, sure, but it wasn’t “look at me, I’m the director” so it wasn’t bothersome. No, what really bothers me was the unnecessary delay of several heartbeats where Ray and Cristina just stand there staring at each other awkwardly. It’s such a weird thing, and Cristina doesn’t maintain the desperate, beseeching staredown face - so it just comes across as oddly edited, instead of the two characters sharing an intense moment.

Just a really odd moment of “leave the camera running”, while our actors wait awkwardly for "Cut!"

Scene 34: With George seemingly trapped with Edna throughout her whole family drama indefinitely, he rushes her off to Southgate Hospital.

As they park and walk through the door, we hear the deep thrumming sounds and hear the raspy exhale of ol’ Guthrie. Also of special interest is mortuary truck, which has arrived also at the hospital. They’re picking up, with the bodies being stored in a heavy refrigerated unit, which is then loaded into the back of the truck [which isn’t at all efficient… the refrigerated caskets are so large and bulky, only four can fit in the truck].

Scene 35: We watch as four men load up such a casket into the last place available in the storage space of the mortuary lorry.

Meantime, George and Edna make their way to the floor that is holding Katie.

Scene 36: A police officer is posted outside of Katie’s room. After speaking to the doctor for a moment, she’s allowed to visit her sister after being assured that she’s not in serious condition, but she needs rest.

Scene 37: Katie is conscious, and the first things from her mouth is to assure Edna that she didn’t kill Martin.

Scene 38: In the meantime, George is wandering the hallways. He [for contrived reasons] ends up in the basement of the hospital, where he notes a few more of the refrigerated units for corpse transport sitting out. The doctor has also made his way downstairs [for no real reasoning -- I doubt he has patients down here that he can help] notices his interest and jokes a bit with him about how nice they are, if he’s interested in one.

He explains that the autopsies can’t be performed locally, so the bodies have to be refrigerated for the long ride to Manchester where all of the minutiae of death is taken care of. He jokes a bit more about making a reservation for George.

But this is interrupted by an alarm, one which the doctor is familiar with as he complains it’s from the nursery again.

Scene 39: When George arrives moments behind the doctor, he sees him assisting a nurse, who has had her eye gouged.

After she’s helped by a nurse, George follows the doctor into the nursery, where a baby with a bloody, little fist has to be sedated. It manages to scratch George before the sedation takes effect.

Scene 40: In the hallway, the doctor goes on to tell George that they’ve experienced odd episodes of manic and violent behavior from the newborns. The doctor is perplexed as all of their tests thus far have revealed no toxin or virus that could be causing the children to act this way. And, oddly enough, all of the newborns were born near to Southgate… in the area of the river.

George mentions that this is the same area where he saw the Department of Agriculture setting up a machine to destroy insects that involves attacks on their nervous systems. The doctor finds this interesting, and asks George if he could show him where the men are using this device.

Scene 41: Back at the farm, the technicians are still fiddling around with settings and whatnot. They’ve been  joined by the doctor and George, where they watch ants begin attacking one another in a [stock footage] swarm as the ultrasonic radiation drives their primitive minds nutso cuckoo.

But they insist that only the most primitive of nervous systems could possibly be affected, and it cannot have any impact on humans.

The doctor thanks them for their time.

Scene 42: As the doctor and George leave, they both have to admit that the machine with its limited range could actually impact babies at the hospital. Especially since it has already gone through research, development and testing prior to being placed for trials in the field. And of course, the farmer and the two technicians have been surrounded by the ultrasonic field, and they’re not turning homicidal.

Still, the doctor does find it curious. And newborns’ nervous systems are still in a state of development….

Scene 43: Later, George and Edna have retrieved the processed photos, but all they show is Katie looking horrified. Which doesn’t actually prove that she didn’t kill Martin in a drug fueled hysteria.

George points out that in one of the photos, Katie actually looks really bad. Edna insists that the man Katie described does exist. She asks the clerk about ol’ Guthrie. But he drowned. Edna asks about a photograph of him, but the answer is negative. She finally asks if the clerk can think of any reason that a photograph would fail to capture an image and he jokes with her that maybe a ghost wouldn’t show.

At this, Detective-Sergeant McCormick interrupts that nobody believes in ghosts. It seems that not only was the missing film noticed, and realized that it was in the camera before, but the police also guessed that Edna had something to do with its disappearance, and since she and George haven’t fled, it was probably taken to the local developer by them.

This whole state of bad decision making doesn’t make McCormick any more ready to believe that George and Edna aren’t helping Katie cover up Martin’s murder. In fact, he’s ready to believe they were willing partners beforehand, even. George asks if the police ever even consider that they’re mistaken.

McCormick really shows his contempt here for the young generation “with [their] long hair and faggot clothes. Drugs. Sex. Every sort of filth”.

This outburst only antagonizes George into first agreeing that hating cops is easy around Detective-Sergeant McCormick, and then giving him a “Heil, Hitler” when he warns that he and Edna will be made to answer for interfering in the investigation at the inquest.

Commentary: It’s really difficult to actually like George, because of his attitude and kneejerk and mouth contempt for law, authority, and decorum. Despite the interesting bit that George dressed completely differently in Cardigan, buttoned up shirt and a tie at his shop, the moment he ‘dresses down’ in his leathers, he goes out of his way to confirm every prejudice from the ‘country folk’ he runs into.

But McCormick is no better! He sizes up George based totally on his leather coat, long hair and full facial hair -- and decides he’s a degenerate monster. From this first impression onward, EVERY single bit of evidence learned about Martin’s mysteriously brutal murder is seen entirely through the lens of proving that George is the worst thing to ever hit Southgate and is an immortal, monstrous assault on decent folks everywhere. Somehow, despite believing Katie did in fact murder her husband, McCormick primary duty seems to be to prove that George is worse than a drugged out murderess… somehow. And he’s not about to open up his mind to any other possibilities or, as far as we can tell, even do much actual investigation on the off chance that his initial focus on George proves displaced.

These two men are not only both pig-headed and buttheads, but they’re both so busy trying to prove to one another that they’re the one who is right, that the actual murder of Martin seems to be little more than a background event. It’s downright maddening!

Scene 44: After the police leave with the retrieved photos from Martin’s camera, the shop keeper remembers that Guthrie’s picture is in the old newspaper from earlier in the week, announcing his discovery in the river. He still has extra copies on the rack.

Edna is nonplussed to see the man who assaulted her in the car, despite everybody saying he was definitely deaders. The clerk even mentions helping to lay him in the coffin, and taking him to the cemetery for burial two days ago [but which we‘ll infer that Guthrie wasn‘t actually buried yet, because none of the cheapskates in town wanted to cover the costs for a burial, or better yet a cremation, for a social pariah and beggar -- it kinda makes me want to be on Guthrie‘s side in this whole thing]. This leaves George grasping at a possible twin brother, but the clerk doesn’t know of any family of poor suicidal Guthrie.

Scene 45: The next stop is obviously to check out the cemetery. One, to prove to Edna that Guthrie isn’t the man she saw once and for all. Two, to see if the cemetery keeper would know about any family of Guthrie who may resemble him so closely.

[Except, that being George, he’s a bit more of a jerk about explaining his plans. Honestly, I have an unhealthy attraction to jerks in leather and shaggy hair.]

What they don’t see is that the police have now begun tailing them to see to it they don’t get into any more mischief. PC Craig is sent to tail them in Detective-Sergeant McCormick’s car to keep them from realizing they’re being followed.

Scene 46: Out in the countryside, George turns off on a dirt tract leading to the little cemetery outside of Southgate, causing PC Craig to temporarily lose sight of them.

Scene 47: At the cemetery, Edna is nervous about being there but George insists that they’re going to prove her tale about Guthrie wandering around is ridiculous so they can move on, already.

Commentary: Once again, this location is truly beautiful. Which is not actually in Southgate since that is a suburb of London but was mostly filmed in Cheshire and Derbyshire. The location scouting was exceptional and I’d love to have a small flat in this area [well, this era‘s this area at least]. I absolutely love how open, green and pastoral it looks on film.

Scene 48:  George and Edna wander through the little cemetery on the hill… an apparently not very well looked after cemetery on the hill, where apparently the vagrants are dumped for disposal… eventually.

[It’s really easy to read some sort of moral indignation in this film toward progress, authority, and how easily people are losing their connection to one another. Every comment about Guthrie has included ‘tramp’, ‘vagrant’, ‘beggar’ and it’s hard not to see a sort of grim justice in Guthrie being the one to return to punish people for turning their backs on him, for stripping him of his dignity even in his death. Maybe, I’m reading too much into it, but I really don’t think so. It feels like Jorge, in addition to being concerned about the environment and authoritarianism, was also commenting on people’s turn toward selfishness and disconnection with one another. This cemetery is a prime example… it’s reeking of disrespect, neglect and lack of care toward those who couldn’t pay to be placed somewhere where the “nice” people were buried.]

The cemetery seems deserted, but the wind catches the caretaker’s door and causes it to slam, catching the attention of George, who leads Edna to the small domicile [which just feels depressing, lonely, and cramped]. They don’t find anyone to speak with.

Another slamming door from the wind [or is it] leads our twosome to an underground storage/crypt, which they investigate in hopes of finding the caretaker.

Scene 49: What they find is some coffins lying around on slabs. Edna urges George to just leave, creeped out by the lack of anyone around and now this underground chamber with coffins lying around. George, however, is still on a tear to prove to Edna that she’s being silly with all of this Guthrie attacking her talk, and goes to check out the dead bodies waiting for proper burial to see if one of the coffins contains him.

He finds Guthrie Wilson’s coffin [still not buried after a week], but when he opens it to show Edna the physical proof that ol’ Guthrie is truly dead and gone, he finds it eerily empty. Edna once again just wants to leave.

But something has caught George’s eye, which turns out to be a ladder leading to an odd place -- a rectangular opening in the dirt wall. Worse though, is George and Edna realizing that blood is running down the wall, and there is a hand -- surely from the caretaker -- lying just inside of the opening where he apparently was killed trying to get away from someone.

Instead of them immediately turning on their heel and running for it, George feels the need to climb the ladder, and does in fact find the murdered remains of the caretaker. And just as he’s absorbing this, the cellar door swings shut on its rusty hinges, locking them inside!

Scene 50: With our two rushing to the slammed door, from behind them in the darkness comes the raspy breathing, filling the chamber. And then George and Edna see that she was right all along… for from the darkness comes Guthrie.

George, stunned, tries to wrestle Guthrie but the undead are strong and physically resistant and he finds himself shoved away easily, as Guthrie turns back toward the shouting Edna.

George next tries jabbing a shovel handle into Guthrie’s back, but to his continued shock and disbelief, it also fails to do anything. Well, except for distracting Guthrie into following him as he backs into a chamber without another exit, of course.

With Guthrie’s rasping breath and shambling gait, George goes for killing the man with the business end of the shovel, driving it a few times into his mid-section. But Guthrie refuses to stop walking and rasping and responding like a person should. He tries once more to shovel Guthrie-- this time through his gasping face -- but he’s easily overpowered and pushed to the floor, losing a grip on the shovel while doing so.

George and Edna are left to stare at Guthrie. But then things take a weird turn….

Scene 51: Suddenly, Guthrie stops attacking and instead wipes blood off of the walls - the caretaker’s, and uses his fingertips on the eyes of another pair of corpses waiting for burial. As this is happening, George pushes Edna toward the ladder, sending her up to the opening where the caretaker’s body is, while he grabs an iron bar to hold Guthrie off.

The sudden movement doesn’t go unnoticed by the shambler. Guthrie renews his interest in killing our pair. George follows Edna up.

The rear of this alcove opens into a square of ground with a pipe, possibly some sort of plumbing development that hasn’t been completed. George digs at the earthen wall with his metal pike, trying to dig a way for he and she to escape.

Scene 52: Guthrie’s rasping alerts them to his approach up the ladder, and George is able to push him off and to the floor using the metal rod. He turns back to digging a way out.

But below them, something very odd is happening with the corpses sanctified with the caretaker’s blood. They also start to reanimate!

And yes, they also are doing that godawful rasper-noise.

And Guthrie is getting back to his feet [in a very unnatural way, like he‘s levitated back up to his feet without effort; I like to imagine he‘s only using his ankles to return to standing upright because the image is wholly disturbing but I think this image may‘ve been inspired by Nosferatu - If I‘m remembering correctly, he did this type of rising without using his hands and legs to do so].

George is grabbed by the feet and is dragged back toward the ladder. [If you think Edna huddles there being unhelpful, give yourself a gold star.]

George shouts at Edna to get out into the dig site, while he struggles not to be dragged to his doom by the old lady and second guy corpse.

Commentary: And if there is one misstep that I’ll assign to the screenplay, it’s this section. The set piece is excellent, creepy, and unnerving. But it plays havoc with the scientific approach to the zombies that the film had been taking this whole time. Unlike “Night of the Living Dead”, in which the explanation never came - the satellite returning from space was a throwaway guess and never confirmed as the cause of the dead rising, this film firmly establishes that it is the ultrasonic radiation on the primitive, decaying nervous system of fresh corpses -- and it’s only the recently dead impacted in this one, no bodies every crawl up from their graves. But here, we very suddenly get this pseudo-religious anointing of blood on the two companions of Guthrie and suddenly they’re animating too. It’s a weird detail to throw in here, because they really could’ve already been animating with the explanation that the ultrasonic machine’s radius has been increased since we last saw the technicians [and in fact, this becomes a plot point later]. So the whole anointing with blood causes animated corpses is just an illogical note in an otherwise internally consistent film. And it always rankles, if I think about it for even a moment because it’s so out of left field.

Scene 53: While Edna is struggling to find a handhold to crawl out of the plumbing construction pit, Officer Craig has finally found Edna’s car at the entrance to the cemetery.

Scene 54: In the cellar, George tries jabbing second guy corpse in the throat, but this has as little effect as Guthrie’s attempted disemboweling. Meanwhile, our main corpse decides that his two companions can handle George. He wanders back out of the cellar [why the cellar door wouldn’t open for our two alive people, but will open right up for him is another minor inconsistency].

Commentary: Ugh… that damned rasping! The sound design on this film is great, with music being used sparingly so we can focus on the unnerving exhale of the undead and the sounds of wind, giving scenes like this one a real feeling of isolation and dread.

The behind-the-scenes crew helping Jorge Grau deserve a huge kudo for their marvelous work, but especially the special effects crewman and the sound guys.

Scene 55: Craig gets a call over his uniform radio with a check-in by the Detective-Sergeant, while Edna continues grasping at wet lawn, hopelessly attempting to pull herself out of the excavation.

Scene 56: In the meantime, George is now half-hanging out of the small, square tunnel as the old woman and second guy corpse continue dragging him toward the edge.

He’s finally able to kick second corpse guy down, who takes the ladder with him. It smashes against the stone wall, though George is now left hanging down the wall himself, trying to scramble back up into the tunnel before he loses his grip and all is lost.

Scene 57: Meanwhile, Craig hears Edna shouting for George and is able to retrieve Edna, though of course, he has no idea what she’s doing in the plumbing excavation.

Meanwhile, meanwhile, old woman and second corpse guy return to their feet to continue their pursuit of George. He’s barely able to pull himself up out of their reach.

Scene 58: Craig huddles the terrorized Edna away, dropping his radio on the ground.

Scene 59: With George making a desperate crawl and finding his way able to crawl up out of the excavation on his own, the two undead walk toward the cellar exit after Guthrie.

George grabs Edna and yanks her to run for the cemetery exit, with Craig wondering what the devil is happening, but they find themselves blocked by Guthrie, who is yanking up a tall, stone cross to use as a bludgeon.

[Okay, another nitpick: Continuity would’ve demanded that Edna and George’s clothes being soaked through in the caretaker’s gore. Somehow, a little mud is all they’re forced to cope with, which is ridiculous.]

George pulls Edna in the other direction, only to find old lady and second guy corpse making their way across the field in their direction. Instead of taking off in a third direction, George, Edna and the too shocked to move without George yanking him along Craig retreat inside of the caretaker’s room and lock themselves in… with no other way to exit.

Scene 60: Craig finds the caretaker’s weak pellet rifle and uses a small window to take aim at the undead, plugging the old lady in the top of the head. But this doesn’t seem to impact anything but her hair and scalp because she doesn’t conveniently fall inanimate.

With this useless, they start barricading.

Our undead trio continue pounding to get in. Craig struggles to understand and accept that the dead are trying to kill them all. George relates. Edna sits on the caretaker’s bed, having just too much shock for one day.

Just as George tells the PC that he can’t imagine how they’re coming back to life, we hear the low thrum in the background of the ultrasonic machine. George’s synapses spark, and he puts together that the breaking down nervous systems of the corpses are returning to a primitive state as they decay, approximating the primitive state of insect nervous systems and the aggressive infants [Uh, sure. Okay. Sure].

 Edna points out to PC Craig that now he knows it was Guthrie who killed Martin, and not her sister. Guthrie can’t take anymore of their jawing and starts breaking down the door in earnest.

It looks like our protagonists have come to their insight too late for any good. While they continue grabbing small bits of furniture in a desperate bid to reinforce their blockade, Craig hears his radio beeping from where he dropped it. He determines that he must find a way to reach it to call in for help.

Scene 61: At the police car, Inspector and Kinsey are at the Madison place again, where poor Martin is still lying around waiting for transport to the morgue. The ME has been working for hours, apparently, but he’s finally ready for an ambulance to take Martin to the Southgate hospital to prepare for transport to Manchester. For some reason an ambulance isn’t already on stand by for this.

Commentary: And right about here, despite my not minding the extended scenes, the characters, or the pacing, I do wonder why exactly the film has to be this long. I mean, really… we’re doing a lot of scene swaps here and we’re still not to Martin and those bodies at the hospital, and you just know that Katie hasn’t disappeared from the film. Surely, there MUST be a hospital-zombie scene coming. Though, now that George and Edna have confirmation that the dead are rising, at least the mystery part of the story is completed. Hopefully things will now go rushing along, because the film feels like it’s been stretched at 93 minutes and surely didn’t need more than 75 if we really want to gripe a bit. But, I don’t.

Except about the number of scenes I’m now having to transcribe, but that tends to be a thing during movie reviews.

Scene 62: Craig insists that George help him move their barricade so he can try to rush past the undead for his radio, despite being told he’ll never make it. But rather than presume that Inspector McCormick will coming looking for him, he tells George that the radio for help is their only chance.

Craig makes it outdoors, but is taken down by a granite grave marker thrown at his legs by second guy undead, tearing a gash in one of them. He’s able to crawl to the radio though and call in a desperate plea for help, as the zombies fall on him to his screaming, unpleasant death.

Craig’s end comes with his being strangled, before Guthrie does the pull guts apart, sending him into a painful, but mercifully quick death.

While the undead start satisfying those hunger pangs with his internal organs, Edna and George are arguing about making a rush for the exit and their car. Which lasts too long to bother trying, since Guthrie and second corpse guy decide to finish up with the others by bashing the door down with one of those granite grave markers.

Scene 63: Once again, it looks like they’re truly effed. But then George throws the caretaker’s lantern at Guthrie, and finds that the undead are really, really flammable.

The fire quickly spreads and all of the corpses go up in a bonfire.

This allows our pair to retreat. But George realizes that he has to stop the ultrasonic radiation machine from continuing for things to really be over. He grabs Craig’s car, while he sends Edna off to her sister’s place to intercept the police and tell them what has happened… apparently not wondering just how that is going to be received when Edna starts raving about dead bodies butchering PC Craig.

Edna is pretty shaken up, but George assures her that it’s all over now. But she suddenly realizes that Martin’s body will be going to the morgue. He assures her that the machine only has a mile or so range, with Southgate being outside that radius. They have a tender moment of post-trauma bonding.

But when George gets into the officer’s car, he finds the keys missing. And with the apparent search for them on Craig’s mutilated body being out of the question, he’s forced to race to the farm on foot as Edna fails to hear him shouting for her to come back for a new plan.

Scene 64: Which leads us back to the Madison place, where Martin is STILL waiting for the ambulance!!

Cop securing the scene stands by his own car, doing a crossword puzzle.

In the background, the thrum of the radiation machine at the farm is heard [it seems pretty inconsistent, too, when the sound is heard by our characters and when it’s for audience benefit]. Over this, to the growing terror of cop-on-the-beat, is the raspy sound of an undead exhale… Martin, of course.


Tags: review let sleeping corpses lie

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