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The Last Drive-In: Season 5, Week 10 — Living Dead at Manchester Morgue and Day of the Dead

The gang wrapped up the season with Romero's least perfect zombie flicks, but hey - gun-toting, tune-listening, lovable Bub still delivers the zombie goods with gory splatter perfection.

Art by T.J. Denton (@TDenton_1138 on Twitter) — visit his store!

Season Five began with the living dead and ended with the living dead.

The first film of the season was Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (aka Zombie 2) and the season finished up with a double deader.

The first feature of the season finale was The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (aka Let Sleeping Corpses LieDo Not Profane the Sleep of the Dead, and Don’t Open the Window). Joe Bob argued that since the film premiered in 1974, a dedicated cult has grown around it. Darcy argued that the cult consisted pretty much of Joe Bob alone, though she agreed the film was solid.

Though hundreds of films would eventually be made in the path cut by George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Spanish director Jorge Grau beat Lucio Fulci to the punch by four years to be one of the first European filmmakers to make such a film. Joe Bob noted that Grau was the first to try to explain the origin of the zombies – Romero left it pretty much a mystery (though there was TV reporting about radiation from a returning space probe) and Fulci went with voodooism but left things pretty vague. 

Before getting to Jorge Grau’s explanation for his zombies, Joe Bob ventured into a rant about “Flat-hatters” and British haberdashery in general – to Darcy’s annoyance and bemusement. Eventually, he pointed out that the reason for the zombies given in Manchester Morgue is a machine that emits a high-pitched sound to kill bugs by making them eat each other. And the machine had the same effect on humans with underdeveloped or nonfunctioning (DEAD) nervous systems.

You may be wondering what a fellow named Jorge was doing making his horror film in England.  Spain was, at that time, still under the rule of General Francisco Franco Bahamonde, who didn’t like the idea of horror films being set in Spain. Nasty things didn’t happen in Spain, and Franco, being the dictatorial sort, could make that call. A horror film set in England was fine with Franco, so the film is set in Manchester. (Joe Bob asked Darcy what people thought of when they heard “Manchester” and she sensibly referred to Manchester United, but Joe Bob said people thought of pollution.)

So the Spaniard Grau collaborated with Italian financers in England to make this film following up on an American’s concept about the dead coming back. It should be noted that five-time Oscar nominee Arthur Kennedy played the petty local police inspector, more interested in long-haired anti-authority types than dealing with the killings and the zombieism. It seems likely that this character was intended to be a parody of General Franco himself (still dead, by the way).

The film has a respectable list of drive-in totals:

Day of the Dead

Joe Bob acknowledged from the start that the final film of Season Five, George Romero’s Day of the Dead, is the least of the original Dead trilogy. That isn’t really a slight against the film. It’s like naming the least of the Beethoven symphonies (they’re all genius). Or calling Kate Jackson the plainest of the original Charlie’s Angels (all gorgeous). Or naming the least annoying Kardashian (never mind). Joe Bob noted that Night of the Living Dead is the foundation of horror and Dawn of the Dead is the pinnacle of zombie films while Day of the Dead is an excellent film.

When Day of the Dead opened in 1985, it didn’t do well at the box office. And there are reasons for that: It didn’t meet the expectations of being something bigger and grander than its predecessors. Romero had wanted something bigger and grander himself, but he didn’t have the budget. He had a script of 200 pages (remember, there is usually a minute of screen time per page) and a budget of $7 million. But his backers, as usual for Romero, independent backers and not a studio, wanted him to submit a film that got an “R” rating.

Romero was given the choice of the $7 million with an R rating or a $3.5 million budget with no content limitations. Joe Bob thought Romero could have finessed the rating, but Romero, being the old hippie he was, took less money, started a new shorter script from scratch and let Tom Savini go wild with the kills.

And over the years, love and appreciation for the film has grown, especially for horror’s most-lovable zombie, the gun-toting, tune-listening Bub.

Drive-in totals for this classic Romero flick:

People understandably might have thought the conclusion of the show indicated it was really the LAST Last Drive-In.  But (spoilers), Joe Bob eventually pulled himself together, so there is more gory goodness to come!


A man and woman taking a selfie in front of a large billboard promoting an Auto Draft product.

Dean Anderson, shown here with his lovely wife Mindy at Joe Bob’s 2023 Jamboree at the West Wind Drive-In in Las Vegas, joined as a contributor to Joe Bob’s website after admirably serving as a camper liaison and a minister of hospitality to the guests and the Mutant Family during the event. Check out the long adventure he and Mindy took across the country that was chronicled on their blog www.deanandmindy.com. Email Dean at deanandmindygotochurch@gmail.com

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