Composers: Giuliano Sorgini / John Cavacas
Label: Quartet
Suggested Retail Price: $21.95

Spanish horror scores from the 1980s were not any less terrifying, or funky as their Italian peers, as Spain-based Quartet Records is proving with such releases as Waldo de los Rios’ ISLAND OF THE DAMNED and Fernando Garcia Morcillo’s HOWLING OF THE DEVIL. But perhaps none of their soundtracks has a more unique origin than Giluliano Sorgini’s THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE.

Known in the U.S. as LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (among the sixteen international titles it went by), this 1974 spin on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a true sleeper in the flesh eating genre. Shot by Spanish-based director Jordi Grau in the bucolic English countryside, and composed by an Italian who’d go onto even more ominous-sounding titles like PORNO-EROTIC WESTERN and HOLOCAUST 2, MANCHESTER MORGUE proved to be an exceptional score right out of the gate for Sorgini.

Though he begins with organ pop as we exit London in “John Dalton Street,” Sorgini quickly takes us into unexplored, creepily atmospheric territory with pulsating electronics, moans (provided by Grau) and what sounds to be wind machines- all the better to play under the sub-sonic pulses that kill the local farmer’s pesky insects, and raise the local dead in the bargain.

If anything, MANCHESTER MORGUE’s best tonalities play like a ghostly fog the moors, mist that hides an ever-encroaching Lovecraftian evil. Caught between sound design and music, Sorgini’s score mostly underplays the evisceration at hand, making us feel a funeral parlor atmosphere of dread without ever telling us a zombie is around the corner. There’s still an ominously solid theme at hand, one that’s cleverly expressed through a pipe organ, strings and a bongo beat, displaying the mod talents would yield Sorgini a hit with “Bossa Whistle.”

Though MANCHESTER MORGUE is still a film and score that are very much of the period, the thoughtful, experimental commitment that Grau and Sorgini invest in the material gives MORGUE a timeless, chilling quality that’s almost shocking in its subtlety- all the better for a picture and score that should shouted from horror fans’ rooftops all these years later.

Filling out the Quartet album’s zombie double bill is the cultural music mash of John Cavacas’ score for 1972’s HORROR EXPRESS. Like MORGUE, EXPRESS marked the first, notable soundtrack for its composer, who’d go onto a prodigious career that would include such cult favorites as AIRPORT 1975, AIRPORT ’77 and MORTUARY (while also fitting every TV series from KOJAK to MAGNUM P.I. into his busy schedule).

For all of the star-studded planes he’d score, HORROR EXPRESS remains Cavacas’ most unique disaster score. With a passenger list that includes Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas, Cavacas’ Orient EXPRESS is commandeered by an alien abominable snowman, whose resulting plague of bleeding-eyed, undead thralls remain one of the genre’s most striking images. Ditto Cavacas’ memorable score that merges ultra 70’s pop inflections with exotic period opulence.

Starting the trip off with a whistle, Cavacas introduces a Russian Balalaika, then brings on board lush strings and the kind of Afro funk that you’d expect to hear in SHAFT and LIVE AND LET DIE. But that’s the eccentric, wah-wah ethnic charm of HORROR EXPRESS’ music, it score at once winking at the film’s outrageous plot, while also going for the kind of orchestral suspense that wouldn’t be out of place with a more traditional Orient Express murder mystery. Perhaps no cue sums up Cavacas’ audacious approach better than a “Fugue” that’s more a direly suspenseful march, its rock guitar, orchestra and Balalaika building to the point where the EXPRESS will go off the rails.

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