The Return Of The Living Dead [DVD]
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Tongue-in-cheek horror from writer-director Dan O'Bannon, the man behind 'Alien' and cult sci-fi classic 'Dark Star'. A pair of warehouse men unwittingly unleash a gas which can bring corpses back to life. They look to the owner of a crematorium to help them get rid of the undead but manage to raise the dead of a neighbouring cemetery instead - which puts their friends, waiting to party amongst the headstones, in grave danger... The ensuing chaos leads the world to the brink of destruction.
Return of the Living Dead is a parody-cum-sequel spin-off from George Romero's superior Night of the Living Dead films. A corpse-containing canister gets breached and releases an oily, loose-limbed, brain-eating zombie tatterdemalion and a gas that revives anything dead in the vicinity, even a bisected dog preserved as a vet's teaching specimen and a case of pinned butterflies. The dim-bulb leading characters--earnest Clu Gulager, goofy James Karen and Thom Matthews--burn up a mess of surplus living body parts, but the rains wash the ashes into the earth of a nearby cemetery and a whole crowd of brain-eating zombies claw their way out to terrorise a group of teens who sport the kind of 1985 fashions, hairdos, slang preferences and musical tastes that will never feature in a TV nostalgia programme.
There are plenty of in-jokes at the expense of the Living Dead films (learning that shooting 'em in the brain doesn't work, the appalled Matthews gasps, "You mean the movie lied?"), and director Dan O'Bannon, the writer of Dark Star and Alien, hurries things along through some gruesome action and terror-by-zombie bits until the surprisingly cynical anti-government conclusion. It's not as wittily outrageous as Re-Animator or Braindead, but it has an amiable, drive-in-cum-home video grunge about it. Frequently naked exploitation regular Linnea Quigley makes an impression as the punkette zombie who goes on the rampage wearing nothing but leg-warmers and body make-up.
The frill-free DVD is full-screen (boo hiss!) except for the titles, offers only the trailer and inadequate cast and crew notes as extras, but it looks okay. --Kim Newman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Will this rowdy band of misfits be able to fend off the ever-growing army of positively famished corpses long enough to secure an escape route or are they destined to be gobbled up in the rain-soaked streets admits the tormented and hungry cries for brains?...”It's not a bad question Burt”
A testament to what a great horror-comedy ought to be, combining a smart antiauthoritarian script, great lively cast, fantastic SFX and kickass music to insure that a gory-fying good time is had by all.
Loyal readers of my reviews (all 3 of you) will undoubtedly know by now that I’m not the biggest advocate of comedy in the horror genre, mostly due to the fact that it’s such a balancing act getting the respective genres to mesh without undermining one or the other, some notable exceptions include films like Re-Animator (Stuart Gordon, 1985) Evil Dead 2 (Sam Raimi, 1987) and Dead Alive (Braindead, Peter Jackson, 1992) whom due to their loopy anarchistic antics and balls-out entertainment value had yours truly hooked from start to finish and The Return of the Living Dead certainly belongs in the stellar company of the aforementioned titles giving it’s credentials as an unapologetic good time, rarely opting for anything less than the most reckless of abandonment in regards to the narrative.
Breaking the zombie mould established by George A. Romero, the flesh-eaters presented here are of the sprinter variety that we’ve come to be so familiar with in the 21th century, they seem to be primarily interested in devouring brains, an idiom the horde howls endlessly ( which every comedian or sit-com/comedic show on earth seem to paraphrase whenever the zombie is alluded to, perfectly illustrating that the film is a comedic power house to be reckoned with as well as an pop cultural icon) Hell the undead even speak coherently; something that normally would constitute big no-no in my book, but the film has such a perfectly balanced facetious tone (the catalyst of the film is that Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead is real, after all) that it somehow works perfectly in the confines of this particular story, I’d even go as far as to dispute that none of these tongue in cheek mannerisms has ever been employed with the kind of skill and dedication on show here, which should be seen as a true testament to the filmmakers understanding of the material and it’s possibilities and even the most zealous zombie fanatic would have a hard time arguing otherwise... But with all that being said I still have to admit that the moment where one of the rotting brain-munches picks up an ambulance radio and demands that despatch should “Send more paramedics...” still makes me cringe albeit subtlety.
The comedic elements are for the most part night time black which adds beautifully to the offbeat nature of the first 2/3s of the film.
Luckily by the time the third act rolls around the film turns to doom n’ gloom and the intensity of these climatic scenes ensure that the film ends on a hell of a creepy and beautiful nihilistic high note.
O’Bannon’s script is an energetic power house and brimming with eminently quotable dialog which the actors fortunately seem to revel in. The comedic timing and delivery of actors Clu Gulager, James Karen, Thom Mathews and Don Calfa are positively off the page as they chew the scenery. Their respective delivering of wide-eyed fear and ever escalating sense of panic and despair as things get’s increasingly grim is simply a laugh riot.
So while the aforementioned quartet are obviously on top of the game here, the rest of the cast won’t raise much complaints either, in the roles of the various punks they do exactly what they’re suppose to and furthermore die accordantly.
An additional bonus is without a doubt the spectacle of watching Z-grade scream queen Linnea Quigley in her hard bodied prime delivering an absolutely mouth-watering striptease on top a gravesite (this bit was the most scratched and used up bit of my old VHS tape...You do the math) and then spends the rest of the film running around in her tight and completely flawlessly looking birthday suite or in layman’s terms buck naked. Thank you so much Mr. O’Bannon!!!
You can’t talk about The Return of the Living Dead without alluding to its awesome soundtrack layered with the music of the punk heavyweights of yesteryear such as 45 Grave, The Cramps and The Damned.
Normally I don’t like a pervasive use of song based music in horror film but in the spirit of The Return of the Living Dead rebellious nature it somehow works perfectly and is as refreshing to watch/listen to today as it was back then.
With all that being said, The Return of the Living Dead isn’t a perfect film, you wound learn anything new and you certainly won’t be a better person for watching it. But if you want a balls-out horror comedy that plays by its own rules and sticks by them throughout, than you won’t get a better film than this.
Do you wanna party...You bet your f::::g ass!
First and foremost this limited edition steelbook release of The Return of the living Dead from Second Sight Films is without a doubt one of the best home video releases of the year and here’s why.
The main feature is held in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and while the high definition transfer isn’t exactly mind-blowing it’s still a noticeable improvement over previous DVD releases. The various audio mixes are also well balanced, handling the frantic nature of the piece very well.
The Pièce de résistance of this release however is the absurd amount of special features on hand. As the main attraction, we have the entire two-hour retrospective documentary More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead, which is absolutely packed with juicy behind the scenes anecdotes, on-set footage, storyboards, various conceptual stuff, it basically covers the entire history of the film from idea to screen and is an absolute treasure chest of information and a must see for any fan of the film. Next up is a documentary which delve into the next two sequels and offers interviews with filmmakers involved, deleted interviews that didn’t make it into the final cut, a modern day revisit to some of the shooting locations, and a montage of the principal actors reciting their most iconic lines in Return of the Living Dead in Three Minutes. You also get a rather honest interview with director Dan O’Bannon, recorded shortly before he passed away.
Other extras include a discussion about the soundtrack with music consultant Steve Pross and 45 Grave’s Dinah Cancer. And a featurette about the special effects where production designer William Stout and the special effects guys involved go into further detail on the zombie designs and practical make-up effects.
Also included in the steelbook is Ernie’s Notepad, a replica notebook that contains a wealth of information about the film.
A quick word of warning to readers who can’t play region B Blu-Rays you’ll need a multi-region player to view this as the disc is sadly Region B locked.
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Run time: 87:01 PAL | Production: 1985
A ZOMBIE FILM WITH MORE COMEDY THAN HORROR...
I know it's a cult classic.Read more