Friday, July 1, 2016

THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985) (COLLECTOR'S EDITION BLU-RAY REVIEW)

THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985) 
2-DISC COLLECTOR'S EDITION

Label: Scream Factory 

Release Date: July 19th 2016 
Region Code: A
Duration: 91 Minutes
Rating: R
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: Englisg DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono, DTS-HD MA 2.0, DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English subtitles
Cast: Miguel A. Nuñez Jr., Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph, Brian Peck, Clu Gulager, Don Calfa, James Karen, Jewel Shepard, John Philbin, Linnea Quigley
Director: Dan O'Bannon


Dan O' Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead (1985) was hands down my VHS horror cassette of choice all through high school and beyond. Having grown up on a steady diet of George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) I was primed and ready for this '80s punk rock zombie movie when it landed on VHS with that very cool artwork that caught your eye on the shelf. It had everything a young me needed as a horny teenager who loved horror, plenty of splatter, some tasty black comedy, a nude Linnea Quigley and an awesome 80s punk rock soundtrack featuring THE DAMNED, TSOL, THE CRAMPS and that iconic "Partytime" tune by 45 GRAVE. The blend of comedy and gore was unrivaled at the time, and its the rare movie that even comes close nowadays. When it comes to horror-comedies very few can rival this classic. Many a day I would come home from school bummed after a long day of remedial academia and social teen leprosy, but I only needed to toss this on the TV and let the apocalyptic good times wash away my teen aged worries.

The movie opens at the Uneeda Medical Supply warehouse in LouisvilleKentucky as Frank (James Karen, Poltergeist) shows a new employee named Freddy (Thom Mathews) around the place, cracking a few jokes before showing him some military drums that were accidentally shipped to the warehouse, which are kept down in the basement. He tells Freddy that the events from the movie Night of the Living Dead were based on reality, that inside the drums are reanimated corpses that were brought back to life during a military experiment gone wrong. While showing the newbie the drums Frank accidentally breaks the seal on the container and unleashes the toxic gas inside, and the two are knocked unconscious. They awaken a short time later feeling ill after having been contaminated by the toxic gasses inside. 


Returning to the main floor of the warehouse they are startled to find that a cadaver stored in the walk-in freezer has been reanimated. Frank reluctantly call the warehouse owner Burt Wilson (Clu Gulager) to help come assist with the situation. All three are panicked by the events and end up beheading the yellow-skinned cadaver with a hacksaw after pinning it's head to the ground with a pick-axe. The cadaver however refuses to die, causing the three men to dismember the cadaver, placing the parts in garbage bags. Now what to do about those reanimated body parts in the bags? The three men take the parts to the mortuary next door where the mortician Ernie (Don Calfa) hears the strange story. Calfa is fantastic as the mortician, who may be a Nazi in hiding based on his name and some hints dropped in the movie. After a bit of convincing Ernie lets them dispose of the reanimated body parts in the mortuary incinerator, but the toxic chemicals contaminate the air, reanimating the hundreds of corpses buried beneath the ground in the cemetery. 

Meanwhile Freddy's punk rocker friends learn that he has a new job and have decided to pick him up at the warehouse> We have Freddy's girlfriend Tina (Beverly Randolph), Suicide (Mark Venturini), Spider (Miguel Nunez), Trash (Quigley), Scuz (Bran Peck), party girl Casey (Jewel Shepherd), and new waver Chuck (John Philbin). They arrive at the cemetery next to the warehouse to wait for Freddy. As the sun sets punker chic Trash strips off her close and does an erotic nude dance atop a grave stone, when it begins to rain, the toxic tainted smoke from the mortuary mixes with the rain and soon the dead are rising and munching on punk rockers. 


The zombies from The Return of the Living Dead were way ahead of their time, they were fast, they were somewhat smart, and they even spoke. This is the movie that set the precedent that zombies eat brain, before this movie you didn't have kids on Halloween shambling around in zombie make-up moaning "braaaaaains", which is mighty impressive. In a scene the living  interrogate one of the zombies, asking it why they're eating brains, the dessicated corpse responds to "ease the pain of death", which is both chilling and fascinating. Of course I have to mention the Tarman, one of the greatest zombie creations ever put onscreen, my hats goes off to special effects creators William Munns, Tony Gardner, Kenny Myers And Craig Caton-Largnet who did some awesome practical effects work on the movie. 

There's so much to love about this movie, which was the first movie directed by Dan O'Bannon who was already known for writing the screenplays for Alien, the cult-classic Dead And Buried and the sci-fi horror epic Lifeforce. It is a bit surprising that he was able to knock this out of the park with his first directed movie, but he did it, this is a classic horror-comedy that in my mind is unrivaled. A lot of the movies success has to pinned on the great casting in the movie, beginning with the duo of Thom Mathews and James Karen as the employees of the warehouse, they have such a great chemistry and vibe well off each other, as does Clu Gulager and Don Calfa, eaxch of their line deliveries is pitch perfect. Then we have the assortment of punk rockers and new wavers, the most memorable being the bright-haired Linnea Quigley as Trash who is mostly nude for the duration of the movie, she's death obsessed and horny and it makes for a fun watch. 


Audio/Video: The Return of the Living Dead arrives on 2-disc Bu-ray from Scream Factory with a brand new transfer from a 2K scan of the interpostive looking very film like and vibrant with a fine layer of grain and an impressive amount of fine detail. Skin tones look accurate and the shadow detail is nice and deep, this is a noticeable upgrade from the previous MGM Blu-ray back in 2011. 
The movie benefits from three DTS-HD MA audio options, we have the 2.0 Mono, 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround with optional English subtitles. I gave all three options a shot and really feel the 2.0 mono is the way to go, the stereo and surround mixes lack the upfront strength of the mono presentation, the music is too low in each of the non-mono mixes. The SSQ score and 80's punk rock soundtrack sound fantastic with inclusions from The Cramps, T.S.O.L., Tall Boys and of course the iconic "Party Time" from 45 Grave! Scream Factory went back to the original audio tracks to create a new soundtrack, unfortunately The Damned’s “Dead Beat Dance” could not be cleared for inclusion on the dis, but otherwise the original audio is as first heard in the theaters when the film played first-run, which is mighty cool considering past versions of the movie had been neutered to some degree. 


Onto the bonus features we have all the extras from the previous MGM Blu-ray, these include an audio commentaries with Director Dan O'Bannon And Production Designer William Stout, plus another with the Cast And Crew Featuring Production Designer William Stout And Actors Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph, Allan Trautman. Scream have also ported over all the extras from the MGM Blu-ray, these being A Conversation With Dan O'Bannon – His Final Interview (29 Mins), The Origins Of The Living Dead – An Interview With John A. Russo (15 Mins), The Return Of The Living Dead – The Dead Have Risen – Interviews With Cast Members Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Brian Peck, Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph, Linnea Quigley (21 Mins) and Designing The Dead – Interviews With Writer/Director Dan O'Bannon And Production Designer William Stout (15 Mins). Its great to have these MGM produced archival featurettes included. Scream have even ported over the worst extras from the MGM release, the Zombie Subtitles For The Film and In Their Own Words – The Zombies Speak, woof. 

Scream have not just porting over all the extras from the MGM disc but also licensed the extras that were included on the Region B locked release from Second Sight, that being the Severin produced featurettes The FX Of The Living Dead With Production Designer William Stout, FX Make-up Artists William Munns, Tony Gardner, Kenny Myers And Craig Caton-Largnet, Visual Effects Artists Bret Mixon And Gene Warren Jr. And Actor Brian Peck (Expanded Version) (33 Mins) HD, plus Party Time: The Music Of The Return Of The Living Dead With Music Consultants Budd Carr And Steve Pross And Soundtrack Artists Dinah Cancer (45 Grave), Chris D (The Flesh Eaters), Roky Erickson, Karl Moet (SSQ), Joe Wood (T.S.O.L.), Mark Robertson (Tall Boys) Plus Musicians Greg Hetson (Circle Jerks) And John Sox (The F.U.'s, Straw Dogs) (Expanded Version) (30 Mins) HD. The interviews with the band members and music consultants are very cool if you're a fan of the punker soundtrack, it ends with Steve Pross showing off various vinyl versions of the soundtracks. The Second Sight release included the More Brains: A Return To The Living Dead – The Definitive Documentary On The Return Of The Living Dead (120 minutes) doc, and so too does the Scream release, which is an amazing making of doc produced by the same team that brought us the horror doc Never Sleep Again. Unfortauntely Scream did not license all the extras for the doc which was included on the Second Sight disc, so you may want to hold onto that and/or the doc if you own those. Read my review of More Brains:  A Return To The Living Dead – The Definitive Documentary On The Return Of The Living Dead HERE


Exclusive to this disc is a new episode of Sean Clark's Horror;s Hallowed Grounds which is always a favorite feature of mine.  Clark visits a few of the locations used in the movie in Los Angeles including the railroad crossing, General Glover's house, the Uneeda Medical Supply Company, and the Ressurection Cemetery which is now part of the 'burbs. Also exclusive is the inclusion of the work print of the movie which runs about twenty minutes longer that the theatrical cut. It is sourced from a bad VHS which looks awful, but it is an awesome bonus. The last of the extras is a 23-minute featurette The Decade of Darkness (23 Mins) which looks back at 80s horror, containing interviews with directors Joe Dante, John Landis, Stuart Gordon, author John Kenneth Muir, Fangoria's Tony Timpone and actor Bill Mosely with clips from Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Fog, Pumpkinhead, Motel Hell, Dolls, TCM2 and Dressed to Kill. If you're any kind of horror fan this is standard entry level stuff, but again is a nice inclusion. There's also two barnd new audio commentaries, the first with Gary Smart (Co-author Of The Complete History Of The Return Of The Living Dead) And Chris Griffiths and a second with Actors Thom Mathews, John Philbin And Make-up Effects Artist Tony Gardner

Collector's Edition Special Features: 


Disc 1:

- NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
- NEW Audio Commentary With Gary Smart (Co-author Of The Complete History Of The Return Of The Living Dead) And Chris Griffiths
- NEW Audio Commentary With Actors Thom Mathews, John Philbin And Make-up Effects Artist Tony Gardner
- Audio Commentary With Director Dan O'Bannon And Production Designer William Stout
- Audio Commentary With The Cast And Crew Featuring Production Designer William Stout And Actors Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph, Allan Trautman
- The Decade Of Darkness – Featurette On '80s Horror Films (23 Mins)
- Theatrical Trailers (9 Mins) HD 
- TV Spots (5 Mins) HD 
- Still Gallery – Posters, Lobby Cards, Movie Stills And Behind-The-Scenes Photos (88 Images) 
- Still Gallery – Behind-The-Scenes Photos From Special Make-up Effects Artist Kenny Myers' Personal Collection (25 Images) 
- Zombie Subtitles For The Film
- In Their Own Words – The Zombies Speak

Disc 2:

- NEW The FX Of The Living Dead With Production Designer William Stout, FX Make-up Artists William Munns, Tony Gardner, Kenny Myers And Craig Caton-Largnet, Visual Effects Artists Bret Mixon And Gene Warren Jr. And Actor Brian Peck (Expanded Version) (33 Mins) HD 
- NEW Party Time: The Music Of The Return Of The Living Dead With Music Consultants Budd Carr And Steve Pross And Soundtrack Artists Dinah Cancer (45 Grave), Chris D (The Flesh Eaters), Roky Erickson, Karl Moet (SSQ), Joe Wood (T.S.O.L.), Mark Robertson (Tall Boys) Plus Musicians Greg Hetson (Circle Jerks) And John Sox (The F.U.'s, Straw Dogs) (Expanded Version) (30 Mins) HD 
- NEW HORROR'S HALLOWED GROUNDS – Revisiting The Locations Of The Film (10 Mins) HD 
- The Return Of The Living Dead Workprint – Includes 20 minutes Of Additional Footage (In Standard Definition) (118 Mins)
- More Brains: A Return To The Living Dead – The Definitive Documentary On The Return Of The Living Dead (120 minutes)
- A Conversation With Dan O'Bannon – His Final Interview (29 Mins)
- The Origins Of The Living Dead – An Interview With John A. Russo (15 Mins)
- The Return Of The Living Dead – The Dead Have Risen – Interviews With Cast Members Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Brian Peck, Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph, Linnea Quigley And More… (21 Mins)
- Designing The Dead – Interviews With Writer/Director Dan O'Bannon And Production Designer William Stout (15 Mins)

Sream Factory have brought us the definitive editon of The Return of the Living Dead with a new 2K scan and improved audio with the most complete soundtrack since it was in the cinema in the eighties. On top of that they have ported over nearly all the extras from previous releases and spoiled fans with more even new cool stuff, including the extended work print of the movie! The movie is an all time favorite, a hi-energy horror-comedy that continues to win over fans with each new year. Dan O'Bannon made an instant cult-classic with this one, and it only gets better with age, if you're a horror fan this is a must-own movie, and this is the must-own version.

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