Monday, December 5, 2011



Label: Michael Perez Entertainment
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 120 mins
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo with Optional Subtitles
Director: Bill Phillputt
Dan O' Bannon's THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985) was hands down my VHS cassette of choice all through high school, having grown up on a steady diet of George A. Romero's zombie films I was well primed for this unique punk rock zombie film when it made it's way to VHS, it was definitely one of those gorgeous VHS boxes that caught your eye. It had it all; splatter, black comedy, nudity and a blazing punk rock soundtrack featuring DAMNED, TSOL, THE CRAMPS and that iconic tune "Partytime" by 45 GRAVE. The blend of black humor and splatter-rific gore was and still is unparallelled - when it comes to horror-comedies no film before or since touches this classic by a mile, not even SHAUN OF THE DEAD, well, maybe EVIL DEAD 2 but not much else. When I would come home from school, typically bummed out after a shitty day of academia and social leprosy, I would toss this one in the VCR, it was my cinema pick-me-up of choice and still is.
This extensive documentary answers pretty much any question one could hope to know about the film with interviews with pretty much the entire cast; Thom Mathews ("Freddy"), Don Calf ("Ernie"), Brian Peck ("Scuz"), Beverly Randolph("Tina"), Miguel A. Nunuz, Jr. ("Spider"), Linnea Quigley ("Trash"). John Philbin ("Chuck"), Jewel Shepard ("Casey"), James Karen ("Frank"), Clu Galager ("Burt") and even the "Tarman" himself Alan Trautman, plus Drew Deighan ("Paramedic #1) and James Palesandro ("Paramedic #2"), the notable exception being Mark Venturini ("Suicide") whom passed away after battling leukemia in '96. There's also interviews galore with the crew of the film, including assistant editor John Penney, casting director Stanzi Stokes, cinematographer Jules Brenner (SALEM'S LOT) the very smug (and awesome) set designer William Stout plus co-producer Graham Henderson. There are also chats with many of the films special effects and make-up artists; Kenny Myers, (the much maligned) William Munn, and Tony Gardner, the latter of whom created the stunning half-corpse in the film. It's an impressive gathering of the cast and crew and everyone really seems to be into talking about the film and their experiences on set.
The documentary is directed by Bill Phillputt whom produced both the HIS NAME IS JASON and NEVER SLEEP AGAIN docs, it's narrated by actor Brian "Scuz" Peck and starts off with John A. Russo speaking about the his partnership with George A. Romero on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and their legal arrangement that allowed both to pursue sequels to that film with a few stipulations, writing and casting the film on into the production and filming up to it's release and reception. The interviews come fast and furious, there's never a dull moment but it's the senior cast members like Clu Gulager (THE INITIATION), James Karen (POLTERGEIST) and Don Calfa (1941) whom are my favorite talking-heads, particurly Mr. Karen, he's so goddamned funny, these codgers have been around a while and have a story or two to share. Linnea Quigley, always a great interviewee, is no different here and Peck is all over this thing. Jewel Shepherd whom played "Casey" really comes off as a stoner valley girl survivor, I'm definitely gonna add her autobiography "If I Am So Famous, How Come Nobody's Ever Heard of Me?" to my reading list, I definitely wanted to hear more about and from here, the cast really seemed to have a disdain for her, both then and now.

There's discussion about the tension on set between he director and cast, the cast and the producers, it really sounds like it was quite a warzone on set which makes for some pretty awesome storytelling, some often contradicting the preceding one, such as Clu Gulager refuting that he through an object at O'Bannon on-set, which is actually pretty easy for me to believe. You may recall the TV series PROJECT GREENLIGHT when Clu's son John Gulager was filming the splatter-comedy FEAST, he was a tyrant on-set. There's also Nunez denying he sported a cod-piece during the film, which Linnea swears is true. It was also interesting to hear the different takes on director Dan O'Bannon, most recall him as cold and difficult, definitely a man of uncompromising vision but maybe a few quarts low in the social graces department by some accounts. Regardless, the man is a recognized genius - he's the screenwriter of ALIENS, DARK STAR, DEAD AND BURIED and LIFEFORCE, it's a damned shame he didn't go onto direct more during his time on this Earth.
For a two-hour documentary the film has a great flow with great production values, some fine narration from Brian "Scuz"Peck and cool motion-comic type scene transitions, sorta like what we saw with the director's cut of THE WARRIORS or the WATCHMEN motion comic. The film is jam-packed with behind-the-scenes video, stills, storyboards, conceptual artwork and clips from the film, of course. When the credits rolled I was left wanting more but in the best possible way, and luckily there's a shit-ton of bonus content to appease those like myself.
The wealth of complimentary bonus materials includes two half-hour mini disc covering the lesser sequels THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 2 and 3, loads of deleted scenes not found in the doc, one with designer Stout recalling a time both he and O'Bannon desecrated the cremated remains of infants, no lie! We also get a fun featurette ROTLD in 3 minutes, a guided tour of the filming locations as seen today, plus a half hour interview with writer/director Dan O' Bannon. It's pretty great all around and it offers a well-rounded and often times contradictory perspective of the film from all the angles.

Special Features:
- A Conversation with Dan O'Bannon: The Final Interview (28:29)
- They Won't Stay Dead: A Look at Return of the Living Dead Part II (29:42)
- Love Beyond the Grave: A Look at Return of the Living Dead 3 (20:52)
- Stacey Q Live! Exclusive "Tonight" Music Video (3:21)
- Even More Brains: Deleted Documentary Interviews
- Return of the Living Dead in 3 Minutes 3:01)
- Resurrected Settings: The Filming Locations Today (10:00)
- NEVER SLEEP AGAIN Trailer (0:57)

Verdict: If you love ROTLD there's just no way I could conceive that you're not gonna wanna own this doc - it's pretty fantastic and definitely the most enjoyable movie doc I've seen in a very long time. A more definitive doc made by people who so obviously love a film you will never find, it's outstanding stuff. It's great to see the film that introduced brain-eating zombies into popular culture finally get some serious and long overdue respect. 4.5 outta 5