"The Return of the Living Dead" discussion thread...BRAINS!!!

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Michael Allred, May 14, 2002.

  1. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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    An absolutely PERFECT blend of horror and comedy. I honestly cannot think of any other film that pulled it off so well. Unlike George Romero's zombie trilogy, "The Return of the Living Dead", written/directed by Dan O' Bannon, it didn't take itself seriously. It had FUN. It never dragged, zipping you from one moment of dread to another and when it got too gory or intense, O' Bannon brought in the laughs. Not slapstick but genuine, over-the-top gags. Whether it be a hungry zombie asking to "send more cops" as if he was ordering pizza or the bumbling warehouse employees who, after accidentally releasing a toxic gas that re-animates corpses, find that killing zombies by destroying the brains doesn't work. When they finally exclaim "WELL IT WORKED IN THE MOVIES!" you know the rules have been thrown out the window.

    The film works on so many levels of horror and humor and the fact that it makes fun of itself and Romero's classic "Night of the Living Dead" come off as more self-aware than Wes Craven's "Scream" films of the 90's.

    The film took it's chances and could've pissed off fans of Romero's original by actually referring to that movie within the first few minutes, saying it was all fictional and that "what really happened was..." well you get the idea. In fact, O' Bannon tried as hard as possible to make his film as different from Romero's. You see, O' Bannon's zombies could RUN after you, could think and plan ways to get at you, they could TALK to you and tell you what part they wanted to eat from you......"BRAINS!"

    The film was shot on a $4 million dollar budget and had it's problems with make-up and FX but the wonderful, brisk editing and the gloomy lighting more than covered up it's technical flaws. You'd be hard pressed to find any obvious goofs.

    The film's punk rock soundtrack is excellent. Dare I say "goth punk"? Sure it fit in with the punk characters that got stuck in the horror but the tone of the songs fit in so well with the movie. The soundtrack is available on CD and you can purchase it at either Amazon.com or CDnow.com.

    The cast was superb, all somehow finding the perfect way to play their parts. There isn't a single 'off' performance. Frank's over-the-top "freaking out", Burt's calm "this is what we're gonna do" attitude and Freddy's realization of what's happening to his body and mind all showcase the talent that made the film work.

    When one of our heroes (who's been zombiefied) commits suicide by burning himself "alive" in the crematorium....it's not horrific but truly sad. Actor James Karen embodied 'Frank' with such an "every guy" quality, you couldn't help but feel for him.

    Thom Mathews played "Freddy". A new level was added to the zombie genre. We see a young man, full of life with lots of partying left to do, slowly get snuffed out. He was exposed to the gas you see and he's slowly dying.....yet already dead. He's conscious while feeling rigor mortis setting in.....and he describes every pain to you. It's unsettling.

    Clu Gulager plays the warehouse owner 'Burt' (his best friend who owns the funeral home next door? Ernie. Nope, not kidding!) who seemingly dead pans throughout the entire film. While the entire film is going crazy, he is the constant throughout and you feel that if you were in the same situation, you'd want him there helping to make crucial decisions.

    Linnea Quigley, the "B-movie scream Queen" plays 'Trash'. Her infamous, FULL FRONTAL strip tease has left many of my fellow 20-something's with fond memories of their childhood.

    This film parodied it's sub-genre of horror YEARS before the crap that was the "Scream" trilogy. It also managed to be FAR scarier than Wes Craven's poor attempts which basically equalled a "Boo!" a 9 year old attempts on Halloween.

    Dan O'Bannon, the film's writer/director (mostly responsible for the classic "Alien") created a film that, in every way, perfectly blended horror and humor. I'm not saying it's the first, I'm saying it's the first at *doing it right.*

    The film was released in 1985 and went head-to-head with George Romero's "Day of the Dead". "Return" not only got better critical reviews but bested "George the King" at the box office and Romero is considered the best at this type of film. Wrong.

    Romero took his work far too seriously. Many claim that his "Dawn of the Dead" is a classic film that savaged the American mentality. Ho-hum. So called zombies that looked about as authentic as OJ's "100% not guilty" speech (most just had their faces painted blue for pete's sake!) and pie fights are hardly what I'd consider landmark moviemaking.

    Compare such boring trite with O'Bannon's work and the superior *film* shines through. O'Bannon saw the genre in a way most could not. Treat it's subject with respect yet realize, this is incredibly silly.

    O'Bannon's script is self-aware yet understands it's fictional world is very real. We get the humor, the film's characters aren't so lucky.

    The film goes the opposite of what you'd expect in such a subtle way. The hapless humans are caged in places normally associated with the dead (a funeral home, a medical supply warehouse) whereas the dead are free to roam around in the land of the living. Subtle.

    This is NOT a "dumb" film at all (as some uneducated people might mistake "zombie" films for.) It's an ironic, horrific, campy and witty take on a classic horror genre. A film I can watch over and over again. Highly recommended.

    MGM will release this film on DVD, August 27th, 2002.
     
  2. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Great idea for a thread Michael! [​IMG]
    I love everything about this movie, the comedy, the horror, the action, the headbanging soundtrack that proves once and for all that the dead love to party! It's entertaining as hell to watch as hapless boss Frank, and new guy on the job Freddy accidentally unleash that funky smelling gas we all love, and witness the mayhem that insues as all hell breaks loose!
    'ROTLD' is one of those very rare movies that I never tire of watching. I saw it for the first time back in 86 and just went nuts with how much fun this movie is! As I said in the 'Dawn of the Dead' thread, this also has that hopeless, trapped feeling that those films have, only it also boasts a macabre sense of humor.
    The zombies in this film are 100 times scarier than those in the 'Dead' films, for the simple fact that they seem to posses intelligence, they talk, plan, and scariest of all, RUN after their victims in their never ending search for BRAINS! Hey, it hurts to be dead afterall. Favorite zombie in ANY horror movie i've yet seen is without a doubt 'Tarman'. This thing is just plain fricken sick and scary looking. For a realitivly small budget, the movie boasts some really great make-ups and creature effects.
    The cast of charactors who are tormented in this movie are truly likable, even the party punks who get snared into the action are actually alright in a pinch. To this day I always feel sorry for Frank and Freddy as they are unknowingly becoming zombies themselves. And then of course we have Burt and Ernie [​IMG], just saying those names like that crack me up! [​IMG] I mean you gotta love two guy's who think that George Romero's films are the answer to their problems! [​IMG]
    You gotta love this film. And hey, if you don't, call the number on the side of the tank, they'll take real good care of ya, and make sure you mention how many square acres your neighborhood covers. [​IMG]
     
  3. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Leanna Quigley totally naked and dancing in a graveyard at night is what sticks in my filthy mind from this movie, shame she turned into a zombie afterwards (a naked zombie ofcourse).[​IMG]
    Trouble with comparing Return of the Living Dead to Romero's zombie classics is that this one is mostly played for laughs and all the performances are way over the top, so I wouldn't put this in the same class as the superb Dawn of the Dead, this is more of a zombie spoof.
    I'd like to mention Return of the Living Dead III, because I had the hots for Mindy Clarke when I first saw it, she's still the ultimate zombie punk babe, mmmmm eat me baby![​IMG]
     
  4. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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    People seem to confuse "parody" with "satire". "ROTLD" was a "satire" of zombie films in general.

    Why people like "Dawn of the Dead" so much continues to baffle me to this day. It's make-up and FX are such a complete joke, the acting is equal to that of any 70's porn film...I could go on and on.
     
  5. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    It's been a long long time since I've seen this movie but I still remember some of the funniest lines ever in a zombie movie. Like when the guy was hiding in the attic and the zombie below was saying "I know you're up there, I can smell your BRAINS!"

    When I was in college we would often get some beer and rent a movie. This led to the creation of the "beer scale" for rating movies. ROTLD was one of the few movies we watched that scored a whole six pack.

    Where's the DVD?
     
  6. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Man, I haven't seen this one since I was 15, but I do remember loving it! I can still picture the bit with the zombie talking into the police radio!! [​IMG] Can't wait for this DVD!
     
  7. Berk

    Berk Stunt Coordinator

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    Any news on a release date for the ROTLD DVD?
     
  8. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    ok, someone help a zombie newbie out... Back in the late 80s (I was like 12), A zombie movie aired on TV. It was dubbed, and it was given the title "Night of the Living Dead II" or something like that. Based on the descriptions I've heard here, I'm pretty sure that what I actually saw was ROTLD.
    I remember the gas bringing the dead back to life, and I remember a captured zombie saying that eating brains made the zombies forget the pain that being dead caused them.
    If I recall correctly, one of the zombies picked up a phone, and one of the heroes asked him "who's the president?" to which the zombie answered (after looking confused for a minute) "Harry Truman." Then again, it could have been a scene from the movie I describe below.
    Years later, I saw another zombie movie, which the shameless local network called "Thriller - the Movie." I don't remember much about it, except that at the end, the zombies were defeated by being electrocuted. I have no idea what this one was.
    The most recent zombie flick I've seenw as Romero's remake of NOTLD. Could you guys help me figure out the titles of the other two? If I'm getting the scenes mixed up, clarification would be much appreciated [​IMG]
     
  9. Todd H

    Todd H Go Dawgs!

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    The first movie is Return of the Living Dead.

    The second movie you talked about sounds like Return of the Living Dead 2. At the end, the zombies are destroyed using electricity.
     
  10. Artur Meinild

    Artur Meinild Screenwriter

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  11. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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  12. Ross Williams

    Ross Williams Supporting Actor

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  13. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Oh it's official alright Ross, or kind host Michael Allred spoke with director Dan O'Bannon personally on the phone on numerous occassions, in fact he put Mr. O'Bannon in touch with MGM and got him involved in the preparation of this dvd.
    August 27th, mark your calender, it's coming. [​IMG]
     
  14. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    Thanks a million, Todd [​IMG] This is one disc I'm definitely picking up [​IMG]
     
  15. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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    You can call MGM's customer service line and ask them if you'd like to get another source for the release date.
     
  16. JeremySt

    JeremySt Screenwriter

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  17. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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    I really don't think it takes a genius to drawl paralells between the living dead and the "zombies" who frequent the malls of america.

    Still, I recognize that the majority of people think Romero's films are the best (which I obviously disagree with) but look at it like this;

    If Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" is "Alien" then "The Return of the Living Dead" is "Aliens" (if you get what I'm saying here) both classics dealing with the same subject matter but in completely different ways. The first is slower paced, the second a rock 'em sock 'em follow-up.
     
  18. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Michael,
    I just wanted to say CONGRATULATIONS. The upcoming ROTLD DVD is proof positive that the "average guy" consumer (who also happens to be an insane movie freak [​IMG] ) can get some results by simply speaking up loudly.
    I'm looking forward to owning this cult classic, and I hope that DVD feels sweet once you have it in your hands. You earned it!
     
  19. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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  20. DougO

    DougO Stunt Coordinator

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    send more paramedics
     

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