on September 9, 2002
Before we start. I want to affirm that I love this film. Great script, great performances, great soundtrack, great directing.
Also, regardless of the negative feedback I give this DVD, we are unfortunately obligated to buy it, if we ever want to see a special edition DVD.
Ok, here goes. Yeah it looks great. But it just felt wrong. I couldn't place the reason. I thought maybe it was a visual matter. But I quickly realized that what was bugging me was the soundtrack. It was inexplicably, utterly mangled.
Will someone tell me why? Why were the vocals for whole songs removed? I am sorely disappointed and angered by this. I am outraged by the George Lucas style of re-working your film for DVD, and abandoning the original theatrical cut. If you feel the need to improve your film, fine, provide an alternate cut, or additional scenes, or whatever, that's great. Give me the option on the menu to see the "improved version, or the regular cut. But don't alter a classic, and not even mention it and try to pass it off as the original.
There are so many examples of this butchering, that I can't name them all. I only watched it once last night, and am at work now, but a few definitely come to mind.
#1 The scene where Trash and Suicide and the gang are speeding towards the cemetery used to have the Damned song Dead Beat Dance as the background music. Well, not anymore! You get the inital maniacal laugh, and then nothing, a completely different song. Why?!
#2 The scene where the zombie says: "send more cops", with a thick new york accent. A classic scene right? We all loved it right? Well did you notice that they changed the voice? Did you notice that is was awful in comparison, and not nearly as funny? Was there a good reason for this sacrilege? Has Dan O'Bannon lost his mind, or was this the studios fault? In the end credits, where the best-of scenes replay a second time, we hear the "send more cops" line in all its original glory. So I know I am not imagining this.
#3 What's his name, the Pathmark guy (no slight intended, his performance was excellent), takes his own life by placing himself in the crematorium. In the original version of this scene is accompanied by the song Burn the Flames, which sports a haunting guitar solo at the exact moment the door shuts and we hear the man's tortured screams. It is actually one of my favorite scenes in the film. The haunting music enhances the sadness of the moment.
But not anymore. Now the music is faded out in a particularly unartistic way, and the scene plays silent. Sorry but this is a disgrace. I waited years for this film to be re-released and I feel betrayed. The soundtrack was perfect the way it was. In a different film it would not be as a big of a deal. But when you are the ONLY zombie/comedy/horror film with a punky soundtrack, and a damned good one, and everyone loves you for it, you don't go around meddling and altering, deleting and rewriting, compiling and defiling.
It go to the point where I held my breath with every song change, worried sick that they would ommit lyrics or do away with the track altogether. Waves of relief washed over me when I reached the scene where the zombies are attacking the funeral home (and our heroes are furiously nailing doors and windows shut)and I discovered that the Cramps song "Surfin Dead" was left intact. Thank god, or the devil, for that one.
Could I be wrong? Did I miss some sort of soundtrack feature, where mistakenly clicked something off or on? Or is the sad fact that this movie has been permanently altered...?
on October 20, 2004
"Return Of The Living Dead" is basically one giant homage to George Romero's infamous "Night Of The Living Dead," and a loving one at that. It pokes plenty of fun at the horror genre, is stocked with stupid characters, and has plentiful helpings of gore. During his first day on the job at Uneeda Medical Supplies, Freddy (Tom Mathews, you may remember him as Tommy Jarvis in "Friday the 13th, pt. VI: "Jason Lives") and his bumbling supervisor, Frank (James Karen), accidentally crack a tank containing a corpse that was previously a zombie (ala "Night Of The Living Dead"). Problem is, this tank was filled with toxic gasses, and not only does it make the two very ill, every dead creature in the building comes back to life (even some split puppies (?)). Up until this point, there is only one zombie to worry about, until the two decide to cremate it, which spreads more gasses into the air and re-awakens the dead all over town. Big mess. And caught in the middle of it all are a really obnoxious group of teenagers, coincidentally, Freddy's friends (one of whom stays nude pretty much for her entire screen-time, problem is, she's one of the first to go) and some very unlucky and downright stupid paramedics. From here on out, it follows standard zombie flick procedure, with an abundance of shocks and laughs thrown everywhere, all capped off with a surprising ending that will leave you scratching your head and wondering what you just saw. Nevertheless, "Return Of The Living Dead" is pure fun. It may go over the heads of horror snobs, but if you are looking for a good time this Halloween, it can't be beat (I'm sorry, but I couldn't stop laughing when they were trying to tackle the original zombie). The DVD edition supports the movie with audio-commentary by director Dan O'Bannon, a few technical featurettes and TV spots and trailers. Recommended for those who want to have a bloody good time.
on August 28, 2005
Rework, remake, homage, tribute, call Return of the Living Dead (1985) whatever you'd like, I just think it's a damn good film which achieves something not a lot of movies of its kind manage to do in successfully mixing two genres, those being horror and comedy, to create a third, which I call a `hormadey' (look at that, I just invented a new word right before your eyes...patent pending...quick, call the people at Webster's...I bet they pay good money for new words)...Sam Raimi did it in Evil Dead II (1987), although he called it `splatstick', Peter Jackson did it in some of his early like films Bad Taste (1987), and even more so in Braindead (1992) aka Dead Alive, and Stuart Gordon did it in Re-Animator (1985), just as Dan O'Bannon has done so with this film. Co-written and directed by Dan O'Bannon (Alien, Dead & Buried, Blue Thunder), the film features an excellent cast including Clu Gulager (McQ, A Force of One), James Karen (Poltergeist, Apt Pupil, Superman Returns), Don Calfa (Chopper Chicks in Zombietown, Weekend at Bernie's), and Thom Mathews (Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, Alien from L.A.). Also appearing is Beverly Randolph, John Philbin (The New Kids, Point Break), Jewel Shepard (Hollywood Hot Tubs), Miguel A. Núñez Jr. (Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, Carnosaur 2), scream queen Linnea Quigley (Creepozoids, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama), Mark Venturini, who sadly passed away in 1996, and Brian Peck, the only actor to appear in all three Return of the Living Dead films.
As the film begins, we find ourselves at the Uneeda Medical Supply company `You need it...we got it'. It's Freddie's (Mathews) first day as a stockboy, and co-worker Frank (Karen) is showing him the ropes, along with the prosthetics, bedpans, skeletons, and yes, cadavers (man, they weren't kidding about having what I need, particularly in a nice bedpan). A curious Freddie inquires as to what's the weirdest thing Frank has ever seen during his long tenure at the company to which Frank relates a fantastic tale about how some years ago, a chemical created a chemical for the military that had a strange side effect, namely, it brought the dead back to life. The resulting mess was cleaned up, and the reanimated corpses were stuffed into sealed containers. Many of the supposedly true events were then turned into a film that we know as George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (nice acknowledgement), although a number of facts were changed to avoid litigation. Anyway, due to a military snafu, some of the containers were accidentally shipped to Uneeda, and have been sitting in the basement ever since, undisturbed...until now...while showing Freddie the containers, Frank slaps the side of one, a seal breaks, and the gas squirts out all over the two men knocking them out, and also into the air ducts, which, in turn, revives the corpsicle in the freezer. The boys begin to freak, and decide to call the owner Burt (Gulager), figuring he'll know what to do...after some debating, then end up hacking the lively decedent into parts, stuffing the parts into garbage bags, taking said bags across the street to the crematorium and asking the resident mortician Ernie Kaltenbrunner (Calfa), who Burt's been friends with for a long time (get it? Burt and Ernie? Ah well...) to burn the evidence. Ernie finally agrees, and the parts do burn into ash, but an unforeseen result is the smoke from the burning of the body is released through the chimney. This, coupled with the quickly approaching thunderstorm, causes the fumes to seep into the ground, causing a...reaction among the long dormant residents of the graveyard, the same graveyard Freddie's friends are hanging out at while waiting for Freddie to get off work...well, I think you can put two and two together and surmise, like the South, the dead shall rise again, and they do...and they're hungry...for juicy, juicy brains...
I think this is a great movie, for someone who can appreciate it...one of the best aspects of the film are the colorful and distinctive characters, played very well by the actors. There isn't a whole lot of development, but they're still interesting enough to keep you watching. Perhaps my favorite character of the film was that of Burt, the boss and owner of the medical supply company played by Clu Gulager. His pragmatism played off extremely well off the exponentially growing horror of the animated corpses, and created a sort of bizarre sense that he was more worried about how all this was going to affect business, rather than for his own mortality. Eventually he does realize the grievous nature of the situation, but up until then it was pretty funny, particularly because he didn't overplay it...my favorite scene involved the sequence after Burt and the boys hacked up the spastic corpse and then brought it across the street to the mortuary, in an effort to get Burt's friend Ernie to get rid of everything by burning it up in his crematorium. At first Burt tries to explain the wiggling bags as a shipment of rabid weasels, rather than tell Ernie the truth. After awhile, and many questions from Ernie, Burt finally does come clean, but his initial attempts at subterfuge are hilarious. A couple of other great performances are given by James Karen as Frank, the long time warehouse employee seeming happy to have a new apprentice, even to the point of showing off a little, and Don Calfa as Ernie, the gun toting mortician who develops a scientific interest in the corpses. Thom Mathews also did very well, especially near the end of the picture, as the sickness from inhaling the noxious gas earlier finally overtakes him. The walking dead were much more lively and active in this film, more so than I had seen in films previous, which added a nice spin to the notion that the reanimated dead are only capable of lumbering about. In terms of special effects and make up, the detail in the corpses was most excellent, especially that half woman corpse the group captures and Ernie questions in the latter half of the movie. Also, the Tarman corpse, the one that was released from the military container, was exquisitely detailed and the actor who played the part had his movements down perfectly, or at least in terms of how I thought a recently released from his barrel, rotting, festering, slimy corpse would move about. Everything worked so well together here, the directing, the script, quotable dialog, the humor, the nasty bits, the acting, all tied together with a carefully chosen soundtrack featuring bands like, among others, T.S.O.L, The Damned, The Flesheaters, Roky Erickson, and The Cramps. All in all, a completely harmonious balance and truly fun entertainment for the sick and twisted. Oh yeah, there's a couple of great nekkid bits featuring Jewel Shepard, who plays a punky girl obsessed with all things gruesome and morbid.
This DVD release features both the widescreen (1.85:1), enhanced for 16X9 TVs, along with a fullscreen version, both looking sharp and clean. The Dolby Digital audio also comes through very well and clear. As far as special features, there is an audio commentary track with director Dan O'Bannon and production designer William Stout (I was kinda surprised they didn't get any of the actors involved), along with a featurette titled `Designing the Dead' (13:37), conceptual artwork by William Stout, TV spots, and both an G rated and R rated trailers for the film.