BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Operating as neither a sequel to or a part of George A. Romero’s Zombie series, The Return of the Living Dead doesn’t really profess to be much of anything…except a hell of a lot of gory fun. That doesn’t mean Night of the Living Dead isn’t referenced because it is. Nor does it make the idea of zombies circa 1985 any less interesting. Yet, where this film earns its wings is in how it treats the subject of zombies…with buckets of blood and humor.
When Freddy (Thom Matthews) starts a new job at a medical supply store, longtime employee Frank (James Karen) decides to show him one of the company’s secrets: a corpse tucked inside a military “tomb”. The two employees accidentally release a toxic gas that reanimates the dead. Fortunately, the reanimated bodies are self-contained in the supply story…or so they think. First, there’s a dissected dog to deal with. Then, there are the cadavers who, one by one, come back to life. Quickly enough, the two – alongside a gang of punks and mods – discover that the ENTIRE cemetery next to the supply store has also been reanimated as a result of their little accident.
And so the madness begins.
Filled with enough blood and full frontal nudity – courtesy of the living (scream queen Linnea Barbara Quigley) and the reanimated dead – The Return of the Living Dead humorously plays with the ideas Romero first presented his audience with and then turns each and every one of them on their collective head until the final product is more 80’s comedy with just a hint of cheesy horror.
Written and directed by Dan O’Bannon (of Star Wars, Alien, Heavy Metal and Blue Thunder fame), the narrative works as it delves into the connectivity of close quarter mayhem that the Medicine Supply Store workers - now including Clu Gulager and Don Calfa - unknowingly wreak upon the “inhabitants” of the graveyard by burning the first zombie body. As the exposed men start to turn into flesh-eating creepy crawlers, everyone’s best guess is poison. Yet, when the rain begins to fall on the punks and mods in the graveyard and their skin begins to burn, it’s only a matter of time before the wild skinsations of becoming the undead are manifest to all.
Still, the first attack is the best, with a warning to “watch the third step” on a creaky basement staircase foreshadowing Tina (Beverly Randolph) and Spider’s (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) entrapment in the supply store. With the mantra of “Brains!” and “More Brains!” on the tongues of each and every zombie, The Return of the Living Dead chomps its way into action with a comedic force – full of obvious and self-parodying dialogue.
The dead “don’t move around and talk” and, yet, in The Return of the Living Dead they do both. Even scary-looking children, too. They might even dance a bit, too. When 45 Grave’s glorious “Partytime” kicks in and the dead crawl from their slimy graves in the cemetery on a path to devour the living, you can’t help but grin at the spooky flesh-eating that is about to be inflicted against the soundwaves of some gnarly 1980’s punk. It’s no wonder then that this film has spawned four sequels with a possible sixth still on its way.
The Return of the Living Dead is a campy and memorable cult classic of melodious monster guts and 30-year-old funk.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 91 mins
Director: Dan O'Banion
Writer: Dan O'Banion
Cast: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa
Tagline: They're Back From The Grave and Ready To Party!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Eating brains... How does that make you feel?"
Distributor: Orion Pictures
Release Date: August 16, 1985
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: July 19, 2016
Synopsis: When two bumbling employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to rise again as zombies.
Available on Blu-ray - July 19, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz, 16-bit); English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (2 BD-50)
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A
The two-disc collector’s release of The Return of the Living Dead fixes everything that was wrong when the film was first issued on blu-ray courtesy of MGM. First off they’ve unleashed a NEW 2K scan of the interpositive. This effectively brings a brand new look to the film, freeing it of age and any other blemishes found on the prior release. The skin tones are natural and amped up on saturation and dark levels when needed. Colors are now strong throughout. Since this is primarily set at night, the dark tones are important and with this release they are dark and natural; effective in creating a sense of disturbing moodiness. The Blu-ray is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 lossless Master Audio and contains a good mix of levels for multiple channels requiring no tweaking from its audience in order for dialogue to be heard. There is one minor note to pay attention to regarding the soundtrack. Per the release statement: For our new transfer, we went back to the original audio tracks to create a new soundtrack. Unfortunately, one song – “Dead Beat Dance” by The Damned – could not be cleared for inclusion on our release. However, the rest of the soundtrack will contain the audio as heard during the film’s original theatrical run.
The are four commentaries now included with the release. They are listed below:
- 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
Scream Factory adds A LOT of depth to the madness in the film. They know exactly what we want and spoil us with the NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive, the TWO NEW commentaries, and the NEW featurettes that focus on the special effects and the music of the motion picture. Also NEW is the episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds that revisits the locations used in the movie. There are interviews with almost everyone associated with the film’s release and history. It truly is a celebration!
- The Decade Of Darkness – Featurette On '80s Horror Films (23 min)
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spots
- Still Gallery – Posters, Lobby Cards, Movie Stills And Behind-The-Scenes Photos
- Still Gallery 2 – Behind-The-Scenes Photos From Special Make-up Effects Artist Kenny Myers' Personal Collection
- Zombie Subtitles
- The FX Of The Living Dead (30 min)
- Party Time (30 min)
- Horror’s Hallowed Grounds – Revisiting The Locations Of The Film
- The Return Of The Living Dead Workprint
- 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 (28 min)
- An Interview With John A. Russo (16 min)
- The Dead Have Risen (21 min)
- Designing The Dead (15 min)