The Return of the Living Dead – Review (Scream Factory Collector’s Edition Blu-ray)
The Return of the Living Dead
I do not know what I could say about The Return of the Living Dead that a million people have not already said about it. I remember watching it for the first time and expecting a serious zombie flick and coming out not exactly impressed. Of course, my opinion has changed since then and now I love the movie. At the time my knowledge of the film was limited, so I was thinking it was going to be a continuation of Night of the Living Dead. It turns out, John A. Russo did write The Return of the Living Dead as a serious follow up to Night. However, when director Dan O’Bannon got a hold of the script, he changed it up and made it into a more comedic zombie flick so not to step on the toes of George Romero, who at the time was doing his own thing with the Dead series. The choice to switch it to a darker comedy was the right move and the rest, as they say, is history.
DISCS: 2 RUN-TIME: 91 min ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1 RESOLUTION: 1080p AUDIO: English 2.0 DTS-HD MA Mono,English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA LANGUAGE: English SUBTITLES: English, Zombie REGION: A/1 RATING: R PRODUCTION DATE: 1985 RELEASE DATE: July 19, 2016
On his first day on the job at a medical supply warehouse, poor Freddy (Thom Mathews) unwittingly releases toxic gas from a secret U.S. military canister, unleashing an unbelievable terror. The gas reanimates an army of corpses, who arise from their graves with a ravenous hunger… for human brains! And luckily for those carnivorous cadavers, there is a group of partying teens nearby, just waiting to be eaten!
This is going to be a short summary/review for the film, as I am sure you have already heard everything about it before. If you have not seen the movie yet, you need to get off my website and watch it. If the film does not interest you at all, I am not entirely sure why you even bothered to open this review, but I thank you for your support.
The Return of the Living Dead exists in a world where The Night of the Living Dead is a movie based on real facts about real zombies. In The Return of the Living Dead, the real zombies end up transported to a local medical supply company by accident and two dimwits named Frank (James Karen) and Freddy (Thom Mathews), accidentally break open a container housing a zombie and a deadly gas titled Trioxin is released. Frank and Freddy try to cover up the mishap by burning a reanimated corpse (shots to the head do not kill em, so I guess the movie lied), but the fumes cause an acid rain shower that awakens all the dead bodies in the nearby cemetery. Cue lots of zombie mayhem and Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons) dancing completely nude in a cemetery. Also, Tarman zombie!
The Return of the Living Dead is a rock and roll zombie party fest. It features a blazing soundtrack, tonnes of zombie carnage and a story that is chalk full of humour and laughs. It is a zombie movie for the whole family… if said family does not mind seeing a completely nude Linnea Quigley running around.
The Return of the Living Dead as been out on Blu-ray in different regions before. The previous Region 1 MGM release had to make alterations to the soundtrack due to licensing issues. However, Second Sight Films released the film in the UK on Blu-ray and was able to include the original soundtrack intact. Each release, however, had a bunch of extras to please the fans of the flick. So the question is, why should you pick up the new Scream Factory 2-disc Collector’s Edition if you already own a previous release? Well, that is because Scream Factory has gone above and beyond in jamming this Blu-ray so full of features, it is ready to burst.
Let’s get the question that is on everyone’s mind out of the way first. Is the soundtrack completely intact? No, no it is not. One song was not able to be included on the disc – The Damned’s “Dead Beat Dance.” I do not think one missing song is enough not to buy this disc, as the special features are going to make you happier than one missing song could disappoint you, but I figured purists would want to know.
First up, what was already included on other releases before:
• 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 minutes)
• Theatrical Trailers
• TV Spots
• Still Gallery – Posters, Lobby Cards, Movie Stills And Behind-The-Scenes Photos
• Still Gallery – Behind-The-Scenes Photos From Special Make-up Effects Artist Kenny Myers’ Personal Collection
• Zombie Subtitles For The Film
• In Their Own Words – The Zombies Speak
• The Return Of The Living Dead Workprint – Includes 20 minutes Of Additional Footage (In Standard Definition)
• 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 minutes)
• The Origins Of The Living Dead – An Interview With John A. Russo (16 minutes)
• 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 minutes)
• Designing The Dead – Interviews With Writer/Director Dan O’Bannon And Production Designer William Stout (15 minutes)
Okay, there is a lot there that exists on Blu already, but you may notice that the definitive documentary titled “More Brains: A Return To The Living Dead” has been included. This feature alone, which runs 120 minutes, is worth the price of admission. Now, the only caveat here is that any of the bonus features that discuss the sequels will not be on the disc. Scream Factory had nothing to do with the original feature, so they had no rights to show anything related to the sequels. If you want the full documentary, you can buy it on DVD, or if you already own the Second Sight release, you are golden. Also included is the workprint for The Return of the Living Dead, which includes 20 minutes of additional footage. I am not aware of this being on any other release, Blu-ray or otherwise. The transfer is in standard definition, and it looks like a VHS dub of a dub. The quality is awful, to say the least, but it is here for anyone that is interested in giving it a watch.
Now, we get to what is new that has never been included (side note – two features listed as new were on previous releases, but these are the new expanded versions) on any other release:
• 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
• 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) (30 minutes)
• NEWParty 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 minutes)
• NEW HORROR’S HALLOWED GROUNDS – Revisiting The Locations Of The Film
First up is the new 2K scan of the interpositive. From the reviews of previous releases, many people seemed to be disappointed with the transfers. Well, you can rest easy in knowing that this release is pretty damn impressive looking. The film has been cleaned up; it is clear, and there are no compression issues to be found anywhere. It looks amazing on Blu. There are also three audio options to choose from. You have the original DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono, which is the option you would select if you want to hear the film as it was originally in theatres. Next up is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, which opens up the channels and provides you with some surround sound. However, there are a few issues with the music blaring where it should not be and dialogue being drowned out. Finally, there is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, but with the Mono track included, why would you even bother with this one.
For commentary fans, Scream Factory has recorded two new commentaries. That is on top of the previous two from the list above. I am not entirely sure what more people could say about this movie, but damn it; they got the people to sit down and discuss it all over again.
As I previously mentioned in a side note. Two of the features are not exactly “new” per say, as shorter versions of these interviews appeared on other releases already. However, these are the expanded versions, which run a total of 30 minutes each. Finally, the last new feature is a quick visit to filming locations by Sean Clark. Fun, but a tiny feature.
Okay, now this is where you decide if you should pick up the new The Return of the Living Dead Collector’s Edition. In my opinion, I say dump the original Region 1 release from MGM and pick this one up. If you own the Second Sight version, I would keep it for the extra features, but would still pick the Scream Factory one up for the better transfer. So, just buy the damn thing already!