Dan O'Bannon made a nice mark in the horror genre (Alien was his idea and he contributed to a number of horror films over the years) but directing The Return of the Living Dead was surely his finest hour. The picture moves at a frantic pace, the characters are well-drawn and the performances are top-notch, the effects are massive, the score is killer, and the movie greatly benefits from a perfect ending. What did he do wrong? I can't think of anything. O'Bannon gave us a wildly different take on the zombie sub-genre that can be seen as a bit of a trendsetter in a great many ways. Long before fast zombies became so popular, the undead were racing around in this gory delight. Additionally, the diverse and rebellious cast of characters and the lack of a clear-cut hero or heroine are both noteworthy and admirable. Finally, the humorous aspect of the picture is probably the biggest reason that The Return of the Living Dead is so beloved by so many, and it generates a wealth of laughter despite the fact that it takes itself seriously. It isn't hokey or silly, it just showcases gifted performers portraying characters who come apart at the seams and rant and snarl at one another as things get progressively worse. The picture also has a gift for irony. I think it's a shame that O'Bannon didn't direct more movies, but he knocked this one out of the park.
|These punk rock kids just want to have a good time. Don't we all?|
|The soundtrack rules! It's definitely in my Top 10 so far as soundtracks go.|
In closing, I can't recommend this one enough. I love horror films (you already knew that) and the zombie sub-genre in particular (you already knew that too), and I truly believe that this is the best of the bunch so far as brain-munching shenanigans are concerned. There's so much to love and it's so damn fresh. It is gruesome, tense, and frightening, and yet it can be absolutely hilarious at times. The soundtrack rocks, the direction and the editing are stellar, and the cast is wonderful. The Return of the Living Dead is the most entertaining and the zaniest film in a long line of horror classics that will not die, the cinema of the undead.
The Return of The Living Dead Trivia
While it is widely believed that the presence of a pair of pals named Bert and Ernie is a gag, Dan O'Bannon has stated that he was actually oblivious to the existence of the beloved muppets with the same names who reside on Sesame Street.
Ernie (played by Don Calfa) is a nazi in hiding. His use of German, his musical preferences, the photo of Eva Braun he keeps in his morgue, and even his choice of sidearm are among the clues to his secret identity sprinkled throughout the picture.
When Trash does her striptease, you're not actually seeing full frontal nudity. Linnea Quigley wore a plastic application for that sequence that concealed her private parts.
Clu Galager was a last-minute addition to the cast and he apparently wasn't all that easy to get along with. According to various reports, he was prone to temper tantrums and violent outbursts on set. There are even claims that the effects team secretly swapped a rubber pipe for the real one he was wielding at one point during the film because his peers were afraid that he would lose his cool while armed with a lead pipe.
While John Russo (co-writer of the original Night of the Living Dead) wrote a script entitled Return of the Living Dead and receives a story credit for this picture, it is believed that very little of his material was used. O'Bannon thought Russo's script was too serious and too closely resembled Romero's work, so it was re-written as more of a satire.
Some of the cast members portraying zombies actually chowed down on raw calf brains during filming.