Return of The Living Dead: Special Edition REVIEW

The Tarman: not a barrel of laughs.


Release Date: 4 June 2012
1985 | 15 | 90 minutes | £17.99 (steelbook Blu-ray)/£15.99 (DVD)
Distributor: Second Sight Films
Director: Dan O’Bannon
Cast: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph

Simon Pegg may consider running zombies an abomination in the eyes of our lord George Romero, but some of us vehemently disagree – and have done ever since Dan O’Bannon unleashed a sprinting cadaver in the Uneeda Medical Supply warehouse.

The Alien scribe’s punky black comedy uses Night Of The Living Dead as a jumping-off point, but rejects Romero’s rules; his undead can’t half shift, and can speak and reason too. (They also feast on brains – an innovation back in 1985).

Like Shaun Of The Dead, it’s a zom-com blessed with real tension and characters you can actually care about, and it’s superior to at least three of George’s Dead movies (possibly four). Never mind the speed, feel the quality.

Extras:

Worth an upgrade? You betcha. The old DVD just had a pair of trailers. This new special edition digs up a grave-load of zombie goodness. The chief delight is More Brains!, an insightful, amusing two-hour documentary (previously released on DVD in the States in its own right) whose makers seem to have corralled together everyone who so much as sneezed in the general vicinity of the set (right down to “Paramedic 2”). It’s crammed with great anecdotes (particularly when it comes to the eccentric director and what’s rather euphemistically described as his “lack of social graces”), and professionally presented, with cute comic book-style transitions and witty use of original art to illustrate the talking heads. Then there are all the extras from More Brains!’ solo release, including 15 minutes of trims (you won’t be opting for cremation after you’ve heard what production designer William Stout discovered in the course of his researches…); further Making Ofs in the same mould on The Return Of The Living Dead 2 (29 minutes) and 3 (20 minutes); a frank final interview (28 minutes) with the late O’Bannon, in which he’s touchingly contrite about being such an asshole to work with; and a tour of the locations in the company of two of the cast (10 minutes).

There are three further significant featurettes. In one, Night Of The Living Dead co-writer John Russo (whose original script was discarded) discusses the genesis of the film (16 minutes), wheeling out numerous well-rehearsed answers. There’s also an interesting piece on the effects (21 minutes) and a somewhat overly protracted interview with the vocalist of “death rock” band 45 Grave (19 minutes), whose song “Party Time” features prominently on the soundtrack. Speaking of which, you can choose whether to listen to the original soundtrack (in mono), or the “remixed” version from previous DVD releases, which replaced certain musical cues (such as a track by The Damned) for rights reasons and abbreviated others.

Buy the steelbook Blu-ray and there’s one final bonus: a 20-page “replica notebook”. A fantastic package.

Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman

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