When a bumbling pair of employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to re-animate as they go on a rampage seeking their favorite food, brains.
Ladies and Gentleman, it is my pleasure to introduce to you, not only one of the greatest Horror comedies, but also one of the best Zombie films of the Horror genre.
This is one of those rare films that successfully combines humour with gore, long before “Shaun Of The Dead” came along this was the film named by many as the greatest Horror comedy ever made. People today don’t seem to realise it but this film revitalised a genre that was overwhelmed with bad films, the 80′s were a golden era but there where MANY films who burnt out the ‘teenagers in trouble’ plot.
The teenage characters in this film are not your typical bunch. We’re given a bunch of misfits, more like a gang really, who dismiss the stereotypical characters we see even to this day and give us great individual personalities. It was truly a film that was way ahead of it’s time. Dan O’Bannon did a fantastic job writing and directing this film, he got a great cast and crew, the camaraderie between them all certainly reflects on film.
“The Return Of The Living Dead” not only gave us one of the best soundtracks for a film, but also gave us one of the most iconic zombie characters, Tarman. Allan Trautman gave us one amazing character and also one of the most realistic looking, the make up and costume are absolutely amazing and despite watching it many numerous times it still impresses me to this day.
It’s also the film the film that launched launched Linnea Quigley’s career and in-to the hearts of Horror fans world-wide, to this day you still hear her used as one of the greatest Scream Queens and who can blame them with her strip tease dance that nearly exploded the heads of teenagers everywhere. I can’t forget to talk about the effects, they haven’t aged at all and even shame some modern Horror films.
The film is a cult classic, classic being the main word and it deserves it’s status. If you haven’t seen this then shame on you! But you can rid that shame by making sure this is the next film you watch.
Miscellaneous facts about the film:
Tobe Hooper was originally slated to direct and it was supposed to be filmed in 3-D.
The eye-test poster seen in Burt’s office after hearing the first re-animated cadaver actually reads “Burt is a slave driver and a cheap son of a bitch who’s going bald too haha” if you put the letters together
Director Dan O’Bannon was originally supposed to play Frank and he wrote the part with himself in mind, but when James Karen came in to read for another part, O’Bannon was simply blown away and hired him on the spot.
The executive producers attempted to contact George A. Romero several times in order to offer him the choice of producing the movie, but he never answered.
John A. Russo wrote a script called “The Return of the Living Dead” at the same time that George A. Romero was doing Dawn of the Dead. An independent producer, Tom Fox, bought Russo’s script. He set up production and gave the script to Dan O’Bannon. O’Bannon refused to direct it as it was written. He felt that it was too much of a serious attempt at making a sequel to Night of the Living Dead, and did not want to “…intrude so directly on Romero’s turf.” It was re-written with more humor.
Some of the zombie extras were paid more to eat real calf brains in the film. Dan O’Bannon didn’t want the actors to do anything he wasn’t willing to do and ate some raw calf brains first in front of them.
The cemetery is called “Resurrection Cemetery”.
After the “rabid weasels” are brought into the Resurrection Funeral Home and the tarp is removed, what is actually in the bags are those motorized toy monkeys that have the cymbals. The cymbals were removed for obvious reasons.
In the early 1990s, a longer work print version of the film surfaced that ran 24-minutes longer that the released version.
The film’s German title is “Verdammt, die Zombies kommen”, which is roughly “Damnit, the Zombies Are Coming” and the Danish title is “Ligene er ligeglade” which is roughly “The Dead Don’t Care” – playing up the comical aspect of the film.
A Producer visited the set during the strip scene featuring Linnea Quigley (Trash) and were shocked that her shaved-bare pubis was visible. They insisted that it be covered. They had already shot the dance on top of the crypt, so those scenes are uncovered. For the remaining portions of her pre-zombie scenes, she can be seen angling her hips away from the camera or standing behind a gravestone or wearing a loose vest-like cover. In later scenes, she wore a crotch-covering, flesh-colored cast prosthetic.
On the back of Freddy’s jacket, in the theatrical version, the words “Fuck You” are displayed. After realizing that the shot could not be used in case it was ever shown on TV, a second jacket was made that says “Television Version” and can be seen in the TV version of the movie.
When Frank and Freddy are carrying the “rabid weasels” into the Resurrection Funeral Home (before Burt removes the tarp), Clinton Hartley, brother of assistant art director Clayton Hartley and future brother-in-law of actress Beverly Randolph, is actually under the tarp lying on the stretcher to give credibility to the weight of the body parts.
Richard P. Rubinstein of Laurel Entertainment didn’t want people to think this film was part of George A. Romero’s “Living Dead” series. He even got an injunction to stop them from using “Living Dead” in the title. But the MPAA arbitrators ruled in favor of the movie’s producers.
The character Ernie (Don Calfa) is thought to be a Nazi due to him sharing his name with Ernst Kaltenbrunner. There are also character details that provide an indication of his past: Ernie listens to the German Afrika Corps march song “Panzer rollen in Afrika vor” on his Walkman while he embalms bodies, carries a German Walther P38, has a picture of Eva Braun in his morgue, refers to the rainstorm coming down like “Ein Betrunken Soldat” (which means “A Drunk Soldier” in German), really knows his way around a crematorium, and seems surprised and ashamed when he learns that the dead can feel pain. Dan O’Bannon, in the DVD commentary, mentions that Ernie was intended to be an escaped Nazi in hiding.
In an unprecedented move, a fan of the film started an internet campaign to get the movie released on DVD. Going beyond simple fan petitions, Michael Allred created a web page consolidating every bit of news relating to the film, and contacted many of the film’s principals including the writer and director Dan O’Bannon. He went on to put O’Bannon in touch with MGM (the studio that owned the film) and work began on getting the film released on DVD. O’Bannon and others who worked on the film credited Allred and his campaign for getting the movie released on DVD.
The glass breaking on top of the chemical drum during the “melting tarman” scene at the beginning of the credits wasn’t planned at all. It just happened to shatter due to the heat of the effects at the perfect time.
On the DVD commentary, Dan O’Bannon claims he was surprised at how many women were in the initial audiences and said if he’d known he’d have such a large female following he would have shown Freddy (Thom Mathews) naked as well.
The lead pipe that Clu Gulager uses in the movie is actually made of rubber. He initially used a real pipe but the crew snuck it away from him and replaced it with a rubber one as Dan O’Bannon was worried about Clu’s frequent angry and sometimes violent outbursts.
Allan Trautman said in a DVD commentary that one of the main ingredients for the ‘tar’ of his costume was Methocel. Methocel is a thickening agent used in milkshakes and also one of the main ingredients for The Blob.
Linnea Quigley’s character was originally going to be called ‘Legs,’ but was later changed to ‘Trash.’
The Simpsons creator Matt Groening came up with the tagline “They’re Hungry and They’re not Vegetarians” which appears in some trailers. Another tagline he came up with, “First they want to meet you, then they want to eat you”, was rejected by the studio.
In the office of Uneeda Medical Supply there is a topless photo of Miss America Vanessa Williams on the wall.
William Stout was the production designer and had a cameo as a homeless man sitting on a sidewalk as the group of punk teens walks by. One actor improvised tossing him a dime as he walked past.
Unlike most movies that feature the undead, The word “Zombie” is actually said in this movie by Thom Mathews’ character Freddie during his discussion with Frank in the office about how the movie Night of the Living Dead couldn’t have possibly been based on a true case since it depicted, “Zombies taking over the world”.
The gravestone to the left of the large one upon which Trash first performs her striptease has the name ‘Archibald Leach’ on it. This is the real name of the actor better known as Cary Grant.
The part of Burt was originally offered to Leslie Nielsen who wanted too much money. Then offered to Robert Webber who hated the script. Then they tried Scott Brady who was too sick and actually died a year later. They finally went with Clu Gulager right before the first day of filming.
The late Vincent Schiavelli was almost considered for the part of Ernie.
Jewel Shepard was originally offered the role of Trash, but turned it down because she was fed up with always being cast in roles that required nudity.
Thom Mathews got his ear pierced for his role as Freddy.
‘Miguel A Nunez Jr.’ was homeless when he was cast in this movie.
Linnea Quigley originally danced to the song “Nasty Girl” by Vanity during the filming of her famous cemetery striptease. “Nasty Girl” was later replaced by the song “Tonight We’ll Make Love Until We Die” by Stacey Swain.
Jewel Shepard had tremendous difficulty with her “Go choke a chicken” line because she didn’t know what the phrase meant. As a direct result of this, forty-five takes were done before Shepard finally said the line right.
Shot in six weeks.
Brian Peck did the voice of the female half corpse on the set during the shooting of the scenes with the half corpse.
Cinematographer Jules Brenner used a Spanish name on the call sheets because he did the movie as a non-union job.
The trocar used in the embalming scene that introduces Ernie was real.
Some of you may know me from my site 'Raz's Midnight Macabre' or from my past work on 'Horrormovies.ca'. It was 'SomeWhatNerdy' that gave me my first break in writing for another site other than my own and it's a site you'll hopefully never see me leave! I have an obsession with all things Horror and it's an honour to share my passion with you all. If you like what I do here then please visit my site - http://razsmidnightmacabre.blogspot.com/ and if you like what you see then please sign up and share :)