Anybody who's been around KR for a while, knows that I'm a sucker for Documentaries. So when Butch passed along the definitive Return of the Living Dead documentary to review, let's just say Brain Chomper was immediately hungry for More Brains!!!! That said, this DVD didn't last long on my shelf. Within in a couple days, I had watched it front to back. So for those of you who have been strapped to a toilet in a dark basement for the past 30 years, 'Return of the Living Dead' is Dan O'Bannon's 1985 punk rock/zombie "sequel" to 'Night of the Living Dead.' Opening with two dumb ass employees at a medical warehouse who accidentally release a gas into the air that re-animates the dead, the film follows a group of punk rock teens and their struggle to escape these monsters who want one thing and one thing only...brains! Reinventing the idea of the zombie as one that moves fast and can actually think and speak, along with memorable special effects shots and iconic zombie characters, the film not only resonated with audiences to achieve cult 80's classic status, but it also turned the genre on it's head. It proved a zombie movie could be scary and funny at the same time and of course, going forward...all zombies wanted brains.
'More Brains: A Return of the Living Dead' is the documentary that gives all the juicy details behind the making of this 80's staple and it's simply awesome. Narrated by Brian Peck who played "Scuz," the film begins with 'Return's' inception and copyright drama between John Russo and George Romero after 'Night of the Living Dead.' It goes on to explain how all producers, writers and production designers were brought on board that eventually culminated with the surprise directorial debut of Dan O'Bannon. Giving the fans what they desire most, the film then goes through the casting of every actor and quickly you realize that anybody who was still alive for the documentary shoot, was brought back for interviews. Even the paramedics showed up! Sadly, the only ones missing in the film are writer/director (Dan O'Bannon), Producer (Tom Fox) and the character of "Suicide" (Mark Venturini); who had all passed away before filming. Having all the cast and crew members present, you really get the dirt on who hated filming, who had sex with who and the truth behind O'Bannon's power struggles with Clu Gulager and Tom Fox. For the die hard fan, all the technical aspects of film are explained in detail like Tony Gardner's creation of Tar Man and the Half Corpse down to Linnea Quigley's vagina cast in preparation for her nude grave stone dance. Quick paced, yet well put together, it's an incredibly fun and informative watch for anyone.
As for special features, don't be expecting a weekend's worth of material ala Lord of the Rings special Features, but 'More Brains!' does have some good stuff to feast on.
Fans will be delighted to find a couple short documentaries on the making of the two sequels. For this, they resurrected even more cast members and crew to interview. Like I said...everybody was involved in this. As for the format and content, it feels very much like the main feature all over again, just with different movies. But who doesn't want more dirt and technical stuff? Also included is Dan O'Bannon's final interview where he talks about the making of the film as well as a touching moment where he basically says his final words to his fans. Next up is a series of deleted scenes. This was probably the weakest part of the documentary in my opinion. I thought they were going to be deleted scenes from the original movie, instead, they were deleted scenes from the documentary. Each is kind of pointless because each one's only about 20 seconds long and without a "Play All" feature, it just kept going back to the menu screen every 20 seconds, which was pretty annoying. Definitely an oversight, but a small one in the grand scheme of things. The rest of the features are pretty ho-hum filler fodder for the disc like Stacey Q Live's music video for "Tonight" and a couple trailers..bla..bla..bla. One pretty neat thing and the final special feature I didn't cover is a very overweight Brian Peck (Scuz) and Beverly Randolph (Tina) walking through the old shooting locations to show them as they look today. Pretty neat to see the locations, but it's even more fun to watch a very flamboyant jokester like Brian Peck try to crack jokes with the overly straight laced Beverly Randolph who seemingly doesn't know how to laugh. Picture Howard Stern in 'Private Parts' after Robin gets fired and Howard tries to play off his new co-host. Yeah...it's that bad.
Overall, this is an awesome documentary for any fan of the film. It's insightful, has a decent amount of material and the packaging is pretty rock solid as well. A definite for your shelf.
(4/5 - B.C.)