Starring the cast/crew of Return of the Living Dead
Directed by Bill Philputt
Distributed by Michael Perez Entertainment
It happens often. You finish watching a ‘making-of’ documentary on a DVD and you find yourself wishing it had been about three times longer. There’s nothing more frustrating than buying a disc for a touted retrospective documentary only to find it clock in under twenty minutes. Feels like a waste, especially when they went through all the trouble of finding so many participants for what equates sometimes to a glorified sound bite.
More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead feels like it was culled directly from those frustrations. A 119 minute retrospective on Dan O’Bannon’s revered punk zombie masterpiece that provides fans with everything they could ever want to know and then some. No stone goes unturned in showing how this project came to fruition, how it originally started as something quite different (dig up a copy of John Russo’s original novel, and not the novelization he later wrote as a companion to the film) and why shooting it was a hellish experience for much of the cast/crew.
Any good retrospective knows the way to a fan’s heart is to get as many people involved as humanly possible. As such, virtually everyone from the film’s cast is featured: Clu Gulager, Don Calfa, James Karen, all surviving punks (the late Mark Venturini is given his own little remembrance piece) and a wealth of crew members. Everyone is wonderfully candid: from conflicts between Gulager and Karen, shoddy FX work that didn’t make the cut, tension between O’Bannon and producer Tom Fox and, of course, the controversy around Linnea Quigley’s immortal cemetery strip dance.
Some of this information may be redundant for those who’ve consumed the special features on both Return of the Living Dead DVDs as well as in Plexus Publishing’s excellent “The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead” book. But this documentary piece wouldn’t be as comprehensive without it, so you can hardly fault the filmmakers for covering ROTLD from start to finish. Besides, this one delivers on the minutia in the form of some truly great anecdotes from the participants; content that would’ve been stricken from a brisk featurette, but really helps this piece stand out. That they took the time to sit down and chat with the casting director (who tells some really great stories) is a testament to how deep this goes.
More Brains! doesn’t end when the documentary does, however. This set includes a wealth of extra features which enliven the experience. My favorite bonus features are the retrospectives on parts II and III. Running thirty minutes and twenty minutes, respectively, these are done in the same style as the main feature, with some of the film’s participants reminiscing on what it was like to make these sequels. Both subjects are covered with the same frankness as More Brains! meaning that there’s lots of theorizing as to why Return of the Living Dead part II simply did not work (though I loved it as a kid, I’m less inclined to agree now) and why part 3 was such a departure for the series. Interestingly, there was more of a push to connect these films than I’d initially suspected as all the participants from the first were invited back to the sequel, and a few were even asked to do Return of the Living Dead 3.
Beyond that there’s a solid interview with Dan O’Bannon (apparently, the last interview he gave before he passed away), a live performance of “Tonight” by Stacey Q, a nice collection of deleted scenes, ROTLD in 3 minutes and, a look at the filming locations today. I LOVE stuff like this, so this was an extra special treat to see.
More Brains! is a must have for any fan of ROTLD. It’s funny, informative and a perfect companion piece to the best zombie film of the 1980s. The DVD comes loaded with delightful supplementary features that compliment the feature nicely. Why not board your windows, load your luger, crank the incinerator and settle in for this near-perfect retrospective on the living dead?
4 out of 5
4 out of 5