Return of the Living Dead, The: Collector’s Edition (DVD)

The Return of the Living Dead: The Collector's Edition (click for larger image)Starring Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph, Linnea Quigley, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Brian Peck

Directed by Dan O’Bannon

Distributed by MGM and Fox Home Entertainment

Please allow me to be perfectly honest — when I first heard about this DVD my initial reaction was, “So what?” Like many of you, I assumed this would be yet another pointless double dipping. Instead what we got from MGM and Fox is probably one of the absolute best DVD’s of the year.

Is it even worth it for me to give a brief synopsis of the story here as per usual? I think not. If you’re a horror fan and have never seen nor heard of the Eighties Dan O’Bannon classic The Return of the Living Dead then what the fuck are you doing here? You don’t need to read reviews. Get to your local Best Buy, stat!

The Return of the Living Dead: The Collector's Edition (click for larger image)Now let’s talk about this massive (and I mean massive) DVD. Holy shit! This is only a single disc?! Are you kidding me?

Things kick off with a twenty minute cast and crew retrospective called The Return of the Living Dead — The Dead Have Risen. You see now this is what I am talking about. This is no five minute semi-insightful jaunt. This is an in-depth look at the movie, both past and present, through the eyes and from the mouths of those who were there. Part of what made ROTLD so good was its quirky sense of humor. Apparently the cast has held on to that magic because even after all this time there are some genuine laughs to be had. Really good stuff.

Next up we get a truly unexpected gem. A near twenty-five minute long featurette entitled The Decade of Darkness which focuses on the plentiful horrors of the Eighties (Reaganomics, Stiff Stuff, and Flock of Seagulls not included). Simply put, this kicks a copious amount of ass. Though not as bountiful a haul as Rudy Scalese’s Going to Pieces (review here) or even the seldom seen Dave Parker and Mike Mendez documentary classic, Masters of Horror (no relation to the Showtime series of the same name), Decade of Darkness takes a look at such horror classics as The Howling, Child’s Play, The Fog, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Motel Hell, The Brood, and of course The Return of the Living Dead with appearances made by Bill Moseley, Elvira, Tom Holland, John Landis, Joe Dante, and more. This came completely out of left field and hits one hell of a horror loving home run.

The Return of the Living Dead: The Collector's Edition (click for larger image)*grabs junk and spits*

From here we get a near fifteen minute look at the what went into bringing the zombies to life in a featurette known as Designing the Dead. Finally we get to hear from Director Dan O’Bannon. Up until this point he was suspiciously missing from the feastivities. There’s a lot of ground covered here. This is not just a make-up how to. Instead what we get is a look at the genesis of this project which was originally conceived from a script by (God help us) John “I fucked up Night of the Living Dead by splicing in nonsensical scenes featuring a buck toothed bald headed reverend who delivers painfully scripted dialogue which I wrote as a means to try and cash-in on some of the money I lost due to copyright issues” Russo. Thankfully O’Bannon put the kibosh on Russo’s ideas early on and decided to make his own film instead. Russo has since tried to sequelize Night on his own with the abysmally funny Children of the Living Dead. Let me just stop here before I go off on a tangent.

Ahem …

The Return of the Living Dead: The Collector's Edition (click for larger image)As if that all that wasn’t enough, this package showcases not just one, but two commentary tracks. The first featuring production designer, William Stout and director O’Bannon is engaging enough but the second one that has Stout, along with stars Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph, and Tarman himself, Allan Trautman is where it’s at. We’re talking side splittingly funny stuff here, people. You will almost feel as if these cats were right there with you while watching.

Last but not least there’s even an option to turn on Zombie subtitles. Ever wonder what the dead have been groaning about? Read it for yourself here. True, this feature is on the nonsensical side of the fence as it doesn’t add a damned thing to the package, but it’s still kind of funny to see “ARRGGHHHHHH, MOOOAAANNNNN” written out in decaying green font across the bottom of your TV screens.

In short, double dip away. Jump into the “I can’t believe I’m gonna buy this flick on DVD for a second time” pool with reckless abandon. You’ll be glad you did. Back in 1985 when the dead began to rise, punk icons 45 Grave announced that it was Party-time. Even so many years later with this release — it still is.

Oh, and don’t forget to dig on the nifty glow-in-the-dark cover!

Special Features

  • Audio commentary with director Dan O’Bannon and production designer William Stout
  • Audio commentary with production designer William Stout Stout, and stars Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph, and Allan Trautman
  • The Return of the Living Dead: The Dead Have Risen featurette
  • The Decade of Darkness featurette
  • Designing the Dead featurette
  • Zombie subtitles
  • Trailers
  • Film:

    5 out of 5

    Special Features:

    5 out of 5

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    Steve Barton

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