More Brains!

A Return To The Living Dead

 

More Brains! : A Return To The Living Dead

Written by Gary Smart & Christian Sellers

Produced by Thommy Hutson

Directed by Bill Philputt

2011

 

Featuring:

Brian Peck

Beverly Randolph

Thom Mathews

Linnea Quigley

John Philbin

Jewel Shepard

Clu Gulager

James Karen

Don Calfa

 

Production:

Theatrical: Hutson Ranch Media

Video: MPE (Michael Perez Entertainment)

 

Video:

Resolution: 480i

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Format: NTSC

Disc Size: Dual Layer

Runtime: 119 minutes

Chapters: 12

Region: All

 

Audio:

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo

 

Subtitles: English SDH (Feature & Extras)

 

Extras:

• They Won't Stay Dead: A Look At Return of the Living Dead Part II (29:40)

• Love Beyond the Grave: A Look At Return of the Living Dead 3 (20:50)

• A Conversation with Dan O'Bannon: The Final Interview 2001 (28:25)

• 14 Deleted Scenes

• Stacey Q Live! "Tonight" Music Video (3:30)

• Resurrected Settings: The Filming Locations Today (10:00)

• Return of the Living Dead in 3 Minutes (honest)

• Documentary Trailer

• Elm Street Legacy: Teaser

 

Presentation:

Clamshell DVD case with slipcover: DVD x1

Release Date: October 18, 2011



The Documentary: 8

You really don’t know how long it’s been until you see how much people have aged since.  Here we have a well-researched, entertaining documentary about more than you could possibly want to know about the “other” sequel to George A. Romero’s groundbreaking “Night of the Living Dead.”  That movie came out in 1968. A decade later Romero’s first sequel “Dawn of the Dead” hit theaters in 1978.  Writer/Director Dan O’Bannon’s independent unofficial semi-sanctioned sequel “Return of the Living Dead” appeared in 1985.  That was 25 years ago+.  The documentary interviews were shot since O’Bannon died in 2009.


            
   

 

Excepting O’Bannon most of those involved are still with us and were available for this remembrance - which is a pretty nutty idea when you think of it, seeing how Return of the Living Dead is not what you could call a “classic” by any stretch, despite its native lovability and cult following. That said, I found it to be a real kick in the pants, not least the idea, then revolutionary, that zombies could think, even if only a rudimentary kind of groupthink.  Evidently, there are those walking among us who think of this movie in terms far more respectful, or at least more admiring.


               

 

Return of the Living Dead hits all the nails: it’s funny, horrific, satirical, smart, sexy and thrilling.  The title of the documentary - “More Brains!” is savagely clever, being not only the watchword of the zombies, but a witty idea for a sequel title.  The documentary, while not exactly brainless, is not going to “make you think” any more than the movie did.  No, I take that back.  “More Brains!” is a behind the scenes look from a vantage point that few people - even those in the business - ever get to make.


               

 

There’s a kind of naïveté that was rampant during the shooting, which is a little surprising considering how seriously most people took themselves back then.  Or maybe it was the other way around.  What I mean is that people with not all that much experience speak of their efforts at that time as if they had 20 years of experience at Lucasfilm behind them.  It’s kind of pathetic in a small way that we humans have such high opinions of ourselves with so little to prove it.


               

 

Return of the Living Dead may not have opened big doors for the cast and filmmakers, but all of them remember their participation vividly.  O’Bannon directed only two films, this one and “Shatterbrain” - ever hear of it?  O’Bannon’s gift was writing.  He had already written Dark Star and Alien, and would go on to write Lifeforce, the screenplay for Total Recall and the forgettable Blue Thunder.  Clu Gulager, whose trademark Jimmy Stewart drawl was already well known, was nearly fifty when he made Return of the Living Dead, and had most of his work as a contract player behind him.


               

 

James Karen and Don Calfa are perhaps the most recognizable faces in the cast – Karen from TV commercials and shows, to feature films, to Broadway; bug-eyed Calfa is best remembered for his appearances in Beverly Hills 90210, Chopper Chicks in Zombietown and Foul Play.  Both Karen and Calfa did well by their appearances in Return of the Living Dead, especially Calfa, who has a kind of Comic-Con feeling about the movie. The younger semi-prominent cast members, Thom Mathews and Beverly Randolph, weren’t able or interested in converting their appearances into career openers, though Mathews has had steady work since.  Linnea Quigley, who does the famous strip scene in ROTLD, has since made a career out of B and C horror films.


               

 

Image: 5~8/7

More Brains! is comprised of extensive interviews, largely shot in the same set and lighting conditions, in bold colors and pretty good, though not exemplary resolution; footage from the feature film, which is better than passable; archival stills and footage from all sorts of sources, and  an abundance of comic frame art that seems almost out place by virtue of how crisp those images are. Transfer issues are minimal to non-existent.


               

 

Audio & Music: 7/5

Here we have another movie whose presentation in 5.1 makes little if any sense.  Obviously, More Brains! wasn’t filmed with surround sound in mind and one can hardly imagine what could be gained by its inclusion.  Happily, the original 2.0 is an option.  We are not surprised to find that nothing is gained in 5.1, yet little is lost since not much is redirected to those restive channels.  Dialogue is always clear and properly presented.  Background music is overly used and becomes annoying after a very little while.


               

 

Extras: 8

If you thought that the documentary includes more than you could possibly want to know about the making of Return of the Living Dead, you’d be surprised by how much more there us to say about it that would have made such a film unwieldy but is right at home on DVD.  It’s the perfect excuse for the medium.  My one note of disappointment – make that a chord – is that the Deleted Scenes – all 14 of them, ranging in length from less a minute to just under three, are presented without a Play All.  Boggles the mind – which tells you something about what results from a diet of brains!


               

 

The good news, however, is pretty good.  And when it isn’t all that good (meaning interesting), the news is as least entertainingly silly and mercifully brief, as in the case of “Resurrected Settings: The Filming Locations Today” (not really) and “Return of the Living Dead in 3 Minutes” – the latter bested in every way by the theatrical trailer, happily included.

 

The two extended pieces: mini-docs (roughly 20 and 30 minutes respectively) about the two Return of the Living Dead sequels made by the original producers, are done in much the same style despite how different in tone the sequels are as compared to the 1985 film.

 

Recommendation: 8

The DVD cover says “The Definitive Return of the Living Dead Documentary.  Yes, indeedy.  No question.


               

 

 

Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

October 20, 2011



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