I actually wrote this post a couple of years ago but no one ever read it. I eventually turned it into a PAGE HERE with the entire franchise on it and some people checked that out but, for Halloween, I wanted to put this out here again to finish of the Living Dead series I have been talking about the last three weeks. This really is one of my favorite movies of all time and I hope I did it justice. This is an OLD post so it’s going to read a little different than my newer stuff so – I hope you enjoy!
Last week I jokingly lied about a movie that my old friend and I went to see a dozen times in the movie theater because it was so bad-ass and balls-out funny and it was an instant classic. Later on down the page I admitted that I was just kidding and the movie was mediocre, at best, but good fun. This movie here is normally referenced as ROTLD (omitting the “the”) when written about, so let me just say that ROTLD is one of my fucking favorite movies and when it came out my friend and I went to see it dozens of times in the theater because it was so bad-ass, balls-out hilarious, the special effects were like nothing we had ever seen and it was just the most kick ass movie ever. Not only did we memorize every line from ROTLD, I also bought the soundtrack on tape (yes – audio tape) and played it so much I wore it off the spools. Later on in life I did the same thing with that VHS up in my closet full of memories, got busy working for a living and finally got to check it out again (not the video tape) for the big holiday theme. I was not disappointed for a single second, loved almost every single line and situation, loved what the characters do and how the actors act and the special effects and, shit, everything about it all over again. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Bravo and standing ovation ROTLD – you still rock it the most.
I guess I have been staying away from writing anything about this because I don’t want to do this any injustice so I have struggled and struggled with how I would go about it. Should I start with the story? The way I remember it, we had Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead and then nothing but Italian ripoffs for years and years on VHS and HBO until this graced the screens in ’85. The story is this: Uncle Frank (an amazing James Karen) has gotten his nephew (a hilarious and great Thom Matthews) a job at the local Medical Supply store owned by Burt ( a pre-Feast wicked-ass-awesome Clu Galager). Burt leaves for the weekend advising Freddy (Matthews) to “not name it after me!! YUCK YUCK SLAP SLAP SLAP!” so Frank and he go around the warehouse looking at half-dogs and a human cadaver. Sitting in an office populated with an eye chart that reads “B U R T I S A S L A V E D R I V E R A N D S O N O F A B I T C H…”, Freddy asks Frank what the weirdest thing he has ever seen here could be. Turns out that the movie Night of the Living Dead was actually based on real events – the army was trying to make some sort of (here I have always failed to fully understand the dialogue) “spray on marijuana” or “something to spray on marijuana” that made recently deceased corpses flop around like fish out of water – this chemical was called Trioxin. So the army snapped up all of those corpses, stuck them in barrels and, “in a typical Army fuck-up”, dropped the canisters off at our medical supply store. Men being men, they go check them out, Freddy asks if the barrels will leak, Frank proudly announces that they are “made by the US Army Core of Engineers”, slaps the side and it opens up – releasing the Trioxin out into the world that will be the catalyst for my enjoyment for almost thirty years.
Or should I go into the music? After they unleash the Trioxin, they both collapse, coughing their shit up, and we get a montage of the gas filtering through the warehouse, into the atmosphere and into the cadaver-fridge (who, yessir, starts flopping around) to the beat of a wonderful instrumental that’s basically been
stuck ingrained in my head forever (“The Trioxin Theme” by Francis Haines). After that bad-ass-ness, we get introduced to the rest of the cast and, as we roll along, get one of the best (IMO) soundtracks in modern times. I guarantee that if you’ve seen this, you vividly remember those shots of Linnea Quigley dancing (as bare as they come) on that grave, to the tune of “Tonight (We’ll Make Love Until We Die)” by SSQ. How about “Surfin’ Dead” by The Cramps? Or “Love Under Will”
by The Jet Black Berries? You know it. Don’t try to avoid it. Or even the incidental music… the music they play when they are running from the graveyard to the supply store… from the store to the funeral home… from the cemetery back to the supply store. A little Handel at the Army base maybe? (I could be wrong on that one – but you’ve heard it).
Or should I spend my time on the characters? There’s bad-ass Burt, sacrificial and cluelessly awesome Frank, I-am-dumb-but-I-must-EAT-YOUR-BRAINS!!! Freddy, his “Oh Fart!!” girlfriend Tina (Beverly Randolph), there’s “I like sex and death”, go-naked Trash (Quigley) and my personal favorite of the bunch Miguel Nunez as Spider. I would never want to leave out the “This isn’t a costume, this is a way of life!!” Suicide, yellow mohawked Scuz, slutty but great Casey and the nerdy, pot smoking, sex crazed Chuck. Of course we can’t forget Don Calfa as the mortician Ernie and surely we couldn’t think to omit Tarman (in the photo above) and the Half Lady who is kind of depicted in the poster two images up. I loved them all – the way they talked, the way they yelled, the way they interacted with each other, the way they got eaten, the way they delivered their lines – all of it – good, good stuff.
Or should I talk about the dialogue? Almost every single line in here is quotable one way or another. I was going to put a bunch of quotes on here lifted from IMDB but there’s quite a bit out there so I’ll just throw in a couple of good ones:
Paramedic #1: You have no pulse, your blood pressure’s zero-over-zero, you have no pupillary response, no reflexes and your temperature is 70 degrees.
Freddy: Well, what does that mean?
Paramedic #1: Well, it’s a puzzle because, technically, you’re not alive. Except you’re conscious, so we don’t know what it means.
Freddy: Are you saying we’re dead?
Paramedic #2: Well, let’s not jump to conclusions.
Freddy: Are you saying we’re dead?
Paramedic #2: No conclusions.
Paramedic #1: Obviously I didn’t mean you were really dead. Dead people don’t move around and talk
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: You can hear me?
1/2 Woman Corpse: Yes.
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: Why do you eat people?
1/2 Woman Corpse: Not people. Brains.
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: Brains only?
1/2 Woman Corpse: Yes.
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: Why?
1/2 Woman Corpse: The PAIN!
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: What about the pain?
1/2 Woman Corpse: The pain of being DEAD!
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: [laughing in surprise to his friends] It hurts… to be dead?
1/2 Woman Corpse: I can feel myself rotting.
Ernie Kaltenbrunner: Eating brains… How does that make you feel?
1/2 Woman Corpse: It makes the pain go away!
Freddy: [to Tina] It was wrong of you to lock me up. I had to hurt myself to get out. And I know you’re in here, because I can smell your brains.
Well – there we go. I hope I gave this the justice it deserves. This is definitely one of my favorite movies ever. I decided to make this a “page” because, eventually, I think I’ll try and get through all of the unnecessary (and shitty) sequels. That should be it for ROTLD for now. I hope you enjoyed! I would love any comments or thoughts.