THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985) FIVE TOP HATS
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.
THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 2 (1988) TWO TOP HATS
“Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Be Dead” is that tag line. Whatever. You know, I remember being super excited to go see this in the theater when it came out – and I did – and I was completely disappointed. I was so disappointed that I haven’t ever looked at it again, but I did the other day and, honestly, it was worse than I remembered. The feelings I recalled after seeing that as a teenager were “What?? They used the exact same characters?? These characters said the exact same lines?? What are these special effects?? What’s with this doctor character?? This is terrible. What is this awful fucking music? This is bullshit.” So I pooped on that and never gave it much more of a thought until I saw it for free the other day and thought – why not – I can add it to the page here, you know, for posterity. Well, strike two on part 2.
This time around, the movie begins with your typical, weed smoking army guy driving a truck through the rain and hits a bump and barrels filled with bodies riddled with Trioxin pop off and roll down into a nearby ravine. Some upper officer is called in and he says something like “I can’t believe this is happening again” and they reclaim most of the barrels except for one which washed downstream and ends up in some drainage spillway. Introduce three douche-bag kids who like to play in the local, extremely rundown mortuary and then introduce Ed and Joey – two inept grave-robbers played by James Karen and Thom Matthews respectively as the exact same characters they did in the first film, even using some of the same lines. Both of these guys look like they hate what they’re doing for a living and basically just do a lot of screaming and moaning. Soon enough the three stupid kids are down in that spillway, find the barrel, open it up and poof the Trioxin is released and the dead are coming back to life, again. And Ed and Joey breathe it all in and now they’re dead but alive, again.
The rest of this isn’t very good (to me) as they scream and moan and scream and moan and yell and a southern-black-woman-severed-head makes its rounds spouting comic relief and it really didn’t seem like anyone involved gave a shit about this sequel. SIGH. Eventually five or six of them (including some sort of Soupy Sales “doctor”) make it out of the housing development and into the town which has been evacuated by the army Shortly, the Dead arrive and they lure them out to the electricity transformer “farm” by throwing brains at them from the back of a van. There’s all sorts of unexciting events that happen before they finally get the power turned on and the zombos are fried until they explode and yes – there’s a zombie Michael Jackson doing some breakdancing as he is zapped to smithereens. I think that’s about all I have in me for this one because I sure didn’t like it but I did give it a “2” because I still think it’s better than the sequels to come which just get worse.
THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 (1993) THREE TOP HATS
I guess if you’ve come this far, you probably got started on the other page where I was talking about the nineties so let’s just get this out of the way:
That’s our two leads in this, Melinda Clark as Julie and J. Trevor Edmond as Curt who want nothing more than to get out of this two bit town and head to Seattle to be a drummer in a Grunge band and I have that exact same coat hanging in my closet. I also had a stringy version of that hairdo and, at one point long ago, only dated redheads. But that’s not what I liked about this – I think what I liked is that when this first came around and I sat down to watch it one night, I was probably – um – well – pretty altered when I saw it and I thought it was pretty stupid because, once again this had nothing to do with the one-of-my-favorite-movies-ever-first-one so poo on that and let’s hit the bar BUT here we are today and I gave it a second chance and it’s really not that bad. It’s very gory, whatsherface goes naked pretty often, there’s Ministry posters on whatshisface’s wall, the actual “conversion” scene where she becomes what you see in that movie poster up there was kind of cringe worthy, for some reason I really liked it when she came out of the room all “spiked up” and I liked it when Ursa the Kryptonian, sorry, Sarah Douglas was blowing the Riverman to pieces with that shotgun.
Another thing I liked about this is that, unlike “2” – the people involved with this seem to have tried to make a good movie, especially when it came to the bloodwork and special effects. That guy there is this version’s “Tarman” and you can see that they made an attempt at a memorable monster, unlike what they dead here, just look how fake that is (pity, pity):
Anyway, the story here goes like this: Julie and Curt are in love and Curt’s dad is a Colonel in the army who are doing experiments with the old Trioxin gas to reanimate dead bodies and use newfangled weapons to turn around and de-animate them. One night they sneak into the base and watch one of these experiments because they are so (ahem) “mental” and Julie’s just so (cough) “warped” and they witness the reanimation of a dead dude, how it goes wrong and they head out. Suckily, the next day the dad has been reassigned to – what – OKLAHOMA CITY! – but that just won’t do for Curt so they steal off on his motorcycle and while she’s fondling his junk, they wreck and she’s thrown onto a telephone pole and dispatched to the great beyond. But – psych! – not really! He somehow sneaks back into the base with her corpse and uses the Trioxin to bring her back to life – YAY!!
But – as we know, the dead need to eat to make the pain go away, or, in this case, being in pain makes the hunger go away so she starts biting herself and doing other things to cause injury as they try and figure out what to do next. Of course, they run afoul of a gang of video game playing, fedora wearing, sweater vested vatos at a local Quickie Mart and she ends up biting one of them so now these guys are chasing after them as well as the inept U.S. Army. Down to the sewers they go, aided by a hobo who calls himself Riverman who says things like “I may eat rats but I’m not ONE OF THEM!!’ and they hole up in his, well, “hole” where Julie then sticks nails through her fingers and metal springs through her lips and other, um, tender body parts and she ends looking like the girl in the poster up there.
Of course they are eventually captured and all of the zombiefied dead are caged up so Curt goes to say one last goodbye and can’t bare to see her like this so he frees her and all of the others and we end the movie with a giant storm of The Living Dead killing and eating everyone on the base. Well – the actual end is when they jointly step into the crematorium to burn themselves to death – awwwwwwwwww kids in love! So, yeah, this wasn’t all that bad but I KNOW the next one is a piece of shit, but I’ll do what I must and check it out soon.
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (4) NECROPOLIS (2005) ONE TOP HAT
In my quest to complete the entire Return of the Living Dead movies, I came face to face with an Evil Serpent coiled up in the weeds, hissing at me: this movie. How do I put this? Hmmm…. Hmmmmm….. this movie is a real piece of shit. All the way around. I have to admit that I knew that going in to doing this collection but I had hoped that maybe this was better than I remembered (whiskey). The answer to that is “NO” and “I AM AN IDIOT“. This movie is terrible. I hated the whole production and just about every aspect of it except for this person:
That person’s name is Aimee-Lynn Chadwick and I kind of feel bad for her that she had to start her career in this turd but I guess you have to do what you have to do. It boggles my mind that this movie was so awful – I mean who thought they were making a good movie here? This is pitiful and the acting stinks and the story sucks and the whole idea is just stupid. It also blows my mind that Peter Coyote is in this – he must have been really hard up for some bucks.
Here’s the thing: Coyote is some industrialist who goes to Chernobyl to get the last five tubs of Trioxin left in the world. Why? To make those thing there. Super Zombie Warriors and such. YAWN. Another thing of disinterest: his nephew runs around with a bunch of kids who love to jump dirt-bikes over ramps and call each other names and other such bullshit. They also have access to guns and one of them gets hurt and they – for real – break into the facility where the Super Zombie Warriors are and run into stuff like this:
Just like in the first one, someone releases the Trioxin in the air and everyone turns into the undead and our teenage heroes shoot weapons like they’ve been trained by the military and then the army comes in to save the day and Coyote steals off with the barrels of Trioxin setting up a sequel that I actually haven’t sen yet. Boooooooooo on this bullshit and never again.
Just when you thought it couldn’t ever get any worse for the series that started off with one of my favorite movies ever, here comes the poor, sad, terrible, mother fucker that is this horrible, horrible movie. I thought 4 was terrible and it had to get better because we all learn from our mistakes, right? Well, please take my word for it that this is a real piece of shit and this merits nothing and you will never benefit from seeing this, ever. In fact, I totally hated this bastard. 100% suck. Everything sucked here. The “direction”, the “acting”, the “plot”, the voice-over (why ???), the actors, the colors, the zombies, the costumes, the sets, the hairdos, the idea behind this, those two dudes pretending to be Russians, the “rave”, the DJ, the fucking stupid lab guy and his pet rat “Mr. Stinky”, the pitiful “screaming”, the music, the stoners, the writers, the dialogue, the attempt to be funny, the ambient sound, the props, the make-up, and poor, young Aimee-Lynn Chadwick gets reduced to this:
grrrr, grrrr, grrrr, grrr, grrr, grrr
I hate this thing so much I don’t really even want to get into it. Blah, blah, blah Peter Coyote has the last of the Trioxin barrels. Blah, blah, blah no wait there’s a couple hidden in his house. Blah, blah, blah his nephew who was in 4 and has no clue about anything from the previous movie like it never happened finds them. Blah, blah, blah he and his chemistry buddies make the Trioxin juice into a drug and everyone gets high. Blah, blah, blah they turn into zomibies. Blah, blah, blah they all get blown up by the army. This thing totally sucked it.
So, like this pitiful rendering of the original Tarman, I am putting this franchise out to pasture. I really hope that someone eventually makes a good sequel, or, at least something better that the first film deserves.bottom of whatever device you use to see this stuff. To you, Return of the Living Dead 4 & 5, I say: adios mother fuckers.