The Return of the Living Dead
1985 Directed and Written by Dan O'Bannon
This is one of so-called zombie movies.
In 1985, when The Return of the Living Dead was released, I totally look down on the Japanese title Battalion the distributor’s publicity men named and catchwords with full of lies, so I failed to buy a copy of its sound track record that sold abundantly. That was the gravest blunder of my life.
The next year I visited to my parents' home in Ibaraki and went to a movie theater with younger brother Tsutomu to watch the double feature of The Return of the Living Dead and Commando. I did not expect at all but this was a great combination!
I think a double feature that is equal to this might be the combination of Platoon and The Little Shop of Horrors I watched by myself in a movie theater in Akeno, Ibaraki.
Well, my personal recollections are enough now.
The late Dan O'Bannon, the director and screenwriter of the film, was a very talented person, and was known for the screenplays such as Alien, Blue Thunder, Lifeforce and Total Recall.
Likewise, The Return of the Living Dead is a masterpiece with a simple but effectively twisted plot.
First, the opening description, which says, "The events portrayed in this film are all true. The names are real names of real people and real organizations," is cool. If you take it seriously and can't laugh, it would be wiser not to watch it.
July 3, 1984, in Kentucky, U.S.A. The story starts in a warehouse owned by the company dealing with the specimen for medicine, etc. Middle-aged Frank is teaching newly hired young Freddie how to stuff skeleton samples in boxes.
Freddie asks, "What's the weirdest thing you ever saw in here?" And Frank tells him a tidbit.
"Did you see that movie Night of the Living Dead? That was based on a true case. "Back in 1969, in Pittsburgh at the VA hospital, the chemical called 245 Trioxin, which the chemical company was trying to develop for the army, leaked down into the morgue, and it made all the dead bodies jump around as though they were alive. They told the guy who made the movie that, if he told the true story, they'd just sue his ass off. So he changed all the facts around.
However, the army's transportation department got the orders crossed and "they shipped those bodies here," said Frank.
Frank shows Freddie the barrels containing the Trioxin-infected bodies in the warehouse basement.
When Frank slapped the barrel, the inner gas leaks and the two faint. The gas is escaping into the vents of the warehouse, eventually getting into the cadaver freezer. The two awaken and go upstairs back, where the anatomy animals and the cadaver begin to move. The two get into a panic. They call the company's owner Burt to come, and the three devise a plan to settle the situation.
Based on the depiction of the zombies in The Night of the Living Dead, Burt impales a cadaver's head with a pick axe, but it doesn't stop moving at all. Even when they cut it off scatteringly, each piece continues moving.
Bert decides to bring it to the mortuary next door, run by his old friend Ernie. They have it cremated and the furnace destroys the zombie into ashes, so everything seems solved.
However, the smoke that rises from the furnace is released into the thunderclouds, causing it to rain heavily. In the near cemetery, Freddy's fellow gang, who were going on a spree, are attacked by the countless dead who revived from the graves.
The situation gets more and more confusing...
As indicated in the opening words, this movie was made in hommage to George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. However, this one is thoroughly filled with black humor and comicality compared with Romero's serious Living Dead trilogy.
It is one of my most favourite scenes that Frank, who was exposed the gas and realized himself became a living dead, kisses his wedding ring and brings himself in the furnace to cremate.
Such text-only scene description may give some miserable and sad impression (that's true, though), but the humorous excellent piece of music "Burn The Flames" is played in background of the scene, which don't allow viewers to weep. It rather seems that laughing and seeing off mean to bless him.
If I become a zombie carelessly, I would like to kill myself just like Frank. Smile and bless me then.
The Return of the Living Dead has also been broadcasted repeatedly in Japan. The Japanese dubbed version is not bad. The voice actors fitted into the role splendidly. Unlike Highlander etc., as it probably has adequate length, there are no omissions that break the content (though cruel scenes like impaling a crown-of-the-head is cut down actually, it doesn't affect the content), and they have aired it to the closing credits.
It was regrettable that the laser disc of the movie went out of press long ago, and its DVD hasn't been released as of July, 2001.
I strongly hope the DVD will be available.
Notes: Now the DVD is available.
To the page of The Return of the Living Dead (Japan version) in Amazon.co.jp