• More Brains! A Return To The Living Dead



    Released by: Michael Perez Entertainment

    Released on: October 18, 2011

    Year: 2011

    Director: Bill Philputt

    Cast: Brian Peck

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    The Movie:


    When the amazing documentary film on the Nightmare On Elm Street series, Never Sleep Again, was released fans soon learned that it was an exceptional look at the making of an iconic horror series and it stood to reason that those who enjoyed it hoped that the team behind it would take another stab and cover another series. A few years later and the associate producer (Bill Philputt, who directs this time around) and writer (Christian Sellers) of that first documentary have gone back to the horror movie well, this time to cover the story behind Return Of The Living Dead.


    But is there really enough to the story behind this movie to fill over two hours of screen time? Hasn’t this been covered in MGM’s special edition release thoroughly enough? You’d think so, but once you start watching this disc you’ll realize that this is, as the packaging states, ‘the definitive Return Of The Living Dead documentary.’ Philputt and company have rounded up pretty much everyone they could for this retrospective look back at the film, so here we’re treated to surprisingly blunt and candid interviews with cast members like the mighty Clu Gulager, Don Kalfa, Brian Peck (who also serves as narrator), Miguel Nunez, Jewel Shepard, Linnea Quigley, Beverly Randolph, James Karen, Thom Matthews, Allan ‘Tarman’ Trautman and John Philbin but also with producers, effects technicians, assistant editors, casting directors, production designer (and legendary comic book artist) William Stout, and John Russo and a few others. Pretty much everyone who is still alive (meaning that director Dan O’Bannon, actor Mark Venturini and producer Tom Fox aren’t interviewed, obviously) shows up here at one point and seemingly everyone has an anecdote to share.


    The documentary does a great job of setting up how the movie came to be by beginning with a look at John Russo’s attempts to bring a sequel to Night Of The Living Dead to fruition before moving along and covering what happened with the script, some revisions that took place, how they found a producer, and how Dan O’Bannon came on board to write and then, after Tobe Hooper left the project, direct the film. All involved have got a pretty obvious respect for the late O’Bannon though some have kinder words than others when discussing his directorial style. What’s made very clear, however, is that this film was successful primarily because he had a vision for it and he worked everyone very hard to ensure that the movie stayed true to that vision.


    We also learn about the various relationships and friendships that developed during the making of the movie, with James Karen and Thom Matthews obviously becoming fast friends and Jewel Shepard, who is still beautiful, more or less alienating herself from the rest of the cast with some odd behavior (she does go on record here stating in no uncertain terms that she didn’t ‘fuck’ O’Bannon, who discovered her while visiting a strip club she was performing at, in order to get her role).


    The film’s effects work are also covered in a lot of detail and the movie dishes some dirt as to who did what and why a certain party was removed from the film during production. We learn how the Tarman suit was made, how the half corpse was brought to life and about how prosthetics were used for Quigley’s character not just to cover up her fun bits during the cemetery scene but also for her resurrection in zombie form. If the documentary has one weak spot it’s that it doesn’t go into very much detail in regards to the soundtrack. Outside of mentioning that The Damned and The Cramps are used in it, there’s not too much here – though Stacey Q. does pop up and sing a little bit of her famous number, ‘Tonight (We’ll Make Love Till We Die,’ which was more or less immortalized when it was used as the background music for Linnea’s strip scene.


    Thorough, engaging and well shot to make use of some great, colorful and wholly appropriate backgrounds, More Brains! is a great look back at a film that has gone on to be pretty much universally recognized as one of the greatest horror comedies of all time and is a very worthy addition to the collection of anyone interested in such things.


    Video/Audio/Extras:


    More Brains! looks just fine in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Aside from some minor compression artifacts that likely stem from cramming so much content onto the disc, the image is clean, colorful and free of debris or any noticeable dirt. Some of the archival clips are a bit worse for wear but you can’t fault the transfer or the documentary for that and overall the image is solid.


    Audio chores are handled well by an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track with optional English subtitles. This is pretty much an entirely dialogue-centric production as its comprised primarily of interviews but it sounds good, you’ll have no trouble understanding anyone and the levels are balanced as they should be.


    Extras are surprisingly plentiful, starting with a thirty minute making of featurette that covers Return Of The Living Dead Part 2 and another twenty minute making of featurette that covers Return Of The Living Dead Part 3. Both feature some interviews with the cast members and filmmakers, though Ken Wierderhorn is nowhere to be found. The generally consensus is that the second film was too concerned with effects and comedy to work as a horror movie while the third film was an interesting departure from the first two movies and a fairly successful one in its own right. If they don’t go into as much detail as the feature does for the first film, they’re both enjoyable and interesting and manage to shed some light on both sequels, making them a very welcome addition to the disc. Not surprisingly, there’s no coverage of any of the sequels that followed, probably because they more or completely less suck ass.


    Dan O'Bannon's Final Interview is also included here, a half hour segment in which the director discusses his work on this film and a few other projects he was involved with during his time in the industry. There’s also an interesting Filming Locations Featurette that spends ten minutes exploring the locations used in the movie, a handful of deleted scenes running just under fifteen minutes, a music video from Stacey Q Live! for the song Tonight (from the infamous graveyard dance scene) and an amusing bit called Return Of The Living Dead In 3 Minutes which is a quick cut montage of sound bites from the cast members that put together the plot of the film in a quick three minute rundown – it’s more fun than it probably sounds. Trailers for the feature and for the Never Sleep Again documentary, menus and chapter stops round out the extras.


    The Final Word:


    You don’t have to be a Return Of The Living Dead fanatic to appreciate this well put together and surprisingly entertaining documentary, though it probably helps. There’s enough here that anyone who just wants to know how movies get made and who enjoys some good behind the scenes stories from the trenches will appreciate the picture, which really stands as the definitive look at the making of the cult classic.