Peter’s Retro Reviews: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

October 22, 2013

ROTLD Movie Posterby Peter Nielsen

First Paramedic: 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?

First paramedic: 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?

Second paramedic: Well, let’s not jump to conclusions.

Freddy:  Are you saying we’re DEAD?

Second paramedic:  No conclusions!

First paramedic: Obviously I didn’t mean you were really dead. Dead people don’t move around and talk.”

Game over, man. Ga... Oh, wait! Wrong movie!

Game over, man. Ga… Oh, wait! Wrong movie!

Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to the fourth week of “horrorific” fun and games here on the Forgotten Flix site. I hope you’ve all been having a great time so far and that you’re ready for more? It’s not quite Halloween yet and we still have plenty left in store for you, so please… Come in, have a seat and let me present my movie-pick of the week for all you crazy folks out there! Or in here for that matter…

As I told you last week, we’re going to Louisville, Kentucky this time, so here we are! They have a pretty creepy cemetery here, but we’re not going there quite yet. If you look over there to your left instead, you’ll see the Uneeda Medical Supply Warehouse and that’s where this story begins!

It’s Freddy’s first day at work and his foreman, Frank, is showing him around the place. It’s kind of macabre with all the skeletons, cut-in-half animals and let’s not forget the human cadaver in the freezer-room. Freddy thinks all this is a bit creepy, but then Frank asks him if he want to hear something REALLY creepy. He starts telling Freddy the “true” story behind George A. Romero’s movie Night of the Living Dead and how it really happened and that the army has kept it a secret all this time. Freddy, of course, doesn’t believe him until Frank shows him the drums, containing bodies, hidden in the basement. Apparently they were wrongly delivered (no shit) to this place and has been stored here ever since and for some reason, no-one has seen fit to call and tell the army about this.

Freddy's friends

Freddy’s friends

Freddy is played by Thom Mathews (Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, Bloodmatch) and Frank by James Karen, who has close to 200 credits to his name, including for instance Capricorn One and Poltergeist. These two are the reason that things unfolds as they do in this movie, because they accidentally release a gas (Trioxin) that has been trapped inside the drums all this time. Not knowing what to do about this, they decide to call their boss, Burt, to tell him what’s happened. He’s played by Clu Gulager (The Hidden, A Force of One, The Killers) and he’s none too happy about the situation either.

Meanwhile, Freddy’s girlfriend, Tina, and his friends are waiting outside for him to get off work. They arrived earlier and have been spending time at the neighboring cemetery. This bunch is your classic 80’s “gang” where you wonder how and why some of them are even friends at all. There are all sorts, from the punk with the safety pins and leather jacket to the more “regular dressed” ones. And just listen to their names… Suicide, Trash, Scuz, Spider and Tina, Casey and Chuck! I mean, you can’t help but like this gaggle of misfits.



Most of the actors and actresses portraying these friends have, with a couple of exceptions, mostly done smaller parts throughout their careers. Some, like Beverly Randolph who plays Tina, only have 5 roles on her résumé and 3 of those were un-credited. Others, like Mark Venturini, who plays Suicide, didn’t even get the chance to have much of a career. He passed away from leukemia in 1996 at the young age of 35.

The actor who plays Chuck is John Philbin and has done quite a bit of acting, but I mostly remember him as Turtle in the surfer-flick North Shore.

And then we have the lovely Ms. Linnea Quigley… One of the most prolific scream queens of the 80’s and she doesn’t really need an introduction, does she? Savage Streets, Sorority Babes in the Slime-Ball Bowl-O-Rama and Night of the Demons are just a handful of the movies she’s starred in. In The Return of the Living Dead she plays the red-haired punk-girl Trash, who in a very memorable scene dances naked on top of a large grave-stone.

Our two bumbling friends, Frank and Freddy, aren’t doing too well because of the gas they were exposed to earlier. As it turns out… they’re actually dying. The gas has been seeping up from the basement through the ventilation ducts causing several of the medical supplies to come alive and Burt decide to dispose of those in the nearby mortuary. His old friend Ernie, played by Don Calfa (Foul Play, Weekend at Bernie’s) is working late and together they cremate the remains in the place’s furnace. The rising ash mix with the poisonous gas already released outside, and since it has also started to rain it seeps into the ground in the cemetery with devastating results. It resurrects the dead and zombie-mayhem ensues!

The Return of the Living Dead is a classic 80’s zombie-comedy with lots of gore and was actually the one that introduced the notion that zombies had a craving for human brains rather than human flesh. Oh, and by the way? They talk in this one too. It’s also known for a good contemporary soundtrack with music by, for instance, The Damned, The Cramps and the great Roky Erickson.

Batter up!

Batter up!

The characters in The Return of the Living Dead are great and play very well of off each other. I especially like Frank and Freddy who have some hilarious moments in the first half of the movie. Another iconic character is the “Tarman” zombie, who is the first one to be resurrected. He comes from one of the stored away drums and is hungry for some live braaaaiiiins… He’s played by Allan Trautman who also reprised the role in the sequel. And now I’m going to make a weird connection! Do you remember the family TV-series Dinosaurs? You know the one where the baby dinosaur hits the dad with a frying-pan whilst yelling: “Not the Mama”? Well, Mr. Trautman played the Mama, Fran Sinclair! The character was voiced by a woman named Jessica Walter, though. Just thought I’d mention it, since I loved that show.

The Return of the Living Dead was directed by Dan O’Bannon who is primarily a writer. He’s only directed 3 movies to date, but has written screenplays for a lot more, such as Dead & Buried, Alien, Screamers and Lifeforce to name just a few. He did a great job with this one though and managed to get a good balance between the gore and comedy, and if you haven’t seen this one yet… You really should! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! I wasn’t! And I’ve seen it several times!

So, my friends! Next week we’ll be celebrating Halloween in a little place called Pitchford Cove. Sounds cozy, doesn’t it? I do hope you’ll join me there ‘cause I have a great movie lined up for you.

Until next time…

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