Review Date: January 22, 2001
Released by: Video Collection International (VCI)
Release date: 1/16/2001
Region 2, PAL
Full Frame 1.33:1
With the rights to the three Return of the Living Dead films spread across various studios, fans have been dreaming about seeing them on DVD for way too long. In mid-1999 it seemed things were starting to look a bit better for DVD fans when the original Return of the Living Dead had been announced for Region 2, PAL DVD release. Ultimately the release was delayed until January 2001. When the new release date finally came around the company that was releasing the DVD - Video Collection International - informed dealers that it was actually Return of the Living Dead 3 that they were releasing. Ooops! While Part 3 is a great movie, many were looked forward to getting the original on DVD. The good news is that the original will still be coming to Region 2, PAL DVD from a company called Tartan. It's currently scheduled for a March, 2001 release.
This particular review is for the Video Collection International Region 2, PAL DVD of Return of the Living Dead 3 (if you're unsure of the PAL/NTSC video standards, see the PAL/NTSC explained article for more information). The movie has been presented UNCUT form on this DVD, which is certainly a nice treat for fans. I've read numerous complaints from people claiming that it isn't actually UNCUT. From what I've seen, I'd have to say those people are wrong. This DVD is UNCUT. I even went as far to compare it to the UNRATED US laserdisc, and as far as I can tell they're identical.
Colonel Reynolds (Kent McCord) is head of the continued research on the chemical Trioxin, which is capable of re-animating the dead. The military hopes to use the living dead as soldiers during wars. Then, when the war is over, they'll simply pack up the living dead in sealed containers and store them away until next time. When Curt (J. Trevor Edmond), Reynolds' son, overhears his father discussing a "big test" that's taking place that night, he and his girlfriend Julie (Mindy Clarke) plan to sneak in and view it first hand. Curt steal his father's security keycard, picks up Julie and together they sneak into the research facility. They witness a successful test - a corpse is re-animated with Trioxin, then shot with some sort of capsule to paralyze it. Curt and Julie are heard by one of the guards, leaving them no choice but to flee before they are discovered. Shortly after they leave the experiment quickly goes awry. The paralysis didn't hold, the corpse rises and begins killing the researchers. After two men are killed, the corpse is again paralyzed and, this time, strapped down.
With the test a failure, Colonel Reynolds is being relocated to Oklahoma City to begin work on a new project. After years of moving around, Curt becomes furious after hearing they'll be moving once again. They've only been in this last area for six months, and he's finally found some friends, including a girlfriend that he truly loves. Curt tells his father he won't be going, then rides away on his motorcycle with Julie. As they're riding Julie starts fooling around with Curt, causing him to swerve off the road to avoid an 18-wheeler. Julie is throw from the bike and flies straight into a telephone pole, breaking her neck. Curt isn't about to give up his one true love, so he takes Julie's body and sneaks it into his father's research facility. He gives Julie a dose of Trioxin gases to bring her back to life.
Julie comes back to life, changed forever. Her hands are numb and she finds herself with an incredible hunger. A guard soon discovers the two and they barely manage to escape from the facility. They stop at a store to get some food for Julie, where they bump into a gang of Latino thugs. The gang robs the store, shoots the owner and flees. Before the entire gang makes it out the door, Julie bites one of them on the arm, tearing off a big chunk of flesh which she proceeds to eat. She's finally found something to satisfy her hunger - human flesh. Curt and Julie end up in the city sewers, trying to escape the police, a group of military soldiers (led by Curt's father), and the Latino gang that's after them seeking revenge. They meet up with a homeless man named Riverman (Basil Wallace) who takes them into his home in the sewers to hide. Julie has found that the only way to control her hunger is to inflict pain upon herself. After piercing her entire body with bits of metal and glass, she finds the pain no longer helps - she must eat human flesh. The Latino gang shows up just in time to satisfy Julie's hunger. But for how long? As Julie's hunger once again begins to grow, and as her brain starts to die, how long before she sees Curt as a meal? Will true love win or has Curt made a horrible mistake in bringing Julie back to life?
I enjoyed all of the Return of the Living Dead movies - including Part II, which many people hate. There's a lot of bad things about Part II, but I found it to be funny and it has a lot of nostalgic value to me. Anyway, that's a discussion for another review. Return of the Living Dead 3 is certainly superior to Part II, and only slightly less enjoyable than the original. It's a much more serious movie than the first two, but you'll still find minor doses of humor spread throughout. There's tons of gore, especially in this UNCUT version, which is definitely the version to see. Most of the gore is terrific - cool looking zombies, lots of blood, a pierced up chick, etc. - but there are a few effects that look ridiculously fake. One is when Julie is supposed to be stabbing herself with some sort of pin - it's easy to see that it's a retractable pin, used to give the illusion it's going in and out of her flesh. Another is when a cop is being stabbed by a zombie - the cop being stabbed is obviously a dummy. There's a few more but I'll let you find them on your own. Don't get me wrong either - the majority of the effects look great, it's just that a few fake looking effects sometimes dampen the mood. In fact, much of the gore/effects in the movie are disturbing to me, mainly because I've always been a bit grossed out by any sort of body piercings. Hey, what can I say? I'm an old fashioned 24 year old.
A love story involving body piercings, the living dead and tons of gore? Oh yeah, this is definitely one to watch with your significant other! Actually, my wife started watching it with me and if it weren't for the fact that she was dead tired, I think she might have even watched the entire movie with me. For a zombie movie I found the story to be a nice chance of pace from the standard 'zombies running around eating brains' plot. Sure, ROTLD3 has lots of zombies running around eating brains, but you have this love story aspect that brings a bit of originality to it. Curt brings his love back to life, only to discover she's slowly becoming a brain eating machine like all the other living dead, and now he must suffer the gruesome consequences of choosing eternal love.
Mindy Clarke is perfect as Julie, the tormented zombie who must struggle with her feelings towards Curt and her evergrowing hunger for human flesh. Her character can be beautiful, sexy, dangerous and hideous all at the same time. You can't help but to pity her as she struggles between good and evil - after all, she didn't ask to be brought back to life. Seeing her fully pierced for the first time is quite an impressive site - both visually and in terms of its shock value. It's certainly a testament to director Brian Yuzna visual style. Acting performances from the rest of the cast were decent, though I have to admit I didn't really like J. Trevor Edmond as Curt. He's just a bit too dry and I found his performance to be unconvincing.
A great horror flick here; one that I think most horror fans will enjoy. Some may be upset by the fact that it doesn't have armies of zombies running around like the first two movies, but instead concentrates on these two lovers and their struggles as one of them becomes more and more like the "living dead", or by the fact that it's less of a comedy, and more of a serious horror movie then the first two. Don't let that turn you off - this is one of the few sequels that can actually stand on its own ground, one that isn't just a rehash of the original. It has a good story, lots of gore, a few scares and some good acting. What more can a horror fan ask for?
Return of the Living Dead 3 is presented in a full frame 1.33:1 transfer. I believe this movie was a direct-to-video release that was shot full frame. I may be wrong, but there's no noticeable panning so it's difficult to tell one way or the other. The transfer rates as acceptable, though it definitely could have been better. Many of the darker scenes have light grain that is visible. MPEG artifacts presently in many scenes - they're most noticeable on solid colors in the background. Print blemishes are minimal; some occasion dirt appears but that's about it. Image is soft overall and definitely would have benefited from some restoration and enhancement. Colors are a mixed bag - in most scenes they appear fairly solid and nicely saturated, but there are several scenes where they're faded and oversaturated.
Often times I break up PAL DVD reviews into two sections - TV Playback and Monitor Playback. But on this particular review, as far as I could tell, both appeared identical - having the same problems. Generally MPEG artifacting is heavier on the TV, due to the PAL/NTSC conversion, but on this one both monitor and TV had the same amount of MPEG artifacts appear.
I also own the NTSC laserdisc of Return of the Living Dead 3, released by Trimark back in 1994. The transfers on the DVD and laserdisc are nearly identical, which isn't saying all that much for a DVD released in 2001 - 7 years after the laserdisc. The only differences I could see were that the laserdisc had no artifacts, some video noise (white specks), slightly faded colors, and the image was a bit brighter than the DVD.
I'd rate the NTSC laserdisc a C, whereas I'm rating this PAL, Region 2 DVD a C+. Both have acceptable transfers, but the fact is, if VCI spent some time restoring the image and enhancing it a bit, it could have been a lot better. Lets hope Trimark releases a domestic DVD that does this classic horror movie a bit more justice.
The sound is in presented in stereo. Channel separation is actually pretty good for a stereo track. Dialogue is audible and there's no distortion on the track.
The only supplement included is a theatrical trailer for the movie.
Great horror movie - one that every horror fan needs to see. In terms of A/V quality, this DVD is certainly acceptable, but it's not much of an improvement over the 1994 NTSC laserdisc. The only extra is a theatrical trailer. Trimark owns the rights to Return of the Living Dead 3; they really need to release a domestic DVD with remastered video and maybe even a few extras beyond a trailer.
I encourage everyone to email Trimark and let them know we want this on domestic DVD with remastered video! In the meantime, if you have the NTSC laserdisc already, you shouldn't bother with this DVD. For everyone else, if you have PAL playback ability this DVD is definitely acceptable until Trimark puts out something better, plus it's fairly inexpensive from places like Black Star.
Movie - B+
Image Quality - C+
Sound - B+
Supplements - C
- Running time - 1 hour 33 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops