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Default Return of the Living Dead, The (PAL)




Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: April 5, 2001
Released by: Tartan
Release date: 3/19/2001
MSRP: $21.58 (OOP)
Region 0, 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 has finally made it's way to a REGION FREE PAL DVD from a company called Tartan. Lets take a closer look at their DVD release.

The Story

inline Image Freddy (Thom Matthews) has just started a new job at the Uneeda Medical Supply company, conveniently located next to the local cemetery. Frank (James Karen), a fellow co-worker, is showing Freddy the ropes on his first night. When Burt (Clu Gulager), their boss, leaves for the night, Frank starts telling this whole story about the movie Night of the Living Dead and how it was based on a true case. He goes on to explain that the government threatened the filmmakers and that they were forced to change various bits of the story so it wouldn't match what REALLY happened - a chemical spill brought the dead back to the life, which the government soon covered up.

inline Image After telling the story, Frank tells Freddy there are a few of the canisters that hold the once re-animated bodies down in the basement. The government took all the bodies, stored them in canisters, and shipped them off to a supply company. The transportation department mixed up some paperwork somewhere and accidentally shipped a few of the canisters to the Uneeda Medical Supply company instead. They go down into the basement where the canisters are stored so Freddy can get a closeup look at the dead bodies. While they're down there, Frank decides to hit one of the canisters to prove how strong they are. The cannister doesn't resist the blow however, and it ends up cracking open, spewing out a burst of chemicals into the air.

inline Image The chemicals end up re-animating a human corpse, along with a "half dog" and some butterflies that were stored in the building. Frank and Freddy, quite humorously, try to deal with the situation. Eventually Burt comes in and thinks of the perfect way to get rid of the human zombie. They hack it up into several pieces and bring it to Ernie (Don Calfa), an embalmer who works in the morgue next door. The morgue next door that has a cremation furnace! Ernie eventually agrees to cremate the pieces. As the pieces are being burned, the smoke is being released pumped directly into the cemetery where several of Freddy's "punk" friends are partying, waiting for him to get out of work. The smoke re-animates the dead bodies that are buried in the cemetery, unleashing an army of brain hungry zombies that Freddy and his friends must escape.

inline Image Return of the Living Dead is one of the greatest zombie movie ever made. Not only does it have loads of great looking zombies in it, it's one of the few zombie movies, besides its sequel, that has a perfect blend of humor and horror. In a way it's a nice homage to Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead, but at the same time it pokes fun of zombie movies in general. One particular scene I enjoy is when Freddy, Frank, and Burt are trying to kill the first zombie. One of them comes up with the idea to destroy the brain, since that is how they do it in movies. Burt tries this, driving a pick into the zombies' head, only to find the zombie still thrashing about. Frank's response: "It worked in the movie!" Speaking of Frank, I have to say that I really enjoy James Karen's performance as Frank in Return of the Living Dead. He's wonderfully funny; I really enjoyed seeing both he and Thom Mathews (Freddy) return in the sequel. It's interesting because in the sequel their characters are different, yet they end up with the same fate (though it's a bit funnier in the sequel). Some will claim lack of originality there, but I loved it!

inline Image The effects, especially the zombies, are top notch; impressive for a low budget horror movie dating back to 1984. The zombies are a bit unique here too - they're extremely fast. Most zombie movies you're sitting there thinking why the people don't just run away, without tripping, from these snail-paced zombies. That's not the case in Return of the Living Dead, and it's a nice change for sure. The punk teenagers and their music work extremely well. You've got to love the character Trash (played by Linnea Quigley) - a punk teen who ends up taking off her clothes in the cemetery, is chased and attacked by zombies only to become one her self, all the while remaining nude!

If you haven't seen this, go out and rent this right now! While you're at it, rent Part 2 - a very underrated horror movie (hey, I had to sneak that in here somewhere).

Image Quality

inline Image Return of the Living Dead is presented in a full frame 1.33:1 transfer. Overall I would rate the transfer only slightly superior to what I'd expect from a VHS tape. The colors are dull and faded, the image is consistently soft and has spots where it gets too bright for a few seconds, and the image is too dark overall. Grain is pretty minimal, but a fair number of blemishes (mostly various scratches of sorts) are present. There's lots of room for improvement, but overall I'd rate it as satisfactory. I'm rating it at C.

Sound

Original mono track is included on the DVD. No real problems here. The track is distortion free and dialogue is clearly audible throughout.

Supplemental Material

inline Image The only supplement included is a theatrical trailer for the movie.

Final Thoughts

Great movie, poor DVD. It may be worth owning while waiting for an eventual R1 release.

Rating

Movie - A-
Image Quality - C
Sound - B
Supplements - C

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 1 hour 27 minutes
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • 13 Chapter Stops
  • English Mono

Supplements
  • Trailer

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