Review Date: August 24, 2001
Released by: Trimark
Release date: 8/28/2001
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
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 PAL DVD 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 was eventually released on Region 0, PAL DVD from a company called Tartan.
This particular review is for the long awaited US release of Return of the Living Dead 3. Many of you have already read our review for the Return of the Living Dead 3 Region 2 PAL DVD know that the video quality wasn't so great. Does this US DVD from Trimark finally do the film justice? Looking at the specs it's off to a good start - director Brian Yuzna commentary, a separate commentary track with star Mindy Clarke and visual effects supervisor Tom Rainone, and an anamorphic widescreen presentation. However, those nice features aside, even before opening this DVD it has a huge mark against it - the big "Rated R" label on the back. What oh what was Trimark thinking? They've released Return of the Living Dead 3 UNRATED on both VHS and laserdisc in the past. Why is it when they finally get around to do a special edition they release it with the Rated R theatrical cut? ARGH! More thoughts on this later. For now lets focus on the good stuff...
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 an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. At least I'm pretty sure it's 1.85:1 (thanks for giving no indication on the DVD or the announcement as to what the ratio is, Trimark). In comparison with the past full frame VHS, laserdisc, and PAL DVD releases, it's clear that the image on this Region 1 DVD is matted, thus preserving the original theatrical presentation. While this DVD clearly contains a sharper image than past releases, I'm a bit surprised to find that many of the grainy scenes that were present on the Region 2 PAL DVD remain. Colors are solid and nicely saturated overall, and flesh tones appear accurate. Blemishes are minimal, with only the occasional speck of dirt appearing. Overall a good transfer, but I'd like to see some of that grain cleaned up.
The sound is in Dolby Stereo. Nothing special here, imaging between the right and left channels are decent enough for a stereo track, but nothing that'll blow you away. No distortion or back noises are evident, and dialogue was clear.
First up is a commentary track with director Brian Yuzna. Overall the commentary track leans towards the dry and dull side. It's certainly a track that fans won't be listening to more than once. It starts off interesting enough as Brian discusses the differences between Romero's Night of the Living Dead and O'Bannon's original Return of the Living Dead, and how he incorporated elements of both into Part III. He then goes on to discuss the various cast and crew members, shooting locations, and even points out the scenes that contain numerous cuts (indicating to the listener that Yuzna is quite aware that he's aware he's recording a commentary for the R rated version - YUCK!), and various other bits. In fairness, I almost always prefer tracks that have more than one person. Solo tracks almost always end up being dry and dull. This track is fairly informative overall, but towards the second half of the movie Yuzna starts to run out of steam, at which point there are numerous gaps of silence.
A second commentary with star Mindy Clarke and visual effects supervisor Tom Rainone is also included on the DVD. Because this track has two people, I found it to be more enjoyable and easier to follow. Tom either discusses effects or hits on Mindy. Mindy clearly isn't aware of the technical aspects, but still manages to keep up a good conversation discussing her role, the other actors, and conversing with Tom on the special effects. There is some repeat information they discuss that Brian also discusses, but it's minor and that's expected to some extent. Fortunately, Tom does become a bit upset when he discovers that he's watching the R rated cut, and suggests that viewers protest and demand the unrated cut be released as well (good idea). Surely his most famous quote in this regard is this: "I sincerely pray the unrated edition is coming out." Me and you both, Tom.
The worse part of both commentary tracks is to hear both Brian and Tom saying things like, "Oh, there's a scene here that was cut out by the MPAA, but it's in the unrated cut" ... or something to that extent.
Return of the Living Dead 3 is a great sequel that manages to stand on its own. Sadly, Trimark really dropped the ball with this DVD release and decided to release the R rated cut. As a big fan of the film, I find this extremely upsetting. What the hell were they thinking? "Yeah, lets go through the effort to create a nice special edition for the film, and then release the R rated cut that's missing a good amount of gore. That'll please horror fans for sure!" And in case you're wondering, there are several gore shots missing. I'd love to hit this review with a low grade somewhere, but the movie is still enjoyable with the cuts. However, the unrated is clearly more enjoyable, so I'm bumping the movie grade for this R rated cut down to a B-, whereas the unrated has a B+.
Director Brian Yuzna points to various scenes during his commentary and states "here's another scene that had to be cut by the MPAA.". Even though he doesn't specifically state so during the commentary, it's clear that he prefers the unrated version. No filmmaker wants to cut or edit scenes because of the MPAA. Why would Trimark do this?
Shame on you, Trimark, for releasing an R rated cut of a movie that you've previously released unrated. This DVD does boast a good image and two good commentary tracks, but you've given horror fans a difficult choice by releasing a special edition of the R rated cut. At a price of $20, most horror fans will probably opt to buy the DVD. I strongly suggest fans email Trimark and tell them how dissatisfied we are with this R rated DVD! Totally unacceptable. Yet another DVD release that forces me to keep my laserdisc edition as well. For anyone with Region 2 PAL playback ability, consider getting the FULLY UNCUT R2 PAL DVD of Return of the Living Dead 3 as well, because this Trimark DVD should be purchased only as a companion to the uncut version on VHS, laserdisc, or Region 2 PAL DVD. In closing, here are just a few examples of what's missing:
|CUT SCENE||CUT SCENE||CUT SCENE|
Movie - B-
Image Quality - B
Sound - B+
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 37 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops
- Audio Commentary with Director Brian Yuzna
- Audio Commentary with Star Mindy Clarke and Visual Effects Supervisor Tom Rainone
- Trailers to Return of the Living Dead 3, Progeny, Dentist, Dentist 2, Faust