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"The Return of the Living Dead" is a visionary combination of horror and humour and punk sensibility that has truly stood the test of time, continuing to attract new fans. Great actors and characters and superb visual and makeup designs combine to make it a fun viewing experience. Cast and crew, quite a few of them, in fact, sit down to talk about the making of the film, and they clearly delight in describing what it was like to make this thing. Their accounts indicate that it wasn't always the most pleasant shoot in the world - such as having to do scenes in the graveyard in the rain - but they still recall lots of good memories of working on a classic and beloved genre piece. As any good documentary on a movie should do, the documentary covers several basic topics: genesis of the production (how it originally was conceived as a sequel to George A. Romero's zombie series), the hiring of key personnel, the casting, the effects work, the behind the scenes stories, and the aftermath. Lots of interesting information is shared, such as the fact that co-star Miguel Nunez had been living in a homeless shelter before being cast in the film, or that it was co-star James Karens' idea for his character to have a somewhat dignified departure from the story, or that Don Calfa's role was named after a notorious Nazi individual, or that one of the paramedic performers decided that, since there were guys in the movie named Burt and Ernie, that the paramedics ought to be named Tom and Jerry. Interviewees include many main cast members - Clu Gulager, Karen, Calfa, Thom Mathews, Nunez, Brian Peck (who's also our narrator for this fascinating material), John Philbin, Linnea Quigley, Beverly Randolph, Jewel Shepard, and Allan Trautman. Crew members seen include production designer William Stout, co-producer Graham Henderson, casting director Stanzi Stokes, and makeup effects artists Tony Gardner (just 21 years old at the time), Kenny Myers, and William Munns. (It's told that Munns' only real triumph during the shoot was the designing of Tarman, and that his work was dissatisfying enough to lead to his firing, which he actually found to be something of a relief.) What is an absolute joy is seeing vintage "making of" footage, and to hear some of those behind the scenes details. Some amazing artwork is done for this documentary, incredibly well integrated with the live action footage and serving as excellent scene transition. The people talking often display a disarming sense of humour, which really amps up the entertainment value of "More Brains"; there are some quite funny moments, particularly from Nunez. (This also extends into the end credits, which run alongside some outtakes.) And the selection of artists for the soundtrack understandably gets a mention. (It would have been nice, though, to hear some sort of anecdote regarding the memorable Trioxin Theme.) Even music star Stacey Q is interviewed, and that's a delight to see. There are also heartfelt tributes to director Dan O'Bannon, who sadly left us all in 2009, and Mark Venturini who predeceased him at a way too young age. The working relationships with O'Bannon are somewhat glossed over, but you do get the sense that he could indeed be difficult to work with. In the end, his passing is still deeply felt, especially in terms of the fun genre films that he'd helped to create. Overall this is highly essential viewing if you're a fan of the film, and it serves as a perfect companion piece. 10 out of 10.
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