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The Return Of The Living Dead – Collector’s Edition (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Six years ago, Scream Factory delivered one of the most definitive Collector’s Editions they ever put out when they released the 2-Disc Blu-ray of The Return Of The Living Dead. Now, they are upgrading the only part that truly needs an update. Now they bring you the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray release of their previous Collector’s Edition with every single thing intact from the last one and a new 2022 4K scan of the original camera negative. This is a rare case when there are no complaints that there are no new extras. You’ll be able to pick this beauty up when it arrives on October 18th (delayed from the original October 11th date). Do yourself a solid and order a copy from the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review. Because, when it comes to The Return Of The Living Dead you’ll always have room for more brains…or…double, triple, quadruple dipping home video releases.

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Film

Originally published 6/16/2016.

At a medical supply warehouse in Louisville, Kentucky, a foreman named Frank tries to impress the company’s newest employee, Freddy, by showing him military drums that accidentally wound up in the basement of the building. The drum contains the remains of an army experiment gone wrong that inspired the film Night of the Living Dead. Frank accidentally unleashes the toxic gas inside the barrel, leaving any dead in its path to reanimate and prey upon the living, which includes Freddy’s friends who have shown up to see him after his first day of work and are hanging out at the cemetery across the street.

My uncle introduced me to a lot of horror films in my early days of lusting for blood soaked, nail biting cinema.  A lot of times they’d be in the form of a VHS tape he’d get me for my birthday.  One year, it was The Return Of The Living Dead.  And man, this was a crazy new experience.  I was on board from the moment this thing started.  Seeing this before I ever saw Dawn Of The Dead, I took it as a direct follow up to Night of the Living Dead.  Except, it had a group of kids I could more or less relate with and years enhancement in make up and gore effects.  The film really was, most importantly, its own beast.  As a zombie movie, I loved it and also as a horror-comedy I dug it because I hadn’t see much of what that angle of the genre had to offer beyond stuff like Abbott & Costello and Love at First Bite.

I wasn’t the only person struck by the film.  It really hit with a whole generation.  The film is credited with introducing the punk scene to horror and bringing it to a more mainstream level (kinda anti-punk, lol).  Instead of just your normal group of stereotypes and randoms making up the teens in a horror movie, this just focused on one subculture of youth.  All these kids really had a fun bit to them beyond just their sense of fashion and the music they listened to.  They all had attitude and a fantastic report with one another.  In that sense, it felt like maybe watching you and some of your buddies engage in a zombie apocalypse.

These zombies are probably the most influential in the pop nomenclature than many any ever.  Romero’s zombies are well known, but the attributes people know all come from this movie.  This is the movie that introduced them eating brains.  In addition, they also were the zombies that spoke “Braaaaains”.  Yes, you know that, I know that, ask any one random person to do a zombie impression and that’s what they’re going to give you 99% with their groan.  It doesn’t end there, either, this also is the first film to feature fast, running swarming zombies.  These undead brain-eaters book it when they see their prey.  My favorite though, and maybe on of my favorite jokes in movie history, is the whole “Send more cops” bit that plays in the film.

Iconography is all around in the film.  For one, the Tar Man zombie is one of the most known of all time.  But, the highlight, one in all of horror history, is Linnea Quigley as Trash.  Yes, her look and that red hair are bad ass…but its the dance scene we all remember.  Linnea had been in B-movies and horror prior, but this was her big break out.  She goes full frontal for a sexy ass dance on top of a tombstone in the cemetery.  Yes, I said its hot, if it wasn’t we wouldn’t be talking about it now.  She’s a cool character and has an incredibly memorable moment of erotica.  But, I need to give the girl credit for how crazy discomforting and tough her role must have been following that scene. She’s naked the rest of the way as a zombie, going through the rain, mud puddles, blooding eating sequences and more.  And the cool thing about Linnea…she did this film and said “What next?”  Forever she remains one of my favorite genre actors.

Dan O’Bannon came in and rescued this film from being an also ran.  This movie went into production knowing it would be competing with a highly anticipated George Romero zombie film (Day of the Dead).  O’Bannon saw this script and realized it was just trying to be a Romero film.  He knew this one needed to be its own thing, because you need to just let Romero do Romero.  He injected the wackiness, the humor and the punk angle to the script and it proved to be the right move.  Return of the Living dead outshined the third Romero entry and was for more successful both critically and financially.  It remains not only a staple in the horror genre, but a seminal piece of zombie cinema.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review from the standard Blu-ray, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail The Return of the Living Dead is resurrected on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a brand new 2022 4K scan of the original camera negative. And boy is it a beauty. It has a little darker look to it, but the improved saturation and contrast really helps the colors and crispness to pop. There’s much more detail imminent and the film looks better than it has ever looked. Odd to call a movie like this, intended to be gory, grimy and grungy looking “beautiful”, but here we are.

Depth: Depth of field is quite good here with great pushback and added scale to showcase how big the movie can be at times and house spacious some of the sets can go. Movements are smooth and filmic with no motion distortion issues.

Black Levels: Blacks are a bigger area of improvement with a little dimmer image and natural blacks. There’s more shading and even more texture, detail and patterns apparent in the darker corners of the frame. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite striking when they want to be. Much of the 80s’esque stuff here really pops well, like blue dyed hair or spray paint. It all has more saturation and better defined. The HDR helps out with that too, as well as adding some glow to fire, car lights, street lights and more. Linnea Quigley’s “Trash” is a full grown showcase of the color spectrum here that really looks lovely.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial textures and features are more crisp and clear to the touch than ever. Make-up holds up nicely from fake tattoos to zombie-fied transformations, it all looks natural and unrevealing.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): Original Mono 2.0 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Zombie Subtitles, In Their Words-The Zombies Speak

Dynamics:  For this review, I checked out the original mono track included.  I’m pretty certain the 5.1 and 2.0 are based off the previous Blu-ray release of the film.  One reason to be super excited for the mono is that includes all the original music for the film with the exception of “Dead Beat Dance” by The Damned.  It also sounds fantastic.  The film is loud, in your face and does plenty of great work with jumps scars and action sequences.  Effects sound well rounded and layered.  The balance of the score, vocals and effects work really well too.  All in all THIS is the track you want to listen to the film for, purist or not.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is loud, with a analog sound feel, but still having plenty of clarity.

Extras

The Return of the Living Dead – Collector’s Edition is 3-Disc set (1 4K, 2 Blu-ray). Besides audio commentary and subtitle bonus features, all bonus is found between the 2 standard Blu-ray discs.

Blu-ray (Disc 2)

Audio Commentary 

  • With Gary Smart (Co-author of The Complete History of The Return of the Living Dead) & Chris Griffiths
  • With Actors Thom Mathews, John Philbin & Make-Up Effects Artist Tony Gardner
  • With Director Dan O’Bannon & Production Designer William Stout
  • The Cast & Crew 

The Decade Of Darkness (HD, 23:23) – Featurette on 80’s horror films.

Theatrical Trailers (HD, 8:31)

TV Spots (HD, 5:22) 

Still Gallery (HD, 7:21) – Posters, lobby cards, movie stills and behind-the-scenes photos.

Still Gallery (HD, 2:06) – Behind-the-scenes photos from special make-up effects artist Kenny Myers’ personal collection.

Blu-ray (Disc 2)

More Brains: A Return To The Living Dead (HD, 1:59:43) – This is the full on documentary from the folks that brought you Never Sleep Again and Crystal Lake Memories.  Such a grand thing to have included with this film that it makes for 5 stars on the bonus material just on itself alone.

The FX of The Return of the Living Dead (HD, 32:49) – William Stout, Bill Munns, Kenny Myers, Craig Caton, Tony Gardner, Gene Warren Jr, Bret Mixon and actor Brian Peck give an incredibly detailed account of the making of this film from the effects perspective.  Each creature, gore effect and even the rotoscoping, model work and such is laid out with every nook and cranny polished over.  This is a fascinating adventure from a different angle of production.

Party Time: The Music of The Return of the Living Dead (HD, 29:31) – Many of the artists involved with the soundtrack share their stories about the songs they provided and the drama with working in tandem with the studio in getting it all done.  Some get pretty personal about where they found their songs in themselves.

Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (HD, 10:15) – I kinda sorta love these.  Sean Clark takes to the locations for the film to see what they look like today.

A Conversation With Dan O’Bannon (HD, 28:32) – This is the final interview with Dan O’Bannon, who directed the film as well as being on the original writers of Alien.

The Origins of The Return of the Living Dead (HD, 15:12) – An interview with John Russo discussing his work with the original Night of the Living Dead and where he decided to go with Return.

The Return of the the Living Dead: The Dead Have Risen (HD, 20:34) – Here’s an archival featurette from one of the previous releases that is your basic “Making of”.  If you don’t have the time for More Brains, then check out this one.

Designing The Dead (HD, 13:39) – Another archival featurette.  This one features director Dan O’Bannon and his approach to creating his unique zombies for the film. William Stout also is here to chime in on his work in the film.

Return of the Living Dead Workprint (HD, 1:48:05) – Appears to be sourced from a VHS tape.  There is a warning about the quality being the best that could be found and that having it available for fans to see was the most important factor in the end.  And yeah, this is super cool, thanks Scream Factory!

Summary

Again, six year later, Scream Factory has put out the definitive home video release for 1985’s The Return Of The Living Dead. The only new feature here is the gorgeous looking new 4K transfer on display here. That’s the only perk an one worth stepping up and swapping out your old release for. All the previous extras remain intact. Pick this one up and move the old one out!

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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