The Return of the Living Dead is a 1985 American zombie comedy film that was followed by several sequels. The film was written and directed by Dan O'Bannon and starred Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph, Miguel A. Núñez Jr and Linnea Quigley.
The film tells the story of how three men accompanied by a group of teenage punks deal with the accidental release of a horde of brain hungry zombies onto an unsuspecting town. The film is also known for its soundtrack, which features several noted deathrock and punk rock bands of the era. The film was a critical success and performed moderately well at the box office. It also spawned four sequels.
At the Uneeda medical supply warehouse in Louisville, Kentucky, a bumbling foreman named Frank tries to impress the company's newest employee, Freddy, by showing him a large drum containing the mummified remains of a U.S. army experiment gone horribly wrong. However, Frank accidentally unleashes a toxic gas (as well as the corpse) inside the barrel, setting off a chain reaction that subsequently leads to reanimated dead bodies rising from the ground in the cemetery next to the warehouse. As Frank and Freddy grow increasingly ill due to their direct exposure to the gas, Freddy's friends, their boss Burt and a mortician named Ernie spend the night fighting for their lives against a swarm of fast, unstoppable and surprisingly clever Brain-eating zombies.
The film has its roots in a novel by John Russo also called Return of the Living Dead. When Russo and George A. Romero parted ways after their 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, Russo retained the rights to any titles featuring Living Dead while Romero was free to create his own series of sequels, beginning with Dawn of the Dead. Russo and producer Tom Fox planned to bring Return of the Living Dead to the screen in 3D and directed by Tobe Hooper. Dan O'Bannon was brought in to give the script a polish and after Hooper backed out to make Lifeforce (also from a script by Dan O'Bannon), O'Bannon was offered the director's seat. He accepted on the condition he could rewrite the film radically so as to differentiate it from Romero's films. Russo retains a story writer credit on the film for developing the project, but the final film bears little to no resemblance to his original novel. He later wrote a novelization of the film which was fairly faithful to the shooting script, though without the character names as in the final film and the addition of a KGB sublot as an explanation for the plot. (Russo would, eventually, make his own 'canon' series with a 1999 revised edition of Night of the Living Dead, subtitled the 30th Anniversary Edition, and its sequel, Children of the Living Dead.)
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