More Brains: A Return To The Living Dead
Director: Bill Philputt
Cast: Linnea Quigley, Clu Gulager, James Karen
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Documentaries on horror movies seem to be a pretty hot ticket right now. The recent spate of fright film docs started with Halloween: 25 Years Of Terror with films about the Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, and Psycho franchises soon following. There’s even talk of documentaries on the Jaws, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Hellrasier films being made soon-ish. But one series I, and pretty much everyone else, never thought would get the documentary treatment is the Return Of The Living Dead movies.
So imagine my surprise when I opened my mail one day to see this baby staring up at me. I mean, I love, love, LOVE the original RotLD, it’s one of my favorite fun fright flicks of all time. But the sequels … well not so much. Still, how cool is it that this very influential, yet mostly unknown by non-genre fans, cult film would get its own documentary all about it? The answer is: it’s very cool, and thankfully, it’s also very good. So let’s get to it.
Now one of the things that surprised me the most about More Brains was that it was all about the first movie … and that’s it. Now I think that may be a first. All the other horror docs talked about a series of movies, but here you had an almost two hour documentary on a single movie that was only 90 minutes long. Am I alone in thinking that’s kind of funny? I also think that was pretty awesome, and I only really liked the first RoTLD, so I didn’t have to sit through a bunch of stuff I really didn’t care about (but I’m not saying that stuff isn’t on this disc somewhere, I’ll get to that in a moment).
Pretty much everyone who was even remotely involved in RotLD can be found in this doc. All the actors, producers, writers, makeup artists, production designers, and more are here giving their .02 on everything. The notable and sad exception to this is writer/director Dan O’Bannon and actor Mark Venturini who played Suicide, both of whom have passed away. Again, this may be a first, for I can’t think of any other film doc that had such a complete collection of cast and crew. Furthermore, this isn’t the same old “oh everything was great and we were one big happy family while filming this” Hollywood BS that you see in almost every other film documentary or behind the scene extra. No, these people speak their minds and some real inside info, and perhaps even a little bit of dirt, is given here and I found that honesty refreshing. Especially when people had the guts enough to say that director O’Bannon might have been a bit of a bastard. While they don’t burn the man if effigy, that whole “don’t speak ill of the dead” thing that keeps people mum even about the real a-holes was largely chucked out the window here.
This doc has real honesty, plenty of inside info, a bit of catty in-fighting, a complete history of how this great movie came to be, tons of info from all the living crew and actors, and that even includes the two guys who played the paramedics. So that right there should be enough for any brain-eater, but the special features on this DVD are every bit as good as the movie itself.
First off, there is a 30 minute featurette on the sadly lackluster sequel, Return Of The Living Dead 2, followed by a 20+ minute featurette on RotLD Part 3. Both of these are as well produced as the feature documentary and they are not just filler. They even have lots of interviews with the cast and crew of those sequels that don’t appear in the main doc. Even though I don’t like these films all that much, it was great to have these extras on here for the people that do. Oh, and thankfully the filmmakers here all but ignore all the sequels after the third one that came out direct to DVD and were truly horrible.
But wait, we’re not done yet. There is a wonderful 30 minute interview with director/writer Dan O’Bannon on here too. This was probably one of his last, and it was amazingly frank and candid. I loved it. Other extras include a bunch of deleted scenes from the doc, a live performance by Stacey Q of Tonight, or as you may know it; the song that Trash strips to in the graveyard, and a 10 minute featurette on the locations where the movie was shot, hosted by two of the original actors. A neat little bit of silliness called “Return of the Living Dead in 3 minutes” and a theatrical trailer for the doc round out the extras and all together the special features gather here run over two hours. Now that’s impressive.
More Brains is a great documentary. It’s informative, funny, and never boring. If you’re a zombie fan, if you love Return Of The Living Dead, or you are just interested in the behind the scenes stories on filmmaking in general, then this is a must buy for you. Consider this one highly recommended.