Director: Dan O'Bannon

NOTE: I am not reviewing the film. I am writing a comparison of the two releases. If you are looking for a synopsis of this film, please check out the review for the previous DVD release of the film written by DVD Drive-In contributor Wes Ray.

What can I say about “Return of the Living Dead” that hasn’t already been said? Probably not much, but I’ll say some of it again: it kicks ass, the soundtrack (I proudly own it) is a magnificent assortment of old-school punk music, the special effects are great (by 1980s standards...of course, anything beats that digital shit we get nowadays) and the acting is actually good!

So, naturally, when MGM and FOX teamed up to release “Return of the Living Dead” Collector’s Edition DVD, I had to pick it up…even though I already had the prior Special Edition from MGM released several years earlier.

“Return of the Living Dead” is a milestone in the horror genre. While it wasn’t the first flick to mix the seemingly now-standard elements of horror and humor, it was one of the first to get the balance right as well as featuring a living-dead first: incredibly mobile, intelligent, talking zombies. It also (briefly) resurrected the genre (no pun intended). Sadly, today, in this post-“Candyman”-era of direct-to-video urban horror and tiresome remakes/rip-offs by musicians-cum-filmmakers, this sort of fun has all but faded from the screens and filmgoers suffer miserably (why, there are even times when I’m ashamed to be a horror fan these days).

Probably the biggest question on the minds of “ROTLD” fans is: “Does this new Collector’s Edition contain the legendary workprint?

No. No, it doesn’t…sorry. Get over it.

It does, however, contain a new featurette and a new commentary! Whoo-hoo!

The new commentary features production designer William Stout and actors Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph and Allan Trautman (the Tarman Zombi) and you know it’s going to be entertaining immediately when Stout attempts to introduce Calfa, who promptly cuts-in with “I’m not in this scene.”

The new featurette, “Return of the Living Dead: The Dead Have Risen”, features new interviews with the actors from the commentary along with additional bits by Clu Gulager, James Karen, and Thom Mathews. It runs 20 minutes.

Neither the new commentary or featurette make any mention to the rumor once told to me that another member of the production crew directed portions of the film because Dan O’Bannon was too stoned to do it most of the time.

Additional new features include Zombie Subtitles which are rather pointless (i.e. “Aaaarrrrgghhh” when a zombi screams) and become downright annoying. There is also an Easter Egg in the Special Features section for Zombie Thought Subtitles (which can also be turned on during the movie) which are also somewhat annoying (imagine bad improv artists that were rejected from Mystery Science Theater 3000 writing comical subtitles of what the zombies are thinking!).

Also new are the menus (the main menu featuring clips from the film and a segment of “The Surfin’ Dead” by The Cramps (from the soundtrack) and the 23-minute “Decade of Darkness” is a nice little featurette which goes through the various horror flicks from the 1980s (featuring lots of clips from the MGM Library) with interviews from Joe Dante, Stuart Gordon, John Landis and more.

Old features carried from the previous release are the Bloody Trailer and the Even Bloodier Trailer (known as the G-Rated and R-Rated Trailers on the old DVD), the Audio Commentary with Director Dan O’Bannon and Stout, the “Designing the Dead” Featurette and the English and Spanish Mono Stereo Sound (as well as subtitles).

Audio-wise, the new DVD offers an English Stereo soundtrack as well as a French Mono Stereo track (what, no DTS or 5.1?). It’s interesting to note that the tunes heard in the commentaries and foreign-language tracks are louder and longer (for example Roky Erickson’s “Burn the Flames” plays much longer in these versions as opposed to the English tracks).

The new anamorphic widescreen transfer has been cleaned up a lot more and has better colors (particularly that blood!) than the one on the other disc, but it appears to be cropped a bit more. The original open-matte full frame transfer that accompanied the old widescreen print is not included this time around (which means Linnea’s breasts are not included in the car scene). Several other features from the old Special Edition didn’t make the new cut, either are: Conceputal Art by William Stout, TV Spots and French Subtitles for the film. Sorry, completists.

Buy it? Definitely. Get rid of the old version? “It’s not a bad question, Burt.” (Adam Becvar)