Return of the Living Dead
To amazingly little publicity, the Clu Gulager film festival kicked off last night (Wednesday the 27th) at the New Beverly Cinema. Tonight’s raison d’être was the screening of the 1985 ultra-classic “Return of the Living Dead.” My friend Ryan, who just moved to L.A. recently, hipped me to the existence of this film festival, and being just about 1.5% shy of being as big a nerd about this movie as he is, I had to go.
The New Beverly has always been the home of great revival films and festivals. Sherman Torgan started the cinema because he wanted it to be something of his own, a place where he could show films that he loved and mattered to others. Mr. Gulager, in his introduction to the film, lavishly praised Mr. Torgan for his dedication to the fans. There was a loving video dedication as well with many photos of Mr. Torgan from childhood through to his untimely demise. The audience, who tonight were ALL fans, applauded wildly. Mr. Gulager also had his son, John, then started a video of Clu’s career, which was met with even more enthusiastic applause. We were in for a great night.
But, before the film starts, I have to drool and nerd-out a bit and note how absolutely and completely amazing it was that before the show, in the lobby hangout, we all got to meet and greet 90% of the main cast, as well as director Dan O’Bannon! James Karen, Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph, Jewel Shepard, Don Calfa and Brian Peck were all there, and were some of the friendliest folks I’ve ever met. They were all accommodating with the photo-ops as well, and I have some great shots that will last a lifetime. Email me if you’d like, and I’ll send you the Picasa link.
On to the flick. If you haven’t seen “Return of the Living Dead,” you’re really missing out. This film is a cult classic in every sense of the word, one of those films where you know it was shot on a budget and they were always behind schedule and having to cram shots in and most of the actors had never been in anything before yet…everything works. Sort of like that old joke about seven layer dip: You take all these random disparate elements that you wouldn’t want to eat separately, but when you combine them, you have gold. Funny, scary and tighter than a drum, this is one movie you need to see on the big screen with the kind of crowd that appreciates it. In fact, at the Q&A afterwards, director O’Bannon said “This was truly a great house. It’s great watching this movie again with an audience like you.” Quite a compliment.
The rest of the Q&A was great, with the director and his production designer Bill Stout, (who happens to be married to the lovely Beverly Randolph), sharing some funny stories, James Karen piping in with an amusing running commentary, and Brian Peck even shared how he got involved with the film, stating that he’s “the complete opposite of punk. I’m a total nerd!”
The film has an encore showing Thursday night, the 28th, at 10 pm, and the film festival runs through Saturday the 30th. I highly recommend you try to get out and see it on the big screen. If you can’t make it, get the special edition DVD that was released by MGM in 2007. It’s got all sorts of groovy extras, but it’s minus the original artwork. Or you can search the cutout bins for the down and dirty original DVD release that has jack-all for extras but has the original art. This is one of my favorite films so, please remember I’m not biased one bit when I say that every self-respecting film fan needs to have this one in his or her collection.
To sum the night up is simplicity itself: BRAAAAAAAINS!