Sunday, July 27, 2008

Return of the Living Dead 1985 article

The Skeletal Spotlight shines this time on:
The Return of the Living Dead

Click to get a nice big image of this poster art.

The French poster for ROTLD, arguably better than the American.

Back from the dead and ready to party with a few friends.

The first issue of Forry Ackerman's new publication "Monster Land" which came out in February of 1985, contained an article on the then-upcoming movie "Return of the Living Dead." Poor old Forry, you remember, had been ousted from his position as editor of FM by the Warren company and this led to their parting. Forry was able to start up another virtual FM called Monster Land, with the "Monster" in the same familiar type and size as Famous Monsters, and this along with a painting of the Ackermonster, let fans know he was back in business... at least for a little while.

Below is the inside cover text which trumpeted the story of his return to publishing. Although not the focus of today's entry, I thought it still might be interesting to some that never saw it. Interesting phrasing of the copy, both for what it said in between the lines about the restrictions placed on him by Warren, as well as the "classic monsters" magazines versus the modern Fangoria-type mags. It was a sad reality that as his FM audience grew up, the younger readers coming to the magazine stands were looking for exactly what Fangoria was offering. And the older classic-monster fans who were still buying such publications were growing fewer. Even I fell into that category. What amused and amazed me as a kid no longer held the attraction, when Freddy Kruger and others were dripping blood and grue from the covers of Fango.

Another hi-rez artwork image for ya.
And now, for our feature presention... the ROTLD article. I remember that Zombie Summer... when so many classic Zombie and horror flicks came out. Aging fans still talk about it in hushed tones... it was like dying and going to zombie heaven... which I guess for a zombie is finding a schoolbus full of teens. And like they would have chowed down on such a gut-filled feast, we chowed down on the moist and meaty movies of 1985.

Tarman was happy to see the fresh-faced, "with-it" teens arrive to bring some life to the party.

Seeing ROTLD for the first time was an electrifying experience. Totally different than what was expected, it crackled with energy, humor and atmosphere. All we could do was sit back and be smacked in the face with one surprise after another, with the gore effects bringing screams to the audience in between the laughs. If zombie films are exciting today you can thank this movie for setting the tone for hyper-active undead action mixed with dark humor.

Enjoy the article below from 23 years ago, and relive the excitement of reading this before you saw the movie in the theater... or, for you young whippersnappers, try to imagine it. The article got me excited for it, but no-one was prepared for it when they saw it. I first watched it with a group of friends at a midnight showing, and I took my fabric pullover skull mask in my pocket. During the scene of the zombies coming out of the graves, I put it on and sat there watching the movie. In front of us were three already-scared teenage African-American girls, and when one looked back and saw me, she screamed, then the other two screamed, and they freaked. By the time the summoned usher came around with his flashlight, I had pocketed the mask and was wearing my best innocent face. Mean? Possibly. Fun? Oh, yeah...

Frank indulges in a bit of humorous foreshadowing.

It's interesting how designer Bill Stout refers to a "spore" being responsible for the return of the rotten ones, when the script revolves around the 2-4-5-Trioxin. So this interview must have been conducted early in the short production process. Also some of the designs and efforts he made to show various time periods were never seen in the film. Although a few make-ups of decaying zombies made it onto film, the majority of corpses in the crowd scenes just are regular people, albeit muddy, with very few make-up effects or even masks in view. The sudden change in make-up artists before the job was finished probably accounts for some of that, as time was running out to finish what was a big job. But the individuals we saw, such as Tarman, the woman half-corpse, and a few others, carried the film in terms of startling creations, the likes of which we had never seen before.


Karswell said...

Another great post Fred! I love ROTLD, and while I agree with most people that 1982 was actually the last really good year for modern American horror film (with a few exceptions, but who could ever top Carpenter's The Thing?) I think ROTLD in '85 is absolutely one of the best zombie horror films ever, great script, scary, funny, sexy... and it definitely contains one of the best punk soundtracks ever too.

I'll have to find me a back issue of this for all the excellent production art samples... that's the stuff that makes me wanna parrrrty.

Fred said...


Thanks for taking the time from your bsy schedule to stop by so regularly! And every comment is like a nugget of gold, thanks!

Anonymous said...

ROTLD is a favorite of mine as well - I loved the sick and twisted humor in it. I like the first zombie in the article - her face is rotten and falling apart yet she has on a great set of pumps and perfect feet!

Fred said...


Good point! For a dead person she has better feet than a lot of live ladies I know.

Kitty LeClaw said...

definitely contains one of the best punk soundtracks ever too

I agree! The first time I ever heard The Cramps was in this movie. Mmmmm... Cream of Nowhere.

Thanks for posting, Fred! Another thing I can't wait to see @ home (too many people around to catch me not working today).

Anonymous said...

Hell yeah, zombie skulls are the sweetest skulls of all.

Check out the Return of the Living Dead TV Spots.... MORE BRAINS!