The Return of the Living Dead

August 16th, 1985


The Return of the Living Dead

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When a bumbling pair of employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air...

Release Year: 1985

Rating: 7.2/10 (19,755 voted)

Director: Dan O'Bannon

Stars: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa

When a bumbling pair of employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to re-animate as they go on a rampage through Louisville, Kentucky seeking their favorite food, brains.

Writers: Dan O'Bannon, Rudy Ricci

Clu Gulager - Burt
James Karen - Frank
Don Calfa - Ernie
Thom Mathews - Freddy
Beverly Randolph - Tina
John Philbin - Chuck
Jewel Shepard - Casey
Miguel A. Núñez Jr. - Spider (as Miguel Nunez)
Brian Peck - Scuz
Linnea Quigley - Trash
Mark Venturini - Suicide
Jonathan Terry - Colonel Glover
Cathleen Cordell - Colonel's Wife
Drew Deighan - Paramedic #1
James Dalesandro - Paramedic #2

Taglines: They're Back From The Grave and Ready To Party!


Official Website: MGM | MySpace |

Release Date: 16 August 1985

Filming Locations: Burbank, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $4,403,000 (USA) (18 August 1985) (1506 Screens)

Gross: $14,237,000 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

William Stout was the production designer and had a cameo as a homeless man sitting on a sidewalk as the group of punk teens walks by. One actor improvised tossing him a dime as he walked past.

Revealing mistakes: When Frank is going to cremate himself, he turns up the fire in the crematorium, and then climbs on the slate. He then pushes the slate inside the crematorium. He does not scream in pain from the burning flames which have been burning him for more than a few seconds, and he even hesitates slightly before reaching outside the door to press the button to lower it.

Burt Wilson: Put that gun away, Ernie! Before you shoot somebody!

User Review

Rabid Weasels?

Rating: 10/10

This is one of those very rare films that combines good black humor with bloody, messy gore and does it perfectly. Where `Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' fails miserably, `Return of the Living Dead' succeeds triumphantly. It takes a tired plot (zombies eat teenagers) and makes it new again. The teenagers here are not faceless, stupid, oversexed victims at all. They are misfits and outsiders, the kind of kids who probably go to horror movies every day and make fun of the faceless, stupid, oversexed victims who populated the majority of the slasher films made in the 1980s. The nihilistic punk rock teens can identify with the zombies, and even though it is their ultimate fate to be consumed by them, you like them, you want them to survive and you're sorry to see them go even though the zombies are every bit as cool.

Long before `28 Days Later' appeared, `Return of the Living Dead' presented us with FAST zombies, zombies who could run, jump and work together like a football team, tackling people and making it a group effort to tear their victims apart. There are very few slow, shuffling monsters here; these are zombies to contend with. They talk, they think, they problem solve. Who could ever forget the Tar Man (my personal favorite) rigging up a device to tear down the metal closet doors, behind which our heroine has locked herself?

The adult characters in this film are no less interesting than the teenagers. James Karen is absolutely hysterical in his role as a medical warehouse manager, whose bumbling irresponsibility leads to the zombies being unleashed. Clu Gulager is a stressed out corporate jerk who will do anything to save the name and reputation of the warehouse he owns. And Don Calfa is excellent as the slightly shady mortician who may or may not be an ex-Nazi. The mismatched cast really comes together and forms a bond here, fighting back and growing more desperate as the zombies grow stronger. This film never lets up, not for one minute. There are no long explanation scenes, no boring set-up, just in-your-face excitement from the very first scene. It is the perfect homage to the Romero films; there is no happy ending here, only an ironic twist which will make even the most cynical doomsayer grin. This film is already a cult classic and deserves its status. It's as close to flawless as you can get.


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