31 Day Film Challenge – Day 7: A Film With Your Favorite Soundtrack

Return of the Living Dead (1985 D: Dan O’Bannon, W: Dan O’Bannon, Rudy Ricci, John Russo, Russell Streiner)


I’m going to go ahead and distinguish “soundtrack” from “score” here — there are plenty movies with scores I adore (anything by Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone or Dimitri Tiomkin, for starters). And sure, there are great soundtracks in tons of movies: Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown, Repo Man. But for me, I love Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead. On the soundtrack, there’s 45 Grave’s “Partytime,” which accompanies the film’s trademark skeleton zombie-puppet scare , there’s Roky Erikson’s “Burn The Flames” in a pivotal character death scene, TSOL’s “Nothing For You” — which I recently tried to revisit and it hasn’t aged as well as some of the other tracks. There’s Flesheaters doing “Eyes without a Face” (not the Billy Idol song) and, probably best of all, there’s “Surfin’ Dead” by The Cramps which ostensibly forms the movie’s theme song. Linnea Quigley does an infamous goth-punk striptease to “Tonight” by SSQ (later known as Stacey Q, who had a minor hit with “Two of Hearts”), although originally the song was to have been “Nasty Girl” by Vanity.  The movie itself is a fairly insane parody of the Romero dead films, and created the notion that zombies exist to eat brains. There are memorable lines galore, such as the zombie, having just attacked an ambulance, grabbing the CB radio and saying, gutturally, “Send.. more… paramedics.” The cast is especially great, with Clu Gulager as the sensible owner of a medical supply store, and bug-eyed James Karen as the old pro showing new kid Thom Mathews the ropes.  Don Calfa is particularly fine as the mortician who thinks the plastic bags full of “rabid weasels” dumped on his floor by Gulager might just be something else entirely. The film was the result of a split of intellectual property between Night of the Living Dead’s George Romero and John Russo. Romero got the rights to his own sequels, Russo got the rights to the phrase “Living Dead.”


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