Shout! Factory continues to shine a light cult film favorites from the 80s, and a trio of recent releases continues their valiant work.
Return of the Living Dead Collector’s Edition, which comes from the company’s Scream Factory branch, is a 2K HD transfer of the 1985 horror comedy. Co-written and directed by Dan O’Bannon, the film isn’t a sequel to George Romero’s classic zombie films, but a great, 80s punk rock masterpiece that references Romero, contains loads of gore, a killer soundtrack, and a hilarious script.
The plot unfolds when a good natured knucklehead named Freddy (Thom Matthews) starts his new job at a medical supply company. While being shown the ropes by Frank (James Karen), a veteran of the company, Frank decides to impress Freddy by revealing old military canisters kept in the basement. They contain preserved zombies. When Frank unlocks one of the canisters, a toxic gas is released, bringing to life the medical corpses in the building. An attempt to burn the evidence creates acid rain that pours down a nearby cemetery. Hordes of the dead are brought back to life. It’s left to Freddy’s group of punk rock friends (plus his sweet, Valley girlfriend) to battle the zombies.
The cast also included Clu Galader, Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, and Beverly Randolph. The soundtrack contains tracks from punk artists such as The Cramps, T.S.O.L. SSQ and 45 Grave.
Like all of Scream Factory’s releases, The Return of the Living Dead comes with enough bonus features to comprise its own disc. Not satisfied with remastering the film and music, Scream Factory insists on providing as much historical value to the film as possible. You may question if a gorefest like Return of Living Dead deserves such a treatment, I would say most definitely ”yes!” While other 80s horror films were slapped together with shoddy effects and half realized screenplays, O’Bannon (the mastermind behind Alien) showed a great deal of love to his project. Both in front of the camera and behind it, O’Bannon’s enthusiasm was contagious, making for an unforgettable two hours of thrills, blood and laughs.
The Collector’s Edition has bonus features from previous Return of the Living Dead releases. New bonus features include: Audio Commentary with Gary Smart (co-author of The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead) and Chris Griffiths,; The FX of the Living Dead with Production Designer William Stout, FX make-up artists William Munns, Tony Gardner, Kenny Myers and Craig Caton-Largnet, Visual Effects artists Bret Mixon and Gene Warren Jr. and actor Brian Peck; Party Time: The Music of The Return of the Living Dead and HORROR’S HALLOWED GROUNDS — revisiting the locations of the film.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is the definition of a cult film. Here’s a low budget sci-fi adventure that in places is revelatory, and in others a bit of a bore. It was a flop in theaters, begging the question ”how did this get made?” Yet, it found an audience on cable and VHS, slowly building a fan base that grew from word of mouth. As one of the inaugural films from Shout! Factory’s new Shout Select collection, Buckaroo Banzai has never looked this crisp or sounded so good.
Written by Earl Mac Rauch and directed by W.D. Richter, Buckaroo Banzai stars Peter Weller stars as Buckaroo, a neurosurgeon, physicist, rock star leading a qualified team of equally brilliant scientist/musicians called the Hong Kong Cavaliers. After testing a dimension breaking vehicle called the Oscillation Overthruster, Buckaroo is faced with his greatest challenge ever: defeating the evil Red Lectroids who come from the 8th Dimension.
The Lectroids are commanded by Lord Whorfin, an insane alien disguised in human form (played by John Lithgow at his weirdest). Buckaroo and the Hong Kong Cavaliers must stop Whorfin before he endangers the human race. At the same time, he has time to rip some gnarly power chords on his guitar and romance a young Ellen Barkin.
Like I said, the picture tends to drag and the effects are kind of hokey, but the cast is top-notch and gives off the sense of camaraderie that makes you wish you were a member of the Hong Kong Cavaliers. Peter Weller owns the role of Buckaroo, and I can’t imagine anyone else ever paying the part again (although, Kevin Smith is developing a TV remake). The only character that matches Weller for charisma is Lewis Smith as Perfect Tommy.
Bonus features include a new two-hour Retrospective Documentary, with brand-new interviews with the cast and crew, new audio commentary with Michael And Denise Okuda, plus previously released bonuses like audio commentary with W.D. Richter and Earl Mac Rauch, an alternate opening sequence (featuring Jamie Lee Curtis), deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer. Fans of this film rejoice.
You may ask, ”Why the hell is Midnight Run considered a cult film?” I would respond that despite the film’s modest success (and three TV sequels), Midnight Run is one of those movies that never comes up in conversations about the great action comedies of the 80s. However, director Martin Brest made a fantastic film, every bit as good as his previous one, Beverly Hills Copy. It just didn’t become a colossal blockbuster.
As the years have gone by, Midnight Run has faded from memories. It’s been up to us cult enthusiasts to introduce newbies to it. With this superb Shout Select release, here’s hoping that Midnight Run lives on in the memories of film enthusiasts for a very long time.
Robert De Niro (in one of his best comedic roles) plays Jack Walsh, a disgraced cop turned bounty hunter working for a sleaze ball played by Joe Pantoliano. Jack is assigned the job of bringing in ex Mob accountant, Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin), a sensitive homebody who embezzled $15 million from a Chicago mob boss (Dennis Farina), got arrested and jumped bail. Jack is promised $100,000 if he can bring in the Duke, alive. Using his detective skills and contacts within the police department, Jack quickly tracks down the Duke in New York City. He flies across the country to bring in the Duke.
What starts our as a ”midnight run” (bounty hunter slang for an easy job) turns into a cross-country chase that includes the FBI, the mob and a double crossing second bounty hunter (John Ashton) on their tails. The unlikely pairing of De Niro and Grodin turns into comedy gold. George Gallo’s script caters to their strengths as actors, and Brest allows them to have fun with the types of characters they’ve done in the past. While the action set pieces are expertly done, it’s the small character moments that make Midnight Run a jewel.
Unlike so many action films from the 80s, Midnight Run doesn’t feel dated and this release will allow a new generation of film lovers to discover its greatness. Bonus features on the Blu-ray include a new interview with De Niro, plus vintage features like interviews with Grodin, Pantoliano and writer George Gallo, plus a making of featurettes