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Credits and
production data
Principal photography: July 4-Aug 28, 1984 - Released, August 1985
Film Length : 87 minutes
Directed by Dan O'Bannon
Cast: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Thom Matthews, Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Jewel Shepard, Beverly Randolph, John Philbin, Mark Venturini, Brian Peck, Miguel Nunez, Jr., Drew Deighan

Original screenplay by Dan O'Bannon.
Shot in Southern California. A Hemdale Picture, Fox Film Presentation, distributed by Orion Pictures.
Film was processed by CFI, Hollywood. Prints by DeLuxe.

On August 27th, 2002, it was released on DVD by MGM. (Ordering link below)
All images are the work of the website author and are copyright MGM Home Entertainment Inc.

Story Synopsis
A deadly toxin, contained in cannisters that the military has lost track of, is in the basement of Burt's Uneeda Medical Supply warehouse. Foreman Frank shows the rusting collection to trainee Freddie. He slaps one and it blows, releasing its gaseous chemical, infecting Frank and trainee Freddie and reanimating a frozen cadaver in the freezer that can't be killed even with dismemberment. Meanwhile, the local gang of mixed punks wait for Freddie to get off work at Uneeda and begin to party in a nearby cemetary. Punk Trash enlivens the party by showing off her magnificent proportions in a nude dance on a crypt. Seeking to avoid the bad publicity of a toxic release and a reanimated corpse, Burt enlists the aid of Ernie, who runs the mortuary next door, to cremate the writhing body parts. But the smoke out of the crematory's chimney pours more toxin into the atmosphere during a rain and it reanimates the entire cemetary into a colony of zombies in search of fresh brains to relieve the pain of being dead. One by one, the gang of partying punks, paramedics and the plant employees succumb to the toxin or to having their brains devoured and become themselves brain-eating zombies. When the local police become zombie food as well, and there seems to be no end to the pandemic, Burt finally calls the military and tells them where their missing brew has been. They're less embarrassed about their screwup than they should be but not to worry... they have a plan to "contain" the problem.

About the images:
These are frames captured from the DVD. Selection is made on the basis of variations in cinematography (1) and a representation of story points (2), with special regard for the moments many fans and reviewers refer to as memorable.
All images are watermarked with the URL of our JB Movies site. Copies may not be made nor used by another site without permission and a link to this site.

Frames from the movie

Cinematographer: Jules Brenner
Filmography on IMDB

Uneeda Medical Supply Building, quitting time Lights out at Uneeda Training the new kid, after hours ... and these are split dogs C'mon, lets look alive What we need is a party... Frank... what's the wierdest thing you ever saw? Yeah, that's the movie where the corpses eat the people These things don't leak, do they? Dont know. Ask him. On our way to a party, Suicide driving A cemetary's cool The half-dog... kill it! Trash (Linnea Quigley) holds forth on a tombstone All about death and dying... ... and old men enveloping her You're sure it's the brain...? Okay, Freddie, just open the lock Gaa... get him, Frank!! Breaking out the rigor mortis You're going to owe me... bigtime No, we don't even want ash Tarman: 'Brains!' MORE Brains! Oh, noooooo! Out of the ground You can't kill 'em! We can't let them in Send more paramedics Brains... relieve the pain... Reanimated in good shape Send more cops The situation is deteriorating Before it's too late, a sacrifice To the rescue That's as far as you need to go In the attic A battalion of police to hold the line Excuse me, but we need to get to the phone It's been opened We'll take care of it Cast of characters

Followups to the film:

The Complete History
Order your copy of the most
definitive book on this movie ever written.

"More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead:
The Documentary"

(How it came to be made, the casting, the problems, and
more, as told by the people involved!)

This is a MUST HAVE for anyone
who calls themselves a fan!

Click on the slate
for a larger view and to order a color reproduction at the new low price:

- - - -

"I may be a cinematographer, but I love the written word. If I had to choose the single most important element of a motion picture--an almost impossible choice given such a collaborative medium--I'd have to say it's the screenplay. I therefore relish working on a film whose source material is well-written, no matter what the genre.

In the case of this film, its unique take on the horror subject matter made for considerable photographic inspiration. Dan's story-telling approach had so much underlying humor that it's virtually a one-of-a-kind cross-over between horror and comedy without being an outright spoof. You can be scared by it in the middle of a belly laugh.

Working on it was a challenge-a-minute and cinematically, a great experience. I think we all, cast and crew alike, felt it might become a cult classic and, apparently, it has, judging by all the web sites devoted to it and the good support we've seen on this one. The efforts of fans lobbying MGM resulted in the studio releasing the DVD as a Special Edition rather than as just another horror flick in their vast library. This degree of support is a gratifying validation of our original regard for this unique piece of work.

                                                                               ~~ Jules Brenner

This is the original, the Dan O'Bannon/Clu Gulager version... we don't recommend the sequels.

For more material about this film, it was highlighted in an article by Ron Magid in the March, 1986 issue of American Cinematographer Magazine, p26: "The Return of the Living Dead: a Comic Strip." This is an extensive article, with quotes, storyboard drawings and frame reproductions. Ready for reading and printing out.

Wikipedia entry, including notes on the plot, cast, production, zombies, soundtrack and more.

Horror film fans might be interested in another horror film photographed by this cinematographer:
Salem's Lot

I mourn the death of Dan O'Bannon on December 17th, 2009. He was 63 and had battled Crohn's disease for three decades.
~ Jules Brenner

The 2-Disc Blu-ray package!

The DVD!

The most definitive book on this movie ever written.

(There are things here that even I didn't know ~ Jb)
Product Description (Amazon Editorial Review:)
The Return of the Living Dead film series has become one of the most successful zombie movie franchises of all time, gaining cult status across the world and inspiring movies such as 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland. For the first time in 25 years, the cast and crew of all five films in this franchise reveal the stories behind the movies, offering their own opinions and details about life on the sets of some of the most fraught productions in cinema history. Supported by dozens of cast and crew members, The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead features hundreds of previously unreleased behind-the-scenes photographs and exclusive artwork. This eye-catching, comprehensive book is the ultimate celebration of The Return of the Living Dead franchise and all those who contributed to its creation.

The DVD jacket indicates that its version of widescreen is 16:9 (or 1.78:1) and 1.85:1. Indeed, the film was originally composed in 1.85:1, a standard theatrical ratio. Is there a compromise here? Upon close examination I find that there is not. The DVD is absolutely faithful to the original composition. What it refers to as 16:9 is accomplished by adding a few raster lines of black to top and bottom, making it fit the DVD and HDTV formats without altering the theatrical framing. What you see is what I composed. I applaud MGM!
~~ JB    
THE DVD EDITION & PRICE (a few notes)

Some reviewers of the DVD have complained that this special edition doesn't include a lot of the features one sees on mainstream movie DVDs. Things like production bloopers, out takes, stills, commentary by the actors, perhaps even by the cinematographer. Why were these excluded in our DVD? Cost... theirs and ours. MGM went to the expense of producing the extra features for this DVD because of the campaign and the sense that this film might just have a sufficient following to justify it. Frankly, I thought they'd raise the price to make up for their increased expenses, but they didn't and I pat them on the back for finding an economic balance that allowed the additions while holding the line on the retail price. So, if someone you know starts moaning about those missing features, remind him or her that it only retails for $14.95 and actually sells for well under $12! (Click here or above). Is that a bargain, or what?!

Film quality on the DVD
Several of the reviews I've read refer to certain scenes in the movie that show graininess or softness. For those who may be interested, let me identify one probable source. One review referred to a shot in the cemetary. The one in question is the POV tracking shot through the gravestones after the crematory released the toxic smoke into the atmosphere and the rain drove the poison into the soil of the graves. I believe this was an optical, in which a greater amount of visible rain was overlaid on the original scene photographed.

Opticals, which are composites of the original picture and an overlay of an effect or a title, is at least one generation away from the original and introduces grain to an otherwise clean picture. Today, it would be done digitally (budget allowing) and the original visual information would not be compromised.

Most reviews that point out these few granular moments conclude that the DVD is mostly a clean print, and I agree. I might have preferred a slight modification in color balance or density here or there but this is a fine representation of what I shot and preserves it in an excellent medium.

                                                           ~~ JB

And, what about the soundtrack album? Here are the tracks:

1. Surfin' Dead - The Cramps
2. Partytime (Zombie Version) - 45 Grave
3. Nothing For You - TSOL
4. Eyes Without A Face - The Flesheaters
5. Burn The Flames - Roky Erickson
6. Dead Beat Dance - The Damned
7. Take A Walk - Tall Boys
8. Love Under Will - The Jet Black Berries
9. Tonight (We'll Make Love Until We Die) - SSQ
10. Trash's Theme - SSQ

For your copy use this link:
The Soundtrack Album

Here is a comment form if you'd like to send your thoughts
(Any indecency will cause this comment form to be closed.)

Early Reviews and Comments: (from 1985-86)

F@œking excellent story, with wicked effects and a great sense of humour, The Return Of The Living Dead is an absolute classic. If you liked this, go and get the sequel to see the stars returning to do battle again. An added bonus has to be that Tommy Jarvis from Friday the 13th Part 6, and Demon from Friday the 13th Part 5 star along the rest of the excellent cast.

Death Count : Uncountable
Gore : 7/10
Overall: 9.0 out of 10
By Richard Gift - January 23 1999



While it's definitely not for the squeamish, "The Return of the Living Dead" is absolutely one of the most entertaining zombie movies around. Humor is mixed in with the horror, and the characters are very sympathetic (the undead excluded). I was especially amazed by the special effects. Split dogs, walking headless corpses, and brains, oh my! You can't help but wonder while watching, "How did they do that?".
As far as zombie films go, they don't get much better than this! George Romero himself couldn't have made this film any better than it already is. Every aspect is perfect. The gory special effects, and the Punk Rock soundtrack adds to the overall mood of the movie. If you want to be scared out of your wits, this is the film for you!
         ~~ Ronald Phenicie ( (On
"The Return of the Living Dead" has held a special place in my heart for a very long time. This satirical take on Romero's classic (if you don't know which one, you shouldn't be reading this) is one of the greatest horror films ever made and is also one of the most respected. The direction by Dan O'Bannon, writer of "Alien" (also one of the greatest), is superb and Jules Brenner's cinematography is stunning ...
                        ~~ Staffordsville, KY (IMDB)


"You are a brilliant DP"
                                           ~~ Linnea Quigley  

"Return Of The Living Dead" is my most beloved film. Every single aspect of it is perfect and I believe that it is an unrecognized masterpiece. Jules Brenner's cinematography is one of the cornerstones of this film and his contributions cannot be calculated. There are no words for the awesome beauty that you brought to this film."
                                           ~~ J. P. Y.  

Return to VariaGallery
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photographed by Jules Brenner

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