Thursday, 17 November 2011

Deleted Scenes: The Return of the Living Dead Workprint

I've been on a massive Return of the Living Dead binge recently, and why not? Madman Dan O'Bannon's horror-comedy classic defines the eighties in so many ways. If there was a time capsule for the decade, all you'd need is this and Top Gun and you're sorted. 

Along with reading the brilliantly comprehensive The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead, my girlfriend also got me a poster signed by original cast members Brian Peck, James Karen and Beverly Randolph, which I kind of only mention because that's awesome. 

I have this mans autograph. Boo yah.

But to loosely tie it in, the book mentions a deleted scene of Burt being bit by a zombie, a scene which didn't appear in the film but is allegedly connected to the workprint of the film.

For the uninitiated, a workprint is typically a rough cut or assembly cut of a film that normally contains most of what was filmed in order to see what is and isn't needed for a finer cut. They normally have rough sound and are missing visual effects. They have gained a reputation among many film enthusiasts as many directors who claim to have had their vision ruined by studio interference are normally backed up by workprints that contain a vision closer to a directors intention. The most famous example of this is Blade Runner, whose workprint eventually was reworked into a proper director's cut.

And an extended cut. And a test screening cut. 
And a director's neighbours cut. And a...

These are particularly talked about with horror films because, let's face it, there are a lot of bad horror films, and studio interference is commonplace. Myths surrounding these films are often very strong, talking about missing subplots that would have made the film Gone with the Wind, or gore that would have knocked your iron socks off. Films from the Friday the 13th, Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise are notable for workprints that would allegedly make them infinitely better.

Though there definitely is a case for some films that were better before their released versions, but more often than not, the workprints contain superfluous material that was best excised.

Case in point: The Return of the Living Dead workprint.

In fairness, how can you improve on what's there already?

What you will see below is all the changes in the workprint compared to the final cut of the film set out, almost like deleted scenes from a DVD. The quality is poor, which was the standard for workprints of that era, but more importantly is the ostracised and alternate material. The scene that made me go exploring the workprint (the biting of Burt), doesn't actually exist in the scenes, disappointingly. Most of the bits on show are extended or alternate takes of what is already in the film. My two cents? There's a lot of crumby shots and poorer alternate takes on show. The only piece that stands out as a nice scene is a moment where Ernie tried to comfort Tina by telling her Freddy has gone to Heaven and those are just brain-hungry dead bodies. There are also some bits that are worth a chuckle, plus some good old fashioned racism.

Would a black-face joke be inappropriate here?

Not included on any DVD release, the scenes are a must-see for any ROTLD fan, and seeing the scenes in isolation is more than enough to enjoy them (it seems like it'd be a waste of time watching the full workprint when the final cut is so enjoyable). Maybe not for the casual fan, but anyone else infected with ROTLD-fever like I am will enjoy.... 

Coming soon: A review of More Brains: The Definitive Return of the Living Dead Documentary, from the makers of Never Sleep Again, which I will write when the fecker arrives! The signed poster arrived before the DVD, how odd.... Either way, the DVD and the book I mentioned before? Recommended: