In honor of the impending Halloween holiday, Dr. Jimmy Terror from Dr. Terror’s Blog of Horrors stops by The Liberal Dead to assist in merrymaking and overall mischief.
More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead was recently released on October 18th. I’m sure you’ve been reading all about it, but for those of you who have not been sending out for more paramedics here’s the story thus far:
MORE BRAINS! A RETURN TO THE LIVING DEAD is now available on DVD. It’s the ultimate account of the tongue-in-cheek, stylish and apocalyptic zombie movie. It features contributions from all the main cast as well as clips, photographs, storyboards, conceptual art, publicity materials, archival documents and behind-the-scenes footage.
Basically the best damn documentary you’re going to see all year. It’s this year’s Never Sleep Again (or at least that’s what I’ve been hearing); A documentary for fans with oodles of back story, cast participation and all the goodies on a film we celebrate as the groundbreaking zombie comedy. While this is absolutely a thrill a minute for me as a fan of all to most things zombie, I can’t help but feel that its time to pay some much due attention to the first of many sequels in the Return series and, more specifically, its soundtrack. I know what you’re saying. As if Return o the Living Dead Part II wasn’t off the beaten path enough now we’re going to talk about the soundtrack? Yes. It’s worth mentioning, and it’s time that this soundtrack gets a little love especially since it was practically stripped out of the 2004 DVD release.
First off, let me stress that I realize that Return of the Living Dead Part II is in no way as good as the original. I’m not saying that Ken Wiederhorn who proved he’s got what it takes to make a classic picture in Shock Waves, Meatballs II and Eyes of a Stranger, but it’s near impossible to live up to Dan O’Bannon’s original masterpiece. It is not as groundbreaking. It’s funny, but not nearly as funny as the original. It holds its own based on certain plot twists, a couple great effects and the re-emergence of two of our favorite characters in zombie and comedy history, Ed (James Karen) and Joey (Thom Matthews), or at least reasonable facsimiles there of. Hell, even the soundtrack doesn’t hold a barrel of Trioxin to the original picture’s cult followed Island Records release, but that doesn’t meant that it isn’t exhuming it to revise the coroner’s findings.
You remember the soundtrack to the first Return of the Living Dead, right? The Cramps. The Dead Boys. Roky Erickson. Let us not forget 45 Grave. We’re talking a brief history of more than slightly underground semi punk and death rock from a pivotal point in rock music. When pop music was chasing punk rock around ask for some of its cutting edge, smaller record labels were using the horror film to get the word on the street. Thus a classic soundtrack is born and would be born unto several other classic films. Texas Chainsaw Massacre II comes to mind. The Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise would be another. On heals of a great breakout successful underground offering, Return of the Living Dead Part II attempted to cash in on momma Living Dead’s successful formula on the screen and on audio cassette or format of your choosing circa 1988.
Return of the Living Dead Part II is a coming of age tale in which a young man and the local bullies stumble upon an accidentally dumped barrel of good ol’ zombie juice. When they unwittling open the sucker up the dead take notice, the bullies get sick and it’s Party Time (to quote 45 Grave). Only a handful of individuals stand a chance in this showdown between living and the undead. Throw in a few banana peels, a couple of Vaudeville gags, several pages taken from the Three Stoogies playbook and then just add Romero zombies plus O’Bannon tweaks from the original picture. Clearly we’ve heard this story before and there are only a few tendrils of connection between this film and the original masterpiece to support entitling it a sequel (but then all of the sequels have that problem). It’s charm is in the slightly altered perspective from which the story delivers its zombie madness and borrowed items from the first film.
With all this mediocrity being cast on a living dead picture one might ask himself where Anthrax fits into all of this. You know Anthrax right? Sound of White Noise? Caught in a Mosh? State of Euphoria? For those of you who say music and horror don’t mix a quick glance at horror soundtracks of the 80’s and 90’s will tell you a completely different story. That’s not to say that these compilations of rock and pop tunes weren’t an effort to capitalize on a film’s success with a soundtrack that could bank some dough, but there had to be something to buy; something produced that the masses would be interested in forking over the Benjamins for. Let’s take a look back at this slightly less than notable soundtrack, why it failed and why its worth revisiting. Sit back. Take a listen by enjoying some of the finer offerings of YouTube and maybe find something new and completely obscure to fall in love with.
“SPACE HOPPER” – JULIAN COPE
Political musician, British Rocker Julian Cope has had an extensive recording career although for the most part I can safely say his name has not slithered its way in between my ears. For the ROTLD enthusiast the most important tid bit of information would be that Cope recorded two albums and released them on a small record label in the great state of Texas to assist with Roky Erickson’s legal defense. The albums were Skellington and Droolian. The charges against Erickson: Mail theft. You should all remember Erikson’s contribution to the original Return of the Living Dead soundtrack, “Burn the Flames”… where James Karen decides to take a bath in the incinerator.
“HIGH PRIEST OF LOVE” – ZODIAC MINDWARP AND THE LOVE REACTION
Having toured with Guns N’ Roses and having co-wrote “Feed My Frankenstein” with Alice Cooper you think these fellas would have been a bigger deal. Zodiac Mindwarp is the alter ego of Mark Manning, a British graphic artist, who found himself in need of a career and lifestyle change. He along with the Love Reaction comprised of Cobalt Stargazer, Kid Chaos, Slam Thunderhide and Evil Bastard attempted to bring Post-Apocalypse and biker rock together in a way that only Gwar may have attempted. Judging by your lack of familiarity with the name, I believe the only apocalypse was an internal one.
“I’M THE MAN” – ANTHRAX
Coming straight out of New York City in the 1980’s Anthrax is a band, considered one of the “Big Four”, that changed the face of thrash metal forever. With flash finger bass lines and the speed of the devil Scott Ian and company set the bar sky high. This is one versatile band that contributed to the rap rock scene of the 1990’s with their collaboration with Public Enemy, “Bring the Noize”. My personal connection to this group is due to its regular appearance on the Headbanger’s Ball in the early 90’s hosted by Riki Rachtman. “Got the Time” is one of my favorites.
“BIG BAND B-BOY” -MANTRONIX
Mantronix was an electro funk/hip hop band from the 1980’s that went through several different styles of music. They were sampled several times by Beck and the Beastie Boys. Oh, did I mention that their name is MANTRONIX!!! Nuff Said.
“MONSTER MASH” – THE BIG O
Information on The Big O is fairly difficult to come by however the “Monster Mash” is the hit of the land. I think we’ve all heard Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s tune at least five times per Halloween season. This version is worth a listen just as any other version. None as great as the original of course, but I’m also a fan of the version from the Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III soundtrack. Incidentally the BBC banned this song from airplay when it first came out because it was too “morbid”. Now we put it on kids records. I think your safe to include this in future Video Nasty articles.
“ALONE IN THE NIGHT” – LEATHERWOLF
Leatherwolf aka The Triple Ax Attack (so named for starting the three guitar line up in heavy metal) is responsible for five albums, several MTV videos and played alongside Slayer and Metallica. If you haven’t heard of them you haven’t been listening to obscure 80’s metal bands enough. Go get some aquanet and a B.C. Rich Bitch and power ballad your way to knowledge. These guys are still around having recorded in an album in 2009.
“A.D.I./HORROR OF IT ALL” – ANTHRAX
The A.D.I. stand for Arabic Douche Intro. So take that for what it’s worth. Some important horror related features of this entry into this soundtrack: It appeared on the Among the Living album released in 1987. The album features an homage to Reverend Kane from Poltergeist II as well as imagery that is thought to be influenced by Randall Flagg of Stepen King’s the Stand novel. It’s nice to know we have some horror fans who contribute to original soundtracks and can most certainly rock. Incidentally, The Horror of it All is a horror picture from 1963 directed by Hammer Studios super star Terence Fisher.
“FLESH TO FLESH” – JOE LAMONT
“THE DEAD RETURN” – J. PETER ROBINSON (John)
Robinson composed some really great scores for several of our favorite films including Vampire in Brookly (!?), The Believers, Nightmare Cafe and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. He also was a musician in the band British prog rock trio, Quatermass. Having a band named after a classic BBC Sci Fi serial is a good way to start any musical endeavor.
There are fewer acts that invoke cult following than the original ROTLD soundtrack. There’s less cohesion although a fundamental base in heavy metal seems to carry through most of the musical offerings on the sequel’s soundtrack. Where the original soundtrack was danceable and fun, matching each song, music video-like, with a sequence in the film, the sequel attempts this formula and fails (much like the Leatherface soundtrack fails). Fewer pop sensibilities and even more obscure artists (if that’s possible) put this one well under the radar. If you’re a fan of 80’s metal and thrash you surely love this but might be just as happy with a Anthrax album or Exodus single. This entry in the series, as a soundtrack and as a film, are poor substitutes for the original, but will give you something new to appreciate if you need something less radical that Return of the Living Dead Part III or any of the newer, non-Romero/O’Bannon esque zombies. Did this music need to be adjusted for the 2004 DVD release? Your answer probably depends on how many jelly bracelets you have on your wrist.