It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born. For the curious, here are links to 2008, 2009 (a bad year), 2010, 2011, 2012 (when we left the blog behind), and 2013. This year, we’re going old school and present to you the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon 2014: Classic Edition! Moldy Thursday Dead & Buried (1981) Directed by: Gary Sherman Written by: Jeff Millar & Alex Stern (story) Ronald Shusett & Dan O’Bannon (screenplay) Yes, we skipped a day. Life doesn’t always work out like we want it to. Which is an abject lesson of tonight’s film. Dead and Buried is one of those neglected classics that really should have been far more popular than it was at the time of its release. Its approach to the living dead is like nothing we’ve seen so far with this year’s marathon, owing more to the traditional Haitian voodoo zombie, but without the annoying racist implications of pretty much every film that goes that route. Here, the dead (black folk) aren’t being brought back to life to serve a human (white) master. Instead, the act of resurrection is itself the end goal; a celebration of artistic achievement as a madman has essentially built himself an entire town of puppets, living and carrying on as though they were still alive. Just don’t stop by Potter’s Bluff on your way through the area, or you may never leave. The good news, though, is that you won’t mind staying! The original story, by Jeff Millar and Alex Stern was much more of a black comedy, which is partially what brought director Gary Sherman on-board the project. As far as IMDBb knows, this was pretty much the only film work Millar and Stern ever did (although Millar did co-create the Tank Mcnamara comic strip and wrote an afterschool special that called “Mighty Moose and the Quarterback Kid”), but Sherman was a director who hadn’t directed a film since 1973’s Raw Meat (aka Death Line), which was pretty freaking good and starred Donald Pleasence and Christopher Lee. See that film. Anyway, Millar and Stern’s story was substantially reworked by Ronald Shusett – who had developed the original story for Alien alongside Dan O’Bannon. O’Bannon didn’t really add a lot to Shusett’s script and allowed his name to be added mainly to help give the film some cred after the press he got for Alien – something he was hesitant to do after having fought so hard to keep his name on Alien. He feared it would look hypocritical. But when he heard that Stan Winston was signed up for the effects work, he gave in. And while this was still early in Winston’s career (technically – he had been working since 1972, when he made his debut on the TV movie Gargoyles [editor’s note: Gargoyles scared the living crap out of me when I was 5 or 6 and my parents allowed me to watch it for some unknown reason!!]), it was still at a time when he did most of his own work hands-on; before he founded Stan Winston Studios. And the majority of the work here is extremely innovative and effective. Sure there’s that one “injecting acid into a fake head” shot that really doesn’t work, but that was an added gore shot that Winston had nothing to do with. When Winston works his magic, this becomes a master class on realistic practical effects and puppet-work. Whether we’re talking about the burnt up face that surprises the audience with a scream, the horrifying needle-in-the-eyeball gag, or the strikingly beautiful full facial reconstruction from skull to full face, this is a film that effects-wonks should have on their shelves. The story itself plays out like a classic EC Comics tale, as small town Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) starts investigating a rash of mysterious murders in Potter’s Bluff, a town no bigger than a postage stamp. The opening of the film may put you off, but bear with it. It starts oddly, as stranger-in-town George Le Moyne (Christopher Allport) is taking nature photos on the beach, but is then surprised by sexy Nurse Lisa (Lisa Blount), who flirts and poses for photos. It’s more like something you’d see in 1980’s Humanoids From the Deep than what you might be expecting (although Humanoids is really worth watching, too!) as Lisa’s boobs are suddenly on display and she’s asking George if he wants her. Well, of course he does. But even if he didn’t, it wasn’t going to end well for him. At least he got to see some skin before the TOWNSFOLK POP UP, BEAT HIM, TIE HIM TO A POST WITH FISHING NET, AND BURN HIM ALIVE! WHILE FILMING THE WHOLE THING! Farentino does a fine job as the put-upon Sheriff trying to figure out just what the hell is going on as bodies begin piling up, and a horrifying Twilight Zone-style truth is finally revealed to him before the final credits roll. His wife is played by Flash Gordon‘s Melody Anderson, who also does nice work as the school teacher with questionable lesson plans and her final scenes are both extremely disturbing and then heartbreaking with barely a pause in between. There are small roles played by recognizable faces throughout the film, especially a young Robert Englund and a jovial Barry Corbin. But the real star of the entire piece is Jack Albertson as the town’s funeral director/mortician William G. Dobbs. This was ten years after he played Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and just three years after the hit TV show Chico and the Man went off the air (which had completed its third season after co-star Freddie Prinze’s suicide and reworked the concept for a fourth season before calling it quits). Albertson’s coke-bottle-lensed glasses and flamboyant monologues about the art of making dead bodies beautiful again are a highlight of the film, and if he hadn’t died shortly after filming from colorectal cancer (Dead & Buried would be his final feature film performance), a very fine franchise could have been built around this character. Instead, what we have is a fleeting glimpse of an original living dead idea, brought to life with talent and grace that still failed miserably in the marketplace. Sometimes you just can’t win. See larger image Dead & Buried [Blu-ray] New From: $19.98 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response ABCs of Horror 2016 Day 22: O is for Dan O'Bannon - Psycho Drive-In October 22, 2016 […] Alien with the screenplay for the criminally underrated Dead & Buried (which we reviewed here) and the segments “Soft Landing” and “B-17” in Heavy Metal, both in 1981. […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.