September 11, 2015

Raiders of the Living Dead

Originally purchased as a 60 min feature called Dying Day by Independent International Pictures and re-worked twice over, this movie was a big convoluted mess.

Back story: In the 70s, Independent International Picture was notorious for buying “unreleasable” films for cheap, reworking them and then releasing them for a tidy profit. Studio head Same Sherman was pretty confident that with enough work, any picture could be flipped using this method. But when he bought Dying Day from director Brett Piper for a cool $25,000 (at a $7,500 profit to Piper) Sherman might have bit off more than he could chew. Apparently unaware his purchase was only an hour long, he took on reworking it himself. He hired the original cast to shoot additional footage and added some plot points, and edited it into something he called Dark Night. Upon viewing Dark Night, Sam's business partner dubbed this version better, though still not good enough. So they re-re-hired the cast, beefed up the plot up some more, added even more characters, and made Raiders of the Living Dead.

The plot unfolds something like this: Ok, who are we kidding, there's no plot.

The short version: Stuff happens, most stuff isn't resolved, some stuff is only mentioned once, and a kid makes a pair of laser guns out of a laserdisc player.

The Heist: This movie opens with a hijacking of a tanker truck (in which there is almost no dialogue) and transitions into a hostage situation. The hostage taker is electrocuted twice (once intentionally and once by accident) and the second jolt kills him. That's the last time any of that is mentioned in this movie.

The Reporter and His Photographer: A man who sounds like he's a Reporter driving with a woman who seems to be his photographer, are driving to a destination he insists will make a big story. When they arrive they sneak around the outside of a building, are attacked by Zombies, and the photographer is killed. That is the last she is mentioned in this movie.

The Kid and His Grandpa: Grandpa is upset because the repair store wants $175 bucks to fix his busted laserdisc player ($175 bucks is also what we're supposed to believe he paid for the player in the first place). His 10 year old Grandson says he can fix it so Grandpa hands it over, and soon it will soon be a pair of laser guns.

How some of those things come together: After the zombie attack, the Reporter meets a Local Woman who lives “outside of town”. She feeds him and gives him a ride “into town”. While “in town” the Reporter meets Grandpa, who's also a doctor. The Reporter tells Dr Grandpa about the zombies and Dr Grandpa offers help, but also suggests that the Reporter leave town. There's a zombie attack somewhere that's totally unconnected from the plot. The Local Woman and the Reporter meet up again and call Dr Grandpa insisting that he not help them at the showdown with the zombie master. Dr Grandpa immediately recruits his laser gun welding Grandson (and some neighborhood kid) to help in the showdown with the zombie master anyway.

Looks like a wikipedia plot rundown right?: Well, the sad truth is there's no way to sum up this version concisely because all of those things happen independently of one another. (It's like if you had to write a summery of Coffee and Cigarettes. Sure you can say “it's a series of conversations between people over coffee and cigarettes” because there's a friggin' through line in that film!)

Questions we asked while the film was playing: Wait, there's zombies now? Why isn't there dialogue in this scene, aren't their mouths moving? Is that the same guy from before? Ok movie, just because you show us a bunch of stuff doesn't mean we will understand what it means! No seriously we see it, but WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Who's that guy –wait, now he's dead never mind. Didn't this movie start with a truck hijacking?

Yup, that's: Scott Schwartz (The Toy, A Christmas Story) and Zita Johann (The Mummy (1932)).

My alternate title for Raiders of the Living Dead: Zombies Show Up Out of Nowhere.

Related movies: Dying Day (original incarnation) and Dark Night (second incarnation).

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