Welcome to the OFFICIAL 'About The Author' page of:
Author of The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead and screenwriter of the Vinnie Jones thriller Kill Kane.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Having graduated from university with a degree in media and screenwriting, Christian Sellers put his cinema passion to use by entering the world of journalism with UK horror magazine GoreZone. This would serve as his initial introduction to the industry and his time with the publication would last two-and-a-half years.
Eventually he grew restless and, disappointed with the direction that the magazine had taken, decided to part ways and set his sights on a new medium. Joining forces with artist Gary Smart, Christian began researching the possibility of writing a book on the Return of the Living Dead franchise, a series of films that had begun with Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 splatter punk classic.
The result was The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead, which featured exclusive interviews with dozens of participants from the entire series. The book would receive positive reviews from the likes of Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting and SFX, while the Los Angeles-based book store Dark Delicacies held a cast and crew signing to promote its release in January 2011.
Within days of its release in the United States, Christian and Gary were contacted by the producer of Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, the acclaimed retrospective of the long-running A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, about a collaboration on a Return of the Living Dead documentary. In October 2011, just nine months after their book had debuted, the two-hour film More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead was released on DVD to critical acclaim.
Following on from works published in such magazines as Shock Horror and Paracinema, Christian co-wrote Cheerleader Camp: To the Death, a low-budget spoof of the ’80s slasher genre, before developing the screenplay for the Vinnie Jones revenge thriller Kill Kane.
I love revisiting a classic, especially one that doesn’t get half the love it deserves.
Bloody Disgusting’s Ryan Daley went full-on undead this past weekend as he went back to 1985 and enjoyed Dan O’Bannon’s classic zombie flick Return of the Living Dead. In the film a bumbling pair of employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air that cause the dead to re-animate and go on a rampage through Louisville, Kentucky seeking their favorite food, brains. You can read Daley’s fresh review here.
His trip back in time was inspired by Christian Sellers and Gary Smart’s The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead, a new book now available at a retailer near you. or 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 book features hundreds of previously unreleased behind-the-scenes photographs and exclusive artwork.
Inside you’ll find Daley’s thoughts on the book that should be sitting on each and every one of your coffee tables (or tank lid).
The great thing about niche publishing is that there’s something out there for everybody on the planet. So let’s say you’re an adult movie-lover still trying to outgrow a punkish youth that included pegged pants and spiky blue hair? Well, Fantagraphic Books can totally hook you up with Destroy All Movies!!!: The Complete Guide to Punks on Film. And let’s say you’ve never shaken your obsession with the staggeringly inconsistent Return of the Living Dead series? Plexus Publishing has got your fix with The Complete History of The Return of the Living Dead, a gloriously glossy, 288-page dissection of the entire franchise. Sometimes it can feel like a book was written just for you.
Authors Christian Sellers and Gary Smart are nothing less than exhaustive in their approach to the material. Beginning with Night of the Living Dead and the agreement between co-creators George Romero and John Russo to go their separate ways (with Romero taking “____ of the Dead” for his future titles as Russo adopted Return of the Living Dead for his own), the book studiously observes the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of every single film in the series, even the last two super shitty ones that nobody really likes. The title doesn’t lie–as far as the Return movies go, this book is as complete as it gets.
Understandably, more pages (and most of the juiciest off-screen gossip) are devoted to the original Return of the Living Dead. Opening on 1,500 screens in August of 1985, the horror comedy would end up totally smoking Romero’s more somber Day of the Dead (released a month prior) at the box office. Although the film has amassed a sizable cult following in the years since its release, Sellers and Smart depict a film set dominated by uncertainty and egos gone berserk.
The interviewees attest that many of the problems could be blamed on the confrontational nature of director Dan O’Bannon, who was still riding the success of his Alien screenplay. “We were bitter enemies,” states star Clu Gulager (Burt), who had repeated run-ins with the director, frequently to the admiration of his fellow cast members. Co-star Beverly Randolph (Tina) says, “My fondest memories of Clu are when he let Dan have it and threw a vase at him!…I had a rough time shooting with Dan.” And Don Calfa (“Ernie”) recalls “Dan said something derogatory to me–I don’t even fucking remember–and Clu jumped over the table….he said, `Don’t ever talk that way to Don Calfa, one of the finest actors in North America.’ He jumped at Dan…we had to hold him back. And Dan sat in this chair…he was shaking head to toe.” Authors Sellers and Smart provide a juicy peek behind the curtain that is hard to resist.
Along with the in-depth text, the book is loaded with vintage behind-the-scenes photos. Some are crisp, some are sloppy, but perusing the sheer variety of photos makes you feel like you just spent a few hours on a Return movie set. (While the The Return I wrap party photos will leave you desperate to tip cocktails with an obviously blitzed James Karen and Don Calfa.) Storyboards, conceptual art, and international movie posters round out the package. Hell, it’s worth purchasing solely for the in-depth coverage of the franchise’s make-up effects, especially in regards to the gleefully gruesome third film. “Using real make-up is not just a practice in nostalgia for past techniques,” says director Brian Yuzna (Return of the Living Dead III). “Traditional make-up and prosthetics and puppetry have an aesthetic that communicates a kind of reality that the CGI can`t duplicate.” Wise words from the halcyon days when latex ruled supreme.
Back in 1985, a movie was released that would shatter conceptions about what a horror/comedy could be while pushing boundaries, influencing how a mainstream audience would eventually demand their genre films behave. Christian Sellers and Gary Smart's The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead (now out from Plexus Publishing ) berings every aspect of that classic film to vivid life, and even covers the four loose sequels it spawned.
From the opening pages paying tribute to the pioneering work of George A. Romero, Sellers and Smart elaborately lay out the bloodsoaked, brain-munching blueprint that eventually became writer/director Dan O'Bannon's magnum opus. Delving deeper into the original novel of the same name written by Night of the Living Dead co-scripter John Russo, the authors exlicitly detail O'Bannon's changes in all their gore-splattered glory. We also get the story behind the "Tarman" zombie, with stills illustrating how actor Alan Trautman was transformed into the gruesome, iconic ghoul, dripping with wet, black slime. Other highlights include interviews with and rare stills of actors James Karen, Clu Gulager and, of course, Trash herself, Linnea Quigley. Much of this info is available on the various DVD/Blu-ray editions, but it's nice to have it in print, at your fingertips.
While obviously focusing more on the first breakout film, The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead covers the follow-up features with equal care and enthusiasm. Though none of the follow-ups ever recaptured the counterculture thrills the original offered, they always had something unique to drive them. Return of the Living Dead Part II brought back the duo of Karen and Thom Matthews, but what you might not know is the actor Brian Peck (Scuz in O'Bannon's movie) also encored to play seven different zombie roles, including the "Thriller" ghoul.
Brian Yuzna's third entry saw a further exploration into the military's use for 2-3-4 Trioxin, and added a Romeo and Juliet-esque doomed romance to the mix; the book reveals that it was Yuzna's intent to parallel the couple's love and brain-lust with that of Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen's decent into drugs. With the dubious back-to-back productions of Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis and Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave changing the filming location from the U.S. to Romania and showcasing ghouls that were no longer indescructible, much of the original fan base was lost, but the chapters devoted to them are fun, packed with fantastic FX shots and cast and crew interviews.
Outside of being an essential tribute to the franchise, The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead also stands as a homage to the late O'Bannon, a major talent who, as a screenwriter, was instrumental in bringing genre classics like Dark Star, Alien and Total Recall into the world. To paraphrase one of Return's key gabbing ghouls: "Send more paramedics...and while you're at it, more visionaries like Dan O'Bannon." Lord knows the genre needs 'em.