John A. Russo, co-screenwriter to the most famous zombie film of all time -- Night of the Living Dead (1968) -- has written two novels sharing the title Return of the Living Dead! The first was published in 1978 as a dark and perturbing sequel to his novelization of Night. The second was a novelization of the 1985 horror-comedy movie Return of the Living Dead! Hopefully this SPEW (i.e. Sicko-Psychotic review) will help eliminate some of the confusion for those interested in getting your grubby hands on literary zombie filth! As always, Sicko-Psychotic is pleased that many of you share in the same taste for decomposing brainssss... so, without further adieu, here are the spews!
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
by John Russo
1978, 1st edition
Publisher: Dale Books
ISBN: Mass paperback 9780895590626
Ad for 1978 edition
It's been 10 years since that horrible night when the dead rose up to devour the living. Although the threat to mankind is over, there are those who still fear it could happen again. Such fears are founded when a tragic bus accident results in the deaths of all its passengers. Once again the dead begin to rise and seek out human prey to appease their cannibalistic appetites. But this time the living dead are not the only horrors that plague a small backwoods town. Looters, rapists, murderers, and the trigger-happy community also add to the ensuing deterioration of humanity's bleak future!
1979, Hamlyn Paperbacks
Author John Russo is back with this sequel to the novelization of the horror classic Night of the Living Dead (1974, Warner Publications). And make no mistake, this gritty and shocking novel is generous with its graphically descriptive acts of violence, which is sure to disturb and offend some weary readers! (But, hey... this is Sicko-Psychotic and you kind of have to expect a book of this nature to be reviewed here!)
1995, Commonwealth Publications Inc
This time the pacing is much quicker and the focus is spread out to a montage of characters, making it impossible to guess what will happen next and to whom. Those who have read Russo's previous book will notice that the author's abilities as a novelist has matured in strides with this effort, resulting in Return of the Living Dead being a much more engaging and entertaining venture for us readers.
Tying the two books together are the occasional chapters included in Return that reprint the Civil Defense broadcasts from Night. Also, the familiar character of Sheriff Conan McClellan is once again reintroduced to lead law officials in the fight against the second zombie uprising.
Return was actually Russo's novelization of a movie script he had been attempting to sell. But it was director George A. Romero who first managed to film his own sequel to Night. The highly successful film was called Dawn of the Dead and a novelization of that film was also released that very same year -- 1978! Producer Tom Fox did take an interest in Russo's script and planned to have it directed by Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist fame. Dan O'Bannon (Alien, Lifeforce) was brought in to help polish the script, but took the director's seat instead when Hooper backed off the project. O'Bannon did away with Russo's script, but kept the title. The new director proceeded to write his own story in a horror-comedy vain to help compete against Romero's third zombie film Day of the Dead (1985). The end result was that Return of the Living Dead (1985) became an even greater cinema hit than the long anticipated Day! Ironically, John Russo ended up writing a novelization of O'Bannon's movie script (see below)!!
Most recently, Kensington Publishing Corp. has republished John Russo's Night of the Living Dead and his original Return of the Living Dead in a single trade paperback edition entitled Undead (2010).