December 18, 2009

Dan O'Bannon (1946 - 2009)

Some sad news has compelled me to break my blog hiatus.....

The news this morning is that Dan O'Bannon, writer/director of Return of the Living Dead (1985), has died at the age of 63. O'Bannon helped create not only a classic zombie film but a number of classic sci-fi films as well.

Among zombie fans, Dan O'Bannon is celebrated for directing the high-energy and comedic Return of the Living Dead -- a film that became one of the most influential and highly regarded non-Romero zombie films in the genre. It wasn't until Return of the Living Dead that zombies were thought to moan for, "Braaaaaaains!" As well as creating several other memorable quotes and zombie characters such as the Tarman, Return of the Living Dead left an indelible stamp on the history of zombies and, like Michael Jackon's Thriller, helped revitalize the genre in the 1980s.

 Although O'Bannon was not involved in the sequels to Return of the Living Dead, he was involved in prior zombie-themed projects. O'Bannon worked on the screenplay for Dead and Buried (1981), in which corpses are reanimated, and he developed the story for the "B-17" segment of Heavy Metal (1981) that featured the corpses of dead pilots and airmen returning to life.

O'Bannon only directed two films; the majority of his career was spent as a screenwriter and behind-the-scenes effects artist. He worked on the scripts and created characters for several influential sci-fi films such as Alien (1979) and Total Recall (1990). He also developed the screenplays for several well-known genre directors. He helped write the script for Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce (1985) and Invaders from Mars (1986) as well as for  John Carpenter's early effort Dark Star (1974). It was on Dark Star that O'Bannon worked in visual effects  before  getting a very behind-the-scenes job on George Lucas' Star Wars (1977) creating computer animation and graphic displays.

For his contributions to horror, sci-fi, and most of all the zombie genre, Dan O'Bannon will be remembered and missed.

"Braaaaaaaaaains! Braaaaains!