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R.I.P. Dan O’Bannon

obannonDamn, I just read on The Ain’t It Cool News that Dan O’Bannon died. He’s mainly known as the creator of ALIEN (he wrote the original script). Although his script was re-written there’s no way to deny it came out of his mind when you watch DARK STAR, which he wrote with John Carpenter (as well as co-starred in and built the sets) and see how similar it is to ALIEN even though it’s a comedy. After that one he was hired by Jodorowsky to work on that version of DUNE that never came about.

O’Bannon’s got a bunch of great credits but the one I always associate him with is the absolutely brilliant RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. If you’ve never gotten around to seeing that one I think you should do it now and I don’t think you’ll regret it. If I ever complete last year’s New Year’s resolution of writing a script I’ll aspire to writing an opening scene half as perfect as that first-day-at-work sequence that opens ROTLD. The way he casually introduces all this information – the geography of the building, the things that will become zombified, the origins of the zombie plague – in the context of a very relatable work situation, making you laugh at the same time he’s building tension… I think it’s one of the all time greats.

To briefly summarize some of his career highlights, he got his start with John Carpenter, hung out with Jodorowsky, created one of the great sci-fi series of all time, invented fast zombies, wrote movies for Tobe Hooper (LIFE FORCE and INVADERS FROM MARS) and Paul Verhoeven (no less than TOTAL RECALL).

He was only 63. Too bad, man. I know it’s been a while since he got his credits on anything but ALIEN spinoffs, but I thought he had more in him. Thanks for the great times bud.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Friday, December 18th, 2009 at 3:10 am and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

33 Responses to “R.I.P. Dan O’Bannon”

  1. yeah I just read about this on AICN too

    this is pretty surprising and sad, RIP

  2. Man , this sucks . RIP Dan O’Bannon. I was reading AICN too , for an update to Avatar and maybe some spoilers free reviews of that one , then I’ve seen the news of him passing away . I immediately came here to post . I cannot imagine the Italian news even mentioning this , so it’s good to have a forum to remember him. Apart from Dark Star ( wich is a masterpiece, I’m listening to “Benson Arizona” right now) I always loved Return of The Living Dead . For me His zombies are a distinct category in zombie movies , the more laid back , funny version of the undead apocalypse , but still with some social commentary like Romero’s. Then , of course , Total Recall ( here in Italy “Act of Force” for some cryptic reason ) , the team up with Verhoeven that I consider even better than Phillip K. Dick’s short story. Man , looking at the above titles , what an impressive career , and I didn’t even mention Alien or that fantastic Dune project (with him, Jodorowsky and Giger on board ) that we will never see. RIP , man , You will be remembered .

  3. This is a weird one for me. I was just about to start a chronological series of John Carpenter reviews at our site, so I watched Dark Star last night. Spent the evening chuckling at Dan O’Bannon being pestered by the space beach ball and dangling from the space lift, then I woke up this morning to find he’s just died. It’s kind of taken the wind out of my sails.

    He may not have had the greatest career, but he definitely made a mark, especially with Dark Star and Alien. Return Of The Living Dead’s a good one, too.

    Very sad news.

  4. RotLD was awesome. One of those movies that has stuck with me since the first time I saw it on video when I was a teen. He got me hard for a naked punk zombie! Job well done. Rest in Peace.

  5. NO! This SUCKS! I really admire his work.

  6. Sympathies to his wife and son, such a bad time of year to lose anyone.

    A real star and some of his concepts and ideas will live on in other peoples movies for years to come

    Rest in peace

  7. What a sad day! He was one of the greatest Sci-Fi/Horror screenwriters around.
    On the less grim note, I would really like to know the genre of the script that Vern is working on. Any guesses?

  8. What?? I love both Aliens and Total Recall. I haven’t heard anything from him in a while either though. Sad to see him go….even if he did write Screamers. On an unrelated note I just got back from Avatar after looking foward to it for months and I have to say….I can’t remember the last time I was ever so underwhelmed by a movie. If the confused faces of the audience after the movie let out are any indication, I’m not alone. Anyway I’ll save my thoughts for Vern’s eventual Avatar review.

  9. Although not classics like the one’s Vern mentions, O’Bannon also did respectable work on the movies DEAD AND BURIED and SCREAMERS. And although no RotLD, his THE RESURRECTED wasn’t half bad. RIP.

    Not to shit on a man’s legacy, but I can’t give him credit for fast zombies. NIGHTMARE CITY came out before RotLD, and I bet that’s not even the first fast zombie movie.

  10. He may not have invented fast zombies, but he did invent brain-eating zombies, a concept that has somehow made its way into the popular consciousness (i.e., been parodied on The Simpsons) without ever being copied. His zombies remain the most formidable of all, because you simply can’t kill them, much like his contributions to genre cinema.

    Also, let’s not forget the great strides he took in keeping the bow tie contemporary. Many have carried on the fast zombie legacy, but who will help carry the bow tie into the 21st century? Can we send a petition to Edgar Wright?

  11. Tucker Cralson gladly carries on the bow tie tradition. and muslims.

  12. Good point on the brain-eating. “BRAAAAAAAINS! BRAAAAAAAAINS!” seemed to be the only conception of zombies others had when I was a little kid, despite RotLD being the only movie to portray them that way. In fact, RotLD is one of the only zombie movies/series where the zombies can talk (and strategize for that matter.)

    As for the bow-tie, I’d be content if the buried it forever with O’Bannon.

  13. Send more Dan O’ Bannons

  14. RIP Dan O’Bannon. He’s made many contributions to genre cinema, but I just wanted to mention my appreciation for a few overlooked entries on his resume: DEAD AND BURIED and LIFEFORCE.

  15. If I had to guess at Vern’s script, and this is based on years of reading his site, i’d have to say he is definately writing a romantic comedy. No doubt about it.

  16. I second the shoutout for LIFEFORCE.

  17. Vern, I’ve often wondered why you haven’t written the ultimate Seagal movie yet.

    As for LIFEFORCE, my god do I love the breasts on display in that movie.

  18. After watching Dead and Buried, I wished he’d directed more movies. It’s no ROTLD. In fact, its more like Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. O’Bannon had an originality that made whatever he did worth watching.

  19. O’Bannon didn’t direct DEAD AND BURIED. Gary Sherman of VICE SQUAD fame did.

  20. Sorry about the fast zombies comment, I think somebody even corrected me on that before. You’re right about the brains though.

    And maybe the bow tie should be retired like a jersey number, maybe hanging in the science fiction hall of fame or something.

    As for the the writing of the script, I think writing is too strong of a term to describe the progress I have made so far. I was supposed to be done with an action movie script and a novel by the end of this month. Well, at least I did other things this year. Cleaned the apartment a few times, etc. The novel I started and got stuck on, the script is just a million ideas in my head that I haven’t been able to formulate into an actual story. I want to use it to test out some of my theories about action movies so I need to wait until I have it more figured out before I can really start writing it. I gotta do the math first.

    So it will be based on my favorite action movie tropes, but I really mean it when I say that RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD will be one of the things I look at for inspiration. That is the type of writing I love. Glad to hear from AICN that his wife plans to publish some of his other writing.

  21. Vern – glad to hear you’re building your own formula from scratch, instead of consulting Robert McKee or Joseph Campbell or Socrates or one of those fellas.

  22. Socrates? WTF. Aristotle. I’m losing my mind today.

  23. So then I’m assuming you are trying to come up with a classic use of badass juxtaposition?

  24. Well, usually modern aspiring screenwriters just read the current Black List scripts and over-analyze them like motherfuckers. But I guess it works only if you’re actually writing a romantic comedy about long distant relashionships or some shit like that.

  25. I´m sorry for my ignorance, but who invented fast zombies?

  26. That would be Umberto Lenzi in Nightmare City. The guy’s still alive and kicking last I’ve heard.

  27. I think NIGHTMARE CITY is worth watching for the such-a-copout-that-it’s-almost-brilliant-ending alone

  28. “The novel I started and got stuck on, the script is just a million ideas in my head that I haven’t been able to formulate into an actual story.”

    You are not alone, believe me. Watch Barton Fink, it will make you feel, um…better?

    RIP DO’B. So long, and thanks for all the flicks. 63 is young these days. Still, anyone who leaves behind a few genuine classics has achieved more than most. DARK STAR, ALIEN and ROTLD have earned him a place on the Mt. Rushmore of horror/SF, which somebody really should get started on. Maybe we could get some stimulus money to commence chiseling.

    Here’s a question for you Vernians. (Verners? Vernies? I like Verners, because it’s a homophone for Werner, as in Herzog.):

    Would you rather live until the age of 90 in dull but prosperous anonymity, or would it be better to die at 55 or 60 after an illustrious career, even if you lived a life of turmoil?

    You could live a life of anonymous, destitute turmoil, of course. (I call dibs!) But if it were an A or B choice, would you pick happiness and longevity, or misery and place in film history?

  29. Does Zach Snyder still take credit for “fast zombies.”

  30. TARANTINO “There was this Umberto Lenzi zombie movie in the ’70s called Nightmare City, and a while ago some friends of mine were going to meet him in Rome, and I told them to tell him how much I loved Nightmare City. And they told him. And he goes, ”Zombies? What’s theees zombies? They’re infected people!”

    http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1206985,00.html

    So, maybe O´Bannon invented fast zombies after all.

  31. Yeah the “zombies” in Nightmare City weren’t technically zombies, they were some kinda diseased humans. And if we count those as zombies and give Lenzi credit for fast zombies, well…then we gotta go back and give Romero credit instead, cause The Crazies beat it to the punch.

  32. Yeah, he DID create the fast zombies. I never put that together and ROTLD is one of my favorite movies. Thanks, Vern!

  33. That’s eerie, I was just going to bed ten minutes ago after TOTAL RECALL just started. I watched the opening credits and was idly wondering was Dan O’Bannon was doing now, turned on my computer and this is the first thing I see. Shame.

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