Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dan O'Bannon 30.9.1946 - 17.12.2009

I normally don't do the death announcement thing, but Dan O'Bannon is a name I think that is not well known, and should be.

He wrote Alien, which is impressive enough.

He was one of the writers for the Heavy Metal movie, which is cool enough.

He was one of the writers for Total Recall, which is huge enough.

He was involved with Dark Star, which is cult enough.

But one project which made the name "Dan O'Bannon" important to me is Return of the Living Dead.

Return of the Living Dead is just a great movie. The characters seem very real to me, even (especially?) today, the effects are (mostly) excellent, and the humor that is in the movie is entirely situational (unlike the piece of shit Return of the Living Dead 2, which O'Bannon was not involved with).

This movie is also responsible for one of the few vivid memories I have of my father. He and my mother split when I was quite young, and I didn't see all that much of him except when he'd take me (sometimes with brother in tow) to the movies. In this case, I can see him now, head in his hand as Linnea Quigley danced naked on a tombstone, wondering why he ever thought it was a good idea to take boys aged 10 and 6 to see this movie. Fun times. :D

In my many years interviewing low-fame musicians, I became a fan of people willing and able to be self-critical. O'Bannon's commentary on the DVD also showed him to be fairly down to Earth and not full of his own bullshit. I've seen directors do commentary on failed (creatively, financially, or both) movies that have no connection to reality and act like the film was absolutely great and well-received and talk like every idea they had was awesome (for instance, when I listen to an M. Night Shyamalan commentary, even on his good movies, I want to punch the idiot, and I wonder if he pays people specifically to tell him how every turd he drops in the toilet is a brilliant expression of artistry). O'Bannon took a movie that was well-made and profitable (though hardly a hit) and pointed out his mistakes as a director as well as where he felt the film failed in particular instances (his frustration over one special effect in particular rings very true...).

I associate the movie with O'Bannon more than the more famous examples because this one was his. He co-wrote the movie (including the bits that gave it its charm) and directed it. His more well-known projects are primarily associated with other people (Ridley Scott, John Carpenter, Paul Verhoeven, etc).

He gave us "BRAINS!" so something that was all his has entered the general culture, even if people don't exactly know where it comes from.

So yeah, thank you Mr. O'Bannon, you did some good work, some inspirational work, and through that work made quite an impression on at least one person in this world.


  1. That's sad news. Dan was one of the first handful of film names that I knew and followed. I still watch Alien every year, it's one of the best sci-fi horror films ever made, hell, THE best scii-fi horror films.

  2. Dang, I was just reading "The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made" and his is a name that kept popping up in connection with stuff I wish had been made.

    Ave atque vale

  3. I've had a similar experience, Chris. Just the other day I saw his name connected to the aborted 1970s Dune movie project; he would've been the visual effects supervisor and ended up suffered a nervous breakdown over the project.

    At any rate, thanks for this post. O'Bannon is one of my favorite movie makers nobody's heard of for all the reasons enumerated here. And his ROTLD commentary is probably my favorite director commentary of all time, again for the reasons you outline here.

  4. A personal favorite of mine is The Resurrected. It's one of the better H. P. Lovecraft adaptations (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward).