35 Fun Facts About “Re-Animator”

Mad scientists have long been a staple of sci-fi/horror going back decades.  But none are as unapologetic or charismatic as Herbert West.  Re-Animator remains the perfect blend of fun B-movie camp with science gone wrong.

There’s a reason that it remains a cult favorite 35 years later.  So in honor of its anniversary today, we thought it would be fitting to look at 35 fun facts about Re-Animator, one for each year since release.

1. The short story “Herbert West-Re Animator” was first published as a serial between October 1921 and June 1922 in Home Brew Magazine

2. H. P. Lovecraft was only paid $5 per installment (roughly $73 in today’s money).

3. Despite being “based on” the Lovecraft story, the film’s plot has much more in common with Frankenstein.

Its sequel even based its title on Bride of Frankenstein.

4. The idea came from director Stuart Gordon feeling like there were too many Dracula movies and not enough Frankenstein themed ones.

5. Before it became film, Gordon’s plan was to adapt the story as a stage play.

6. Initially, Gordon wanted to shoot the film in black and white to give an old school monster movie feel.

7. Producer Brian Yuzna’s goal was for the movie to have the “shock value of Evil Dead” with the “production value of The Howling”.

8. Before production began, several cast and crew visited an insane asylum and morgue to for research.

9. Makeup effects artist Josh Naulin stated that Re-Animator was the bloodiest movie he had ever worked on. A total of 24 gallons of fake blood was used, which still pales in comparison to the “blood volcano” scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street released a year earlier.  That scene used an estimated 300+ gallons!

It’s easy to see why so many gallons were used for this scene!

10. Naulin used images from the Cook County Morgue for reference when designing the effects.

11. The entire production was shot in only 18 days.

12. Herbert West’s serum was nothing more than glowstick juice, which Jeffrey Combs advises people not to drink because of how incredibly toxic it is.

13. The building exterior for the medical school is the same exterior used for Cyberdyne Headquarters in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

14. Speaking of Terminator, the reanimated corpse named “Melvin” was played by Peter Kent, a stuntman who often doubled for Arnold Schwarzenegger and was even a personal friend of his.

15. Christopher Lee was offered the role of Dr. Hill, as the part was specifically written with him in mind. However, he turned it town and David Gale was cast instead.

16. There was originally a subplot about Dr. Hill have hypnotic powers, which explained why he was able to control the reanimated corpses. However it was cut, because the filmmakers decided they didn’t needed to explain it.

17. For most of the shots with Dr. Hill’s severed head, actor David Gale had to sit under a table, with his head through a hole in a tray. Because he was stuck in place for long hours, it was incredibly uncomfortable.  Jeffrey Combs even recalls having to hold his cigarette for him since he couldn’t even reach his own face.

It’s a great practical effect that no doubt would be CGI if done today.

18. During the scene with all the naked reanimated corpses, Director of Photography Mac Ahlberg expressed how challenging it was to avoid showing any genitals in the shot, as this would have likely gotten the film obscenity charges.

19. While filming, actor Robert Sampson reportedly freaked out a gas station attendant, because he was still covered in blood makeup.

20. During some of the movie’s autopsy scenes, real cow brains were used, as supplied by a local meat market.

21. Composer Richard Band, ran slightly behind schedule and had to supplement his own money to finish it.

22. The very first person that Herbert West reanimates is a character named “Hans Gruber”. It’s unclear if Alan Rickman’s character in Die Hard was directly named after this, as it came out 3 years later.

Hans Gruber from Die Hard could have used Herbert West’s serum!

23. According to Gordon himself, David Gale’s wife was furious when she saw the “head” scene with Megan (Barbara Crampton) and ultimately divorced him. It has yet to be officially confirmed if this was an actual cause of the separation however.

24. The scene itself was too much for the British Censors, and they refused to release the movie in the UK until it was cut.

25. Re-Animator was released in the US unrated, as Gordon and Yuzna knew that there was no point trying to reason with the MPAA as it was so graphic.

26. In his review, Leonard Maltin gave Re-Animator 3 stars, stating that it was actually 3 ½ but he had to penalize it half a star for ripping of Psycho with the opening theme music.

27. While Re-Animator was by no means a blockbuster, it managed to double its $900,000 budget with a $2 million gross.

28. It was nominated for Best Horror Film and Best Makeup at the Saturn Awards, but lost to Fright Night and Day of the Dead.

It was a strong year for the Best Horror Film category, with not a single weak link.

29. Since then, it has become a cult classic, and currently holds a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

30. Despite being best known for this movie, Jeffrey Combs has since joked, “I am not rich from the movie. Somebody got rich.”

31. Wound up being the first of four Lovecraft adaptations that Stuart Gordon directed. He would go on to do From Beyond (which also starred Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton), Dagon, and the Masters of Horror episode “Dreams in the Witch-House”.

32. Gordon’s concept of a stage play finally came to fruition when Re-Animator was adapted into a stage musical in 2011, which he himself was involved in.

Every horror movie needs a musical stage play adaptation!

33. Spawned two sequels (directed by producer Brian Yuzna) that took Herbert West into the Peruvian Civil War and a prison.

34. Jeffrey Combs is the only actor to appear in all three movies.

35. Brian Yuzna claims that he always had an idea for a fourth film, which would have had a strong Island of Dr. Moreau

Which of these did you already know?  Which ones surprised you?  Let us know in the comments!

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