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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Dawn of the Dead


Starring: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger and Gaylen Ross
Arrow Video
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: 18
Available 19 October 2009

When civilisation ambles towards the zombie apocalypse where else should Americans feel safety and comfort other than in a shopping mall...?

Dawn of the Dead (1978) is the seminal zombie film from which all others that used the genre to comment on modern man sprang. Written and directed by George A. Romero the film won a paltry two awards and was further nominated for another two, only goes to show that the Academy doesn’t know a good film when it sees it.

The Blu-ray disc of the film presents three different versions. The first is the Theatrical Cut (2 hrs, 07 min, 03 sec), this is the only cut of the film which is in high definition, with audio options for either a 2.0 LPCM or a 5.1 DTS HD audio master track. The Director's Cut (2 hrs, 19 min, 25 sec) and the Dario Argento’s Cut (1 hr, 59 min, 05 sec) are in 480p, although the prints remain good. Personally, of the non high def versions, the Argento cut is better, the shorter running time allows for a better pace to the film and the cut has the advantage of the Goblin score.

The story must be pretty well known by now; either from watching the original, the not bad remake of the numerous wannabes that followed the film release. A group of survivors flee the zombie infested city to find shelter in a large shopping mall, but their fortress soon becomes their prison. Even though it contains everything that they need to survive, they find that they cannot exist in a world of super commercialism. The zombies also want access to the mall, not particularly to attack the survivors but because they retain a part of their old memories and behaviours and they wish to shop.

As you can see social commentary, comedy and buckets of blood make strange bed fellows in this film. The odd thing is that it actually works very well. What could be more absurd than humans’ obsession with shopping. Each of the elements of the film work well individually but also integrate seamlessly with each other, so that you never really question the more slapstick elements of the film any more than you would question the walking dead.

Across the three Blu’s there is a wealth of extras. Disc one has Document of the Dead (1 hr, 24 min, 03 sec) which is a clever and comprehensive look at the film and Romero’s work in general. There is the rather oddly titled Deleted Scenes (7 min, 08 sec) which has more of the actors talking about the film than actual deleted material. The Lost Interview (20 min, 20 sec) is a much more recent retrospective on the film and Fan of the Dead (51 min, 52 sec) is a film which revisits many of the locations as well as including convention footage. Disc one also has a couple of full length commentaries, the first from the Romeros and Savini, which is well worth a listen and the second from producer Richard Rubinstein. All the extras are presented in standard definition.

Disc two contains The Dead Will Walk (1 hr, 14 min, 55 sec) which has the film makers looking back at the film, and disc three has Scream Greats (52 min, 42 sec) which concentrates on Tom Savini who was responsible for makeup and special effects. The disc is wrapped up with a collection of publicity material, TV spots and Trailers.

For once we were given a finished product which comes with a two sided poster, a fourteen page pamphlet containing an informative essay about the film from Calum Waddell and the choice of four different covers.

All in all this is a pretty comprehensive look at Dawn of the Dead. True, only the first version of the film is in high definition, but then the film has never looked so good. The other two versions are very acceptable. Dawn of the Dead changed forever zombie films elevating them up to social comment; finally we have a version which the film deserves.


Charles Packer

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