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Blu-ray Review

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Dawn of the Dead (1978)
(2020 Limited Edition)


Starring: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger and Gaylen Ross
Distributor: Second Sight Films


Certificate: 18
Release Date: 16 November 2020

A TV station erupts into violence and chaos when an argument breaks-out live on air about whether the dead, who are rising again, should morally be destroyed or saved. However, the point becomes academic when the police and army raid a troublesome tenement block, only to find it running ‘a-dead’ with zombies. A group of four individuals flee the area in a helicopter, but the problem is widespread. Stephen and Francine are a couple from the TV station, and Peter and Roger are crack marksmen. After collecting fuel from an abandoned pump, they land on the roof of a shopping precinct and section-off a protective area. They create a plan to block-off the outside entrances with trucks, and then pick-off the zombies already inside. That leaves the supplies and amenities of the entire shopping centre open to them. However, matters take a turn for the worse when Stephen is bitten, Francine is discovered to be pregnant, and a very large gang of motorcycle raiders turn up...

Dawn of the Dead from 1978 was written and directed by zombie master George A. Romero (he was also credited as Editor), and is certainly his most successful film after the classic The Night of the Living Dead. In fact, many people actually prefer this one. It’s described as a social satire; I don’t know about the ‘social’ part, but it’s certainly satirical. I’m pretty certain the description comes from the plot reasoning that one of the places that unthinking, instinctive undead will automatically head for is the mall – essentially, because it had been a large part of their life. With that logic you would assume they would all head to their individual homes or places of work. Nevertheless, the film balances a fine line between a life and death serious situation caused by a virus, and a fun-filled comedy of gruesome dark humour. The music announces the mood of any given situation, informing us in no uncertain terms what to expect. The soundtrack is by The Goblins (an electronic throbbing beat) and Italian horror movie director Dario Argento (jaunty pieces of juvenile comedy-by-numbers). Argento was also the script consultant. Tom Savini created the excellent Make-up and Special Effects, which went a long way towards making this epic work so well, with some gristly moments in places and blood aplenty. He was also a stuntman on the film, and as an actor played one of the more prominent motorcycle gang leaders.

Second Sight Films has released two Limited Edition collections of the film. One is a 4K UHD set which contains 3 x 4K discs and 1 x Blu-ray disc of extras (plus 3 x Ltd. Ed. CDs). The other (which I am reviewing here) incorporates 4 x Blu-ray discs, 3 x Audio discs, and Boxset additions. The amount of material included is truly phenomenal, so take a deep breath…

Blu-ray Disc 1 contains the Theatrical Cut of the film (127 mins) from a new 4K scan of the Original Camera Negative, supervised and approved by DoP Michael Gornick. The Audio New Restoration is presented in Mono, Stereo and 5.1. There is a Commentary by George A. Romero, Tom Savini and Christine Forrest; a New Commentary by Travis Crawford; and New optional English Subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Blu-ray Disc 2 contains the Extended (‘Cannes’) Cut (137 mins) from a 4K scan of the Theatrical Cut Original Camera Negative and a 4K scan of the Extended Cut Colour Reversal Internegative. There is a DTS-HD Master Audio; a Commentary by Producer Richard P. Rubinstein; and the English Subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Blu-ray Disc 3 contains the Argento Cut (120 mins) from a 4K scan of the Interpositive by Michele De Angelis at Backlight Digital, Rome. There is an Audio DT-HD Master for Mono, Stereo and 5.1; a Commentary by Ken Foree (Peter), Scott Reiniger (Roger), Gaylen Ross (Francine), and David Emge (Stephen); and the New English Subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Blu-ray Disc 4 contains a number of Special Features: A New Feature – Zombies and Bikers; New Feature – Memories of Monroeville: A Tour of the Mall; New Feature – Raising the Dead: The Production Logistics; New Feature – The FX of Dawn, with Tom Savini; New Feature – Dummies! Dummies! An Interview with Richard France; New Feature – The Lost Romero Dawn Interview (previously unreleased); Super 8 Mail Footage by zombie extra Ralph Langer (with optional commentary); Document of the Dead: The Original Cut; Document of the Dead: The Definitive Cut (with optional commentary); The Dead Will Walk 2014 Documentary; Trailers, TV and Radio Spots.

Audio Disc 1 contains the Goblin Soundtrack (17 tracks). Audio Discs 2 and 3 contain Parts 1 & 2 of Dawn of the Dead: A De Wolfe Library Compilation.

The Packaging contains: a Rigid Box with Lid featuring the Original Artwork; Two Inner Digipaks; Dissecting the Dead – a 160 Page Hardback Book featuring 17 new essays, archive article and George A. Romero interview, plus original marketing, artwork and merchandise images and behind-the-scenes stills; Dawn of the Dead: The Novelisation book by George A. Romero and Susanna Sparrow (with exclusive artwork).

Wow! I have watched this movie a handful of times over the years. Personally, I believe it is overly long for the plot, but if you haven’t seen it I would suggest it is definitely worth a look. You’ll be amazed at the amount of extras, the majority of which had to be adorned with various make-up and clothing. The extras on Blu-ray disc 4 add up to a total running time of around 7 hours and 30 minutes. This seems to suggest that the trio of film versions would have fitted comfortably onto two discs rather than three. That aside, for any collector of Romero zombie films, or for individual fans of this one, a collection such of this will be revered. It is a suitable tribute to a sadly departed talent.


Ty Power

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