DAWN OF THE DEAD (1979)
Directed by George A. Romero
Written by George A. Romero
Produced by Claudio and Dario Argento
Starring David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger and Gaylen Ross
Special Make-Up Effects by Tom Savini
Music by GOBLIN
The bodies of the recently dead have "reactivated" and have a nasty craving for human flesh. Four survivors take refuge by flying away in a helicopter and end up landing on top of a huge indoor shopping mall that becomes their home. They must fight of the living dead, a bunch of hippie bikers and survive the fact that society as they know it is crumbling around them.
George A. Romero delivers a powerhouse film chock full of gore, blood and guts. But there is more here ... likable characters, a great apocalyptic plot line and social commentary that is never heavy handed yet bites at you as hard as the zombies. This sequal to Romero's own 1968 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a huge improvement yet it is a totally different kind of film and it is interesting to see how he progresses the storyline with a new set of characters.
In short, DAWN OF THE DEAD is a masterpiece of horror and easily Romero's best film.
DAWN OF THE DEAD has been released on DVD twice in two slightly different versions. First came the so-called DIRECTOR'S CUT which is actually a version of the film that Romero rushed together in order to get the film to the infamous Canne's film festival. After the festival, Romero did some more editing to the film, cutting out some sequences and changing the music in parts and that version (U.S. THEATRICAL CUT) was finally released in the U.S. to packed movie theatres in 1979.
For years the standard 126 minute U.S. THEATRICAL CUT was made available on video in a variety of releases, but it wasn't until 1996 that ELITE ENTERTAINMENT brought out a wonderfull digitally remastered version of the film ... except they goofed just a bit by lavishing this special treatment on the so-called DIRECTOR'S CUT of the film. Yes, I am sorry to say, but despite the extra footage, the DIRECTOR'S CUT is a let down. Romero obviously knew what he was doing when he took that version and cut it down into the standard U.S. THEATRICAL VERSION.
Anyway, the DIRECTOR'S CUT came out on DVD video thanks to ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT (who used the ELITE ENTERTAINMENT video transfer) in 1997. This version was presented in a slightly widescreen ratio of approximately 1.85:1 (actually, more like 1.66:1). It included several trailers and a neat menu system if I do say so myself but none of the extras from the ELITE ENTERTAINMENT LaserDisc release which included more such as a Romero/Savini commentary track. The picture quality was good, but a bit too contrasty and overall the LD looked better even though it did lack the extra bit of sharpness inherent to the DVD video format. You might notice that I'm using the past tense here and yes, that is on purpose. This DVD video release is now officially out-of-print and although AMAZON.COM still has an info page for it they are no longer accepting orders for it. However, I have seen this release in some local retail stores so there must still be some left out there somewhere.
Well, the wrong was corrected finally in 1999 when ANCHOR BAY ENTERAINMENT released a very nicely digitally remastered DVD video of the U.S. THEATRICAL CUT. This release both looks and sounds better than the DIRECTOR'S CUT plus it is the way the film was intended to be seen by Director George A. Romero ... or is it? As if to slap us in the face, ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT screwed up yet again and included a few extra minutes in this version. You heard me right. Although this version is ALMOST the U.S. THEATRICAL CUT it does include snippets of footage here and there that until now have never been a part of the standard edit that was originally released in theatres back in 1979.
For what's it worth though, like I said, this version is the best quality release of the film to
date and it does come close to being the true U.S. THEATRICAL CUT. It is in the widescreen ratio
but unlike the DIRECTOR'S CUT the matting here is slithly less and it looks much better that way.
It comes with some theatrical trailers and a few other extras, such as TV commercials for the MONROEVILL MALL from
the time around the filming of the movie (that's the mall, located near PITTSBURGH, that the movie
was filmed at). Also included are some scenes from Dario Argento's cut of the film, known in
Italy as ZOMBI. What's this you say? Well, there is yet a third version of this film that is
available on DVD video now thanks to Japan. They have released ZOMBI (sometimes spelled ZOMBIE)
and this is a version of the film that Dario Argento edited for Italy and some other foreign
markets. It is actually the shortest cut of the film, running at around 118 minutes, but it
does include footage NOT in the other two versions mentioned above. Also, Argento used ALL of
the music that GOBLIN recorded for the movie, whereas Romero only used portions of their
soundtrack recording. Although the music GOBLIN created for DAWN OF THE DEAD is some of their
best work, it doesn't always work well with the film so again, Romero was correct in only using
the appropriate portions of their soundtrack, although I higly recommend this soundtrack if you
can find it (you will find it listed on the SOUNDTRACKS FOR SALE section of this web site).
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