The third film in George Romero’s zombie saga, Day of the Dead is a claustrophobic character study of a group of surviving Army soldiers, scientists, and civilians struggling to not only find a cure but also how to get along with each other. Not nearly as action-oriented as the previous entry, Dawn of the Dead, the film does manage to showcase the talents of make-up artist Tom Savini, especially during the gore-fest finale.
Studio: Scream Factory
Distributed By: Shout! Factory
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 41 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 09/17/2013
In an underground military bunker in Florida, a team consisting of Army soldiers, scientists, and civilians are conducting experiments on captured zombies, desperately looking for either a cure or a way to completely annihilate the now-thriving zombie population that has overtaken the planet. Tensions, however, are running high, as their future looks more and more grim with the supply of food and ammunition running out and losing soldiers to zombie attacks. Captain Rhodes (Joe Pilato) has taken command of the bunker, who believes the only way out is to wipe the zombies from the face of the Earth. Sarah (Lori Cardille) has been assisting the crazed Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty), whom everyone has nicknamed Dr. Frankenstein. But Dr. Logan has been conducting other, more secretive experiments, trying to tame and train the zombies to interact and co-mingle among the living.
The Production Rating: 3/5
Day of the Dead is writer-director George Romero’s commentary on the loss of trust with one’s government and each other, and to some extent that is the film’s strength and weakness. The strength is in the dialogue and interactions between the characters, the weakness being the lack of action set pieces to keep most horror fans occupied until the third act. Joe Pilato is over the top as Captain Rhodes, conveying a man literally at the end of his wits and ropes. Lori Cardille plays Sarah with bravado as the heroine, with an underlying vulnerability. Richard Liberty seems to be having a blast as the mad Dr. Logan, delivering his lines with, perhaps, too much glee. The real star of the film, though, is the makeup work by Tom Savini and his crew of artists, which included Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger (the “N” and “B” of KNB). Day of the Dead is a showcase, highlighting the now veteran makeup effects artist (and, to some, legend) at the top of his game. It is definitely not for the squeamish.
A label on the outer sleeve indicates this is an “All-new film transfer,” and I’d have to agree. The 1080p transfer, compressed using the AVC codec, approximates the film’s intended 1.85:1 transfer by opening up the frame, top and bottom, to 1.78:1. Overall, this is a vast improvement over previous releases, but the print does have minor nicks, scratches, and dirt, although they are not distracting. Colors are consistent and well-saturated, highlighting the gruesomely gory makeup effects. Detail is a bit soft, though, but keep in mind this was an ultra low budget film produced in the mid 1980s, and filmed under less than ideal conditions.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono soundtrack does what it needs to do, providing clear and distinguishable dialogue. The lossless soundtrack reveals some of the limitations of the original master (Rhodes’ screaming monologues occasionally suffer from distortion), but this is probably the best it is ever going to sound.
Audio Rating: 3/5
World’s End: The Legacy of Day of the Dead (HD; 1:25:26): This is a fascinating new documentary produced for this release by Red Shirt Pictures, featuring lots of behind the scenes footage along with interviews with most of the cast (including, but not limited to, Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato, Sherman Howard, Gary Klar, etc.) as well as Romero, Savini, and many other key crew members.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Underground: The Day of the Dead Mines (HD; 7:37): The other new feature on this disc, Ed Demko of Culy Magazine hosts a tour of the Wampum Mines Commerce Center, with some help from former mines employee Skip Docchio.
The rest of the special features have been ported over from the previous Anchor Bay release, upconverted to HD. Missing, however, is an audio interview with actor Richard Liberty and the documentary The Many Days of Day of the Dead.
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director George Romero, Makeup Effects Artist Tom Savini, Production Designer Cletus Anderson, and Actress Lori Cardille
Audio Commentary with Roger Avery
Day of the Dead: Behind the Scenes (30:42): A collection of home movies, shot on standard def video, from Tom Savini’s personal library.
Wampum Mines Promotional Video (8:12): At first, I thought this was a joke, but apparently this is a real promotional video (obviously made by a local industrial film company) for potential clients.
Theatrical Trailer (5:55) A collection of four trailers.
TV Spots (1:35): Three very brief television ads are presented here.
Stills Gallery: A collection of various posters, lobby cards, promotional stills, and behind the scenes photos.
Reversible Cover: Owners can choose between new cover art by Nathan Thomas Wilner, or the original poster art.
The new, nearly 90 minute documentary is reason enough for fans to snatch this one up, but they may want to hold on to the previous Anchor Bay release, especially if the interview with Richard Liberty is important to them. Otherwise, this is another stellar disc from Shout! Factory.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
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