DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Dawn of the Dead - Special Edition

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Osadciw, Mar 3, 2004.

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  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    Dawn of the Dead
    Special Edition





    Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
    Film Release: 1979

    U.S. Rating: Not Rated
    Canadian Rating: 18A

    Film Length: 127 minutes
    Genre: Horror

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, DD2.0 mono, DD2.0 Surround
    Subtitles: None
    Closed Captioned: Yes

    SLP: USD$19.98





    Release Date: March 09, 2004


    Film Rating
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    On March 9th comes a great movie on DVD. While it’s not the Casablanca of the olden days of film and not Lord of the Rings of today’s extravagant features, it did turn heads in the late ‘70s becoming one of the most classic zombie films known. George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is the follow up to his very successful NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD released eleven years prior. Dawn was even followed up with the final chapter of the “DEAD” series, DAY OF THE DEAD. By far the most loved of the three by most fans (and there are those who will argue that); Dawn of the Dead is also my favorite as it fills the screen with gore, laughs, and lots of fun. Turn out the lights, turn on the sound, and hit play to the new DiviMax Series from Anchor Bay’s release of Dawn of the Dead!

    This DVD is released just in time for the March 19th, 2004 U.S. theatrical release of the remake of Dawn of the Dead (March 26th in the U.K.). As an avid watcher and lover of horror films, all I can say is “IT’S ABOUT TIME!” While I’m not always a fan of remakes, for too long has there been a dead spot in time for horror films released theatrically and being successful during its release. The theaters were so vacant of horror films over the last fifteen years you’d think the zombies had sucked the brains of the upper management of the movie ideas factory…maybe that’s what they did…that must explain the new influx of horror films theatrically, now that they’ve seen a positive reaction from the new and more aggressive generations of teens and 20’s individuals. A successful remake of such a great horror classic is bound to have a new generation of people pick up this DVD and continue having people feeding on horror and zombies. In front of the TV we’ll all become zombies ourselves! Maybe that’s their plan…?

    It’s also about time that a stellar release of the original DAWN is given to us fans who have cradled this movie over the years in our collections. The film has made it from the theaters to bad looking VHS tapes on the rental shelves. Acceptable DVDs were released from Anchor Bay in 1997 (137 minute Director's Cut) and 1999 (U.S. Cut). The non-anamorphic Director's Cut was taken from the master Elite Entertainment used for their laserdisc releases years earlier. Now Anchor Bay has gone back to give this film some royal treatment using their High Definition mastering process for the best picture for 480i DVD. Sometime later this year Anchor Bay will release a more extensive edition including Dario Argento’s European cut of the film. His cut was based on a deal between him and Romero since Argento was one of the major financers of this film.

    For you squeamish people out there, Dawn of the Dead isn’t a scary film, nor is it as gory as its successor DAY OF THE DEAD. This movie is quite funny actually and is light-hearted almost all of the way through. Imagine the dead walking the earth, slow moving zombies with the intelligence of a rock. The only way to kill these guys is to shoot them in the head. So we have rednecks taking it to sport in the fields aiming at them with their rifles from far away. Then we have our four strangers flying off in a helicopter looking for shelter. They land on a shopping mall where the dead wander aimlessly. After making it safe to roam around in the mall by killing off some ugly dead dudes, how much fun do you think you would have? Lots of fun! This movie doesn’t get embarrassed to show us how much we love our material goods, even at the brink of danger. But still, I’d still have a helluva time running around in a mall with no one there. Although the mall music would probably kill me before the zombies do, and the music score from The Goblin really doesn’t help me. It felt more carnivalish if anything, but it was so cheesy it suits the mood on screen and keeps the silliness of zombie knocking and flesh eating visuals upbeat. Heck, even the blood is bright red! Tom Savini’s gore art and props are simpler in this film than in DAY OF THE DEAD. Almost anyone will be able to stomach this movie. ‘A little green make-up here - and we have a zombie!’ So how good do the shopping zombies look??


    Video Quality? [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    All I can say is wow! This widescreen enhanced 1.85:1 image is fabulous! There is little I can criticize about this picture. For a film of its caliber and age the print is pristine from any major and minor artifacts. Resolution is top-notch in most scenes as only a few night scenes appear slightly out of focus. Film grain is kept to a minimum to being non-existent and as I watched the whole film my eyes were kept concentrated to what was going on rather than defects in the image (because there were none). Colours are excellent with just the perfect amount of saturation for this film. Shadow detail is excellent and the brightness scale is gradual right up to white, so it never looks like the picture is too dark or too bright. It’s just perfect! Way to go, Anchor Bay!


    Audio Quality? [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    There are four soundtrack options on this disc. BOTH DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 encodings are available. Both are a decent job of audio re-purposing but neither stand out among the best re-purposing efforts. Bass is at a minimum, but both midrange and high frequencies are comfortable to hear – not too forward and not too bright. Dialogue is always firmly placed in the center channel and shows off the recording of the time. Surprisingly enough, the DTS encoding seemed to reveal the characteristics of the microphone capturing the recorded voices. The rest of the limited-range sound effects sound similar when both formats decoded and compared. This re-purposing effort duplicates a lot of what is up in the front soundstage and puts it in the back at a lesser volume and timed slightly different for spatial effect. There are only a few instances of direct surround information, for example, the bullets ricocheting off the pipes all around you during the boiler room scene. There could have been a lot more creative effort for this release as there could have been for DAY OF THE DEAD as well. At least they tried. The music has a wide soundstage across all channels and is recorded louder than the dialogue, which can be whisper quiet sometimes. If watching this film late at night, you’ll definitely need to ultra compress the audio just to get it the same level. It’s nice to know that at least re-purposing efforts of older recordings can still have some dynamic range.

    There is also a Dolby 2.0 surround encoding as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoding for the preservationists of the original recording. The Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 encodings are quieter than the DTS, DD2.0 mono, and the commentary track. With the last two being the loudest of all.


    Special Features? [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Released as a single disc DVD in a keepcase with classy shiny gold lettering, the disc has a few features on it. First up is the audio commentary with Writer-Director George A. Romero, his wife and Assistant Director Chris Romero, and special make-up effects artist Tom Savini. The commentary is moderated by Perry Martin and is super-fun to listen to. The three of the talk about everything they can remember on the set, the people they used, why and how they did what they did. It is a must-listen for fans and one of the more entertaining commentaries I’ve heard in a while. I find it interesting how people get around budget restraints. With good (and hard) work it always seems to pay off. This disc also has two theatrical trailers, three TV Spots, and nine radio spots (30-60 seconds each). Twenty-five pictures can be seen in the Poster & Advertising Gallery, we also get a George A. Romero Bio as well as a Comic Book Preview of Dawn of the Dead, comic book style. How comical is that? A four-page collector’s book is the final freebee with chapter stops on the back page. I imagine the pickings are slim on this disc simply because the rest are slated for the bigger box set later this year. I’m hoping for the alternate ending to be included on it. If you are really a fan, you have to pick up the next set for a reason, don’t you?


    Thoughts…

    This is a great movie-only release that looks and sounds fabulous. I’ve been waiting a long time to see Dawn of the Dead in the best bloody picture possible. This disc satisfies my zombie craving. I’m also one of those who is looking forward to Romero’s fourth entry to the dead series that is still a few years away. “Dead Reckoning” is the title of choice although “Land of the Dead” is also under consideration by others. Or will it be titled Dusk of the Dead to complete this ‘quadrilogy’? Whatever the name, we can only hope that Romero gets his way without too much studio meddling like in the past and hope he has enough funding to make the zombie movie he’s always dreamed of. For now, Dawn of the Dead steals the show and I’d check it you if you haven’t seen it, especially if you plan to see the remake. If I were you, I’d recommend running for the store on March 9th to pick up this DVD or else the Dead will come for you…

    04.03.04
    Michael Osadciw
     
  2. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    Even though the alternate ending is not on this disc, if anyone's interested in knowing what it is, here it is:

    There was an alternate "suicide" ending for "Dawn of the Dead": After the bikers let the zombies in, and Peter and Fran try to escape, Peter tells Fran to leave without him because he doesn't want to go. Peter decides to kill himself instead of fighting off the zombies and Fran goes up to the helicopter. She decides she doesn't want to go alone so she sticks her head up into the blades and gets decapitated. The credits role showing the helicopter still running and at the end, sputtering and running out of fuel.

    That would be interesting to see, yes??

    Michael
     
  3. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    Thanks for the review Michael!

    i'm swooning thinking about this release.
    unlike a lot of people it seems, i haven't found any copies out here, and its going to be a long 5 days to go.

    i'm tickled to death about even this modest release.
    between this and Alien, two of my favorite horror films from the 70's have gotten sweet treatment on disc in the last few months.
     
  4. jez

    jez Stunt Coordinator

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    Would be interesting but they never shot it [​IMG]
     
  5. Tommy G

    Tommy G Screenwriter

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    Woo hoo!!! Just received notice by DDD that this shipped. I can't wait as I haven't seen this in OAR in 24 years.
     
  6. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter
    Supporter

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    There are conflicting stories as to whether or not any of the original ending was shot. I think that current opinion is that a shot of Gaylen Ross standing up to commit suicide in the blades of the helicopter
    was filmed, but nothing else. Savini states in the commentary on this new disc that the head that is blown up at the beginning of the film was taken from the mold of Ross' head created for the ending.


    I doubt we'll see any of the footage shot for the ending. Who knows if it even still exists. Remember, this was a long time ago and a low-budget film.
     
  7. Matt Czyz

    Matt Czyz Supporting Actor

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    I apologize if this has been answered already, but is the video and audio transfer going to be the same on the set coming out later this year?
     
  8. Nick Graham

    Nick Graham Screenwriter

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    Tom Savini recently published a photo on his website of a test shot they did for the chopper-blade suicide. Romero says he doesn't even remember shooting the alternate ending, and doesn't think they did.
     
  9. Ian Currie

    Ian Currie Stunt Coordinator

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    I already have mine and can confirm that the transfer is outstanding. I'm extrememly picky and have zero complaints with this transfer.
     
  10. NeilK

    NeilK Stunt Coordinator

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    Unfortunately, this is only the theatrical cut. Later on this year, there are plans to release both cuts in a spiffy 2 disc set. The only reason that this rushed DVD came out was to inspire people to go and see the new remake. I'll be saving my money and waiting for the definitive version of this film which contains around twenty minutes of extra footage in addition to the theatrical cut and a slew of extras.
     
  11. Robert Ringwald

    Robert Ringwald Cinematographer

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    Actually, the reports were that it might even be a 3-5 disc set.

    I personally think it'll be 3
     
  12. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    I've heard the new set will be a three disc set with potentially three cuts of the film. From what I've read on another website, the Argento cut features less gore and more talk... Oddly enough, I never got around to seeing it.

    Mike
     
  13. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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    Since I'm not a HUGE fan of "Dawn", I'll be happy buying this release and not the 15 disc set later this year. [​IMG]
     
  14. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    A "super-fun" commentary, tons of advertising features, and more only rate two stars for special features?

    And the people discussing the alternate ending might consider using spoiler blocks. . .
     
  15. Chad Ferguson

    Chad Ferguson Supporting Actor

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    I think the amount of detail that goes into the next edition(which will be a lot either way) is totally dependant on how well the remake does and is received.
    Thank you
     
  16. JayF

    JayF Stunt Coordinator

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    Personally I'm glad this is the version they're releasing first. I've always preferred this version over the longer cut and I LOVE the Goblins soundtrack. To me this is the definitive version.
     
  17. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    I think the Goblins music was hilarious...it's so corny it rules! But see...it's a really good corny and it keeps the film fun and upbeat.

    Even zombies need to shop. [​IMG]
    Michael
     
  18. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

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    Dawn is an excellent horror masterpiece, and I was lucky enough to find my copy early. The transfer is near flawless, and the commentary is a fantastic listen. Great disc, and its great to finally have a quality release of this classic.
     
  19. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

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    BTW, here is a shot of the alternate ending that Savini posted on his website:

    http://www.savini.com/images/gaylonheadtest.jpg

    I find it odd that there's no visible helicopter blade though. Guess they were testing it or something.
     
  20. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    Michael:

    The original Anchor Bay DVD release was NOT the "European cut", it was an earlier cut of the film prepared by Romero for screening at the Cannes Film Festival. There are THREE "official" versions of DAWN OF THE DEAD- the Cannes cut which runs about 140-minutes (which is the first one release by Anchor Bay, ported over from the Elite laserdisc set), the U.S. theatrical cut which runs about 126-minutes and is presented on this new DVD (which is an tightened-up version of the Cannes cut and includes more Goblin music), and Dario Argento's European cut of the film, which runs 119-minutes and contains most of the extra gore from the Cannes cut, but also elliminates several scenes from both the Cannes AND U.S. theatrical cut (for example, the zombie who stands up into the helicoptor blades is gone, plus the first half of the scene where they blockade the mall with the trucks), and has several addition lines of dialogue that aren't in EITHER of the "Romero cuts" of DAWN OF THE DEAD, AND it has some Goblin cues that aren't in either Romero version, while at the same time elliminating other Goblin cues that Romero did use, so it really is a different beast altogether...

    Also to the poster who said this DVD was being released to drum up box-office for the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake- why on earth would Anchor Bay do that? They have nothing to do with the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake. Rather, I think it's the opposite- Anchor Bay is releasing this "theatrical cut" DVD to CASH IN on the release of the remake. They're not trying to make more money for the remake, they're trying to use the awareness of the remake to make more money themselves. Hell, if it helps them put more effort and money into their DAWN OF THE DEAD "Uber-release" later this year (which will hopefully contain all THREE cuts of the film, plus extensive extras), I saw the more power to them!

    Vincent
     

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