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Dawn of the Dead (1978) DVDetails
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2004

Format: Movie
By:   George Romero (Writer/Director)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   March 2004 (DVD Release)
Review Date:   March 26, 2004
Audience Rating:   UNRATED, Baby!
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

So you just got home from watching the number one movie in America, Dawn of the Dead. Now you might be inclined to check out the original version. Maybe you want to see what all the fuss was about that made them want to remake it. If you're already a fan of the shambling dead, it might be to refresh your memory of the classic (or if you disliked the remake, to get back to the rotted goodness of slow shamblers.) Unfortunately, those who wanted to see the original Dawn have had a hard time of it recently. Both the theatrical and Director's Cut versions were released on DVD, but they have been out of print for a while.

But now your zombie needs can be met: Anchor Bay has re-released the theatrical cut on a new disc. They do this because they are dedicated to bringing the fans the best in horror on DVD, like the four versions of Army of Darkness, the rest of the Evil Dead flicks, Hellraiser, and so forth. It is not just a cheap marketing cash-in. How dare you impugn their integrity by thinking that.

I won't be reviewing the film here, except to say there is a reason this flick is considered the gold standard of zombie movies. Sure there are a few goofy bits, some of which come from the film being 26 years old (Hare Krishna zombies), but it's still one of the top horror movies ever. Siskel and Ebert both liked it. And while Ebert was a genre fan -- he even gave a "thumbs up" to The Return of Swamp Thing for crying out loud -- it was rare for Siskel to like a genre film. (For you young 'uns, Siskel judged the movies with Ebert back in the day. For those of you my age or older, he was the skinny one.) The point is, the film is a must-see for any true horror fan.

This new DVD is in Anchor Bay's DiviMax format, which means that they have tried to make this the best-looking transfer of the movie to the DVD format possible, including some HD tweaking. It is the first of their DiviMax line that I have purchased, and I have to say that this one heck of a good-looking print. Crisp, clear, and offered in anamorphic widescreen only.

Now this is just the theatrical cut of the film. The full-blown deluxe director's cut with the extra scenes, special packaging, and even more special extras is due sometime near the end of 2004. Again, not to make more money, but to provide it to those purists who just want the film the way it was released. (Insert standard Boxed Set joke here.)

The sound has been spruced up to Dolby and DTS Surround specs. Now you can hear the groans of the dead from all points of your living room and listen to Goblin's soundtrack in all its glory.

As for the extras, Anchor Bay does a decent job. They provide all the standards: theatrical trailers, menus, TV ads, and, most interestingly, radio ads. Each ad ends with the deep voice announcer guy proclaiming that due to the intensity of the movie no children would be allowed.

There are also the still galleries that show a lot of the newspaper ads for the film. One fun bit was seeing the bill of Dawn, Alien, and The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, which truly was Don Knotts' and Tim Conway's most terrifying film.

You also get the standard info booklet, a sneak peek at the IDW Dawn of the Dead comic book adaptation (just the cover, really), and, best of all, the new commentary track with director George Romero, his wife Christine, and makeup legend Tom Savini. The commentary track is a ball to listen to, as they spill stories from filming and talk about how certain effects were done. It is a recent track too, not lifted from previous DVD or laserdisc editions. It's almost like they're all hanging out on the couch with you as you watch the film.

Overall it is a very cool DVD. If the only copy you have is some old beat-up VHS tape, if you prefer the theatrical cut, or if you just don't want to wait for the deluxe edition, then it is worth your cash. It's also hard to resist since I found it at a major retailer (one of the "best" for buys, if you get my meaning) for just $11.99. At that price even the undead know that it's a good deal. So slide it into the player, relax on your couch, and feast.

There’s no more room in hell, which is why RevSF contributor Gary “Sneezy the Squid” Mitchel is walking the earth.

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