Dawn of the Dead (1978)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: May 14, 2015
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Director

George A. Romero

Release Date(s)

1978 (October 2, 2007)

Studio(s)

Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: B-
  • Extras Grade: B-

Dawn of the Dead (1978 - Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

One could spin yarns of seeking out Dawn of the Dead when they were young at the local video store, or of the excitement when it first hit DVD. Those were much simpler days. Before the remake came along, and before zombie lore soaked into the mainstream, Dawn of the Dead was a movie that horror fans everywhere held high as one of their favorite films of the genre. Today, it almost seems tame by comparison to what came later. But the point of the film isn’t exploitation, it’s satire.

Social commentary is the key component to Dawn of the Dead. The story itself is simple: The world gets taken over by zombies and four characters decide to lay low in a shopping mall in hopes that it will all blow over. With a story so basic, it’s almost a requirement that you’re going to want more than what’s on the surface. The thing is though, what’s on the surface IS the satire. Consumerism, in this case a society literally devouring itself while lumbering mindlessly through the mall, is in your face at all times in Dawn of the Dead. It’s that kind of detail that George Romero was known for in all of his Dead films (that is, the original trilogy).

Still, Dawn of the Dead is basically a living comic book romp. It can throw in a bit of slapstick now and again, the zombie make-up is miles behind what Tom Savini would later do in Day of the Dead, and the blood and gore looks basically like tempera paint. But none of that is really counts against the film, as we still have four main characters that we like and care about. Whether you’re in it for its social commentary, its zombie carnage, or its characters, Dawn of the Dead is a film that’s easy to enjoy.

Anchor Bay has provided a very strong presentation of the film on Blu-ray. This has always been a film that lacks polish, and this transfer doesn’t do much to improve that. I’m much more concerned about clarity, color, and a lack of artificial augmentation. Thankfully, my fears were needless. This is a great looking presentation. Although grain isn’t consistent, detail always is, right down to the costumes and the blood soaked into them. Skin tones look great, and the film’s color palette is well-balanced, especially the gore, which stands out more than ever before. Shadow details are strong and contrast is also pleasing. For the audio presentation, there are three options, all in English: 5.1 and mono Dolby Digital, as well as 5.1 LPCM. Right off the bat, I’m pleased to have the original mono soundtrack, although I would have preferred that it was uncompressed. The LPCM track is good but not great. Dialogue is fine, although it does tend to get drowned out at times, and both sound effects and score seem even more dated than they already are in this larger sound field. There isn’t much in the way of dynamics or surround activity as it’s a very front heavy presentation, but there is some use of LFE and occasional ambience. For my money, the mono track is the way to go, but it’s all a matter of preference, and having a choice is welcome. There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.

The extras selection on this Blu-ray release is quite small compared to another release, but I’ll get hat in a minute. There’s an audio commentary with George Romero, Tom Savini, and assistant director Chris Romero; the Film Fast Facts subtitle option; the fantastic The Dead Will Walk documentary; a set of on-set home movies; Monroeville Mall tour footage; a Monroeville Mall commercial; trailers (5 in all, including 2 for the U.S., one for international, and two for Germany); TV spots (3 for the U.S. and 2 for the U.K.); radio spots (3, all from the U.S.); and a preview of upcoming Blu-ray releases.

Dawn of the Dead also previously had a lavish DVD release in the form of Anchor Bay’s Ultimate Edition DVD boxed set. Not included from that boxed set are both the extended and European versions of the film; a poster & advertising gallery; a George A. Romero bio; a Dawn of the Dead comic book preview insert; an audio commentary with producer Richard P. Rubinstein on the extended version; a behind-the-scenes photo gallery; a memorabilia gallery; production stills; an audio commentary on the European version with actors David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, and Gaylen Ross; an international lobby card gallery; an international poster & advertising gallery; an international pressbook gallery; a home video & soundtrack artwork gallery; a Dario Argento bio; and the Document of the Dead documentary. Also missing from that release are the Easter eggs hidden within including a short interview with Tom Savini about a practical joke he once pulled; a short interview with Gaylen Ross; a testimonial from a Buddist Monk on Dawn of the Dead; an interview with Chris Romero about how she met her George; an interview with special effects artist Greg Nicotero on how Tom Savini created the helicopter zombie; and an interview with the man who played the screwdriver zombie. Missing even still from the Arrow Video U.K. DVD release is the Fan of the Dead featurette and the fantastic Scream Greats documentary (which has never had a U.S. DVD or Blu-ray release). Of course, there are also missing extras from the Document of the Dead DVD release, which I’ve covered in better detail in my review of The Definitive Document of the Dead.

To say that this Blu-ray is incomplete would be an immense understatement. I’m sure that, sometime down the road, we’ll see a lavish Blu-ray release of Dawn of the Dead with most, if not all, of the previous extras plus some new ones. Until then, if you’re looking for a good high definition version to own, this is still an excellent choice.

- Tim Salmons

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