DirectorGeorge A. Romero
Release Date(s)1985 (September 17, 2013)
Studio(s)Laurel Entertainment (Arrow Video U.K.)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: B-
[Editor’s Note: This is a REGION FREE Blu-ray from the UK. You do NOT need an all-region Blu-ray player, but you may need a player and display compatible with PAL standard definition content to view it properly.]
Day of the Dead, being the third part of the original Dead trilogy by George Romero, was released in 1985 to dismal reviews and a poor fan reaction. Many years later, it developed a stronger following and is said by many, including its director himself, to be the best and strongest entry in the trilogy.
Dr. Jahnke did a very fine write-up of the recent Scream Factory release, so I’ll refer you to that for all of the finer details about the film itself rather than repeat a lot of the same information. I’d rather just focus on this release itself, of which there is plenty to discuss. As far as my preference on which is the better film in the original Dead trilogy... well, it’s a bit like apples and oranges; sometimes I’m in the mood for Dawn of the Dead and sometimes Day of the Dead. Both films have very different tones, but I do agree that Day has better performances and superior special effects, the latter of which surpasses even modern zombie movies.
With all of that said, let’s take a look at Arrow Video’s release of the film. It should be noted that this is a 3 disc set (1 Blu-ray and 2 DVDs), and is also Region Free.
This release features a strong but not altogether perfection presentation. The opening few minutes of the film are the softest throughout due to the credit sequence, but after that, detail improves. There isn’t an overly strong layer of grain on display, but background and foreground details are very good. The film is also framed a bit wider than the Scream Factory release, so you get more information on the edges of the frame. When it comes to the transfer’s color palette, skin tones, and black and contrast levels, that’s where things tend to get problematical. I’m going to ignore the Anchor Bay/Starz release of the film in this instance (I’ll come back to it later on for the extras) and focus on the recent Scream Factory release for comparison as it features a completely different transfer. Comparing the two releases, the Scream Factory version features contrast that appears blown out at times and dramatically different color temperatures that are inherently warmer. This is a problem for me because Day of the Dead has always been a bleak film, and it’s my belief that the color palette should reflect that (since George Romero has seemingly had no involvement with these transfers, I have no idea what his true intentions are for the film’s look other than guesswork). While no release of the film gets it 100% accurate, I’d venture that Arrow Video’s release gets the closest. The overall look is much more muted and darker, with more acceptable contrast levels. Black levels are much deeper, as well. With these various releases, it’s all a matter of preference at this point. But for my money, the Arrow Video presentation is more in line with the film’s overall aesthetic.
As far as audio quality is concerned, Arrow Video’s release is quite good also. You get an English 5.1 DTS-HD track, as well as an English 2.0 DTS track. The Scream Factory release comes with the film’s original mono soundtrack, which I would have preferred here, but the 5.1 track does a good enough job. Dialogue is well-prioritized while sound effects and score have a bit of room to breathe in the surrounding speakers. There are also some surprising ambient moments and low frequency activity, albeit sparse. Subtitles are available in English for those who might need them.
When it comes to the extras, you get everything that had been released prior to the Scream Factory release, plus some new stuff. There’s The Many Days of Day of the Dead documentary on the film, behind-the-scenes footage, an audio interview with actor Richard Liberty, three TV spots, trailers for Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, a Romero Zombography (a biography on George Romero), a Photo Album of the Dead stills gallery, a Souvenirs of the Dead stills gallery, and a Wampum Mine Promo video. New to this release is an audio commentary with the special effects team, which includes Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, Everett Burrell, and Mike Deak; the Joe of the Dead segment, which is an hour-long interview with actor Joe Pilatto; a Travelogue featurette; and a 16-page insert booklet containing an essay on the film by Calum Adwell. It should also be noted that a Limited Edition was also released which also includes a slipcase, alternate covers, a poster, and a comic book.
Missing from the original Anchor Bay Divimax DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film are the two audio commentaries (one with George Romero, Tom Savini, Lori Cardille, and Cletus Anderson, and the other with filmmaker Roger Avary); the film’s three theatrical trailers; a set of still galleries; an insert booklet with an essay of the film by filmmaker Michael Felsher; and DVD-ROM material featuring the first draft of the film’s screenplay and production memos. Even though it was released much later, Scream Factory’s release features a new documentary on the film, The World’s End, and a new featurette, Underground: A Look Into the Day of the Dead Mines. The Scream Factory release also carried over many of the same Anchor Bay extras, but not all.
The bottom line here is that no release of Day of the Dead on Blu-ray is definitive, in any category, when it comes to deciding which version fans want to own. Arrow Video’s release features a (marginally) better transfer than the others and a few new extras, but I can’t fully commit and say that it’s a release that’s absolutely worth importing. If you’re a die-hard fan of the film, you’ll probably want all of these releases, mainly for the different extras. In that case, I’d say pick it up.
- Tim Salmons