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The Omega Man

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

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The Omega Man
1971 (2003) - Warner Bros.

Matthias: "One creature, caught. Caught in a place he cannot stir from in the dark, alone, outnumbered hundreds to one, nothing to live for but his memories, nothing to live with but his gadgets, his cars, his guns, gimmicks... and yet the whole family can't bring him down from that, that..."

Zachary: "Honky paradise, brother?"

Matthias: "Forget the old ways, brother, all the old hatreds."

I'm a big fan of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. Brilliant book. I'm not a big fan of the film adaptations thus far. The Omega Man is a very fast and loose adaptation, focusing on the last man on Earth aspect more than the why or philosophical climax of what it all means to be first at something and then find yourself the last at that same thing. Omega Man falls more in the classification of so-called "blaxpoitation", which is slightly unfair, but obvious nonetheless. If you keep from lending any true social/cultural significance to it, Omega Man is a fun little flick.

In the near future, a bio-weapon wipes out most of the Earth, leaving the "survivors" stricken with a mysterious disease that kills them and brings them back as albino zombies. Chuck Heston plays Dr. Robert Neville - aka "the last man on Earth" - a scientist who helped develop the disease. Because of a serum he took before the "attack," he is immune to this disease. Now that he is the last living man on Earth, Neville spends his days hunting the dead down as he looks for supplies, and his nights hiding from them in his compound. That is his life, at least until he stumbles onto a small cache of living humans who reawaken his urge to develop a cure and re-start society. Of course, the dead like their new life and will do anything to stop him.

What's fun about this film is the fact that the world as we know it ends in the early 70s. The flared clothes are fun. The huge afros on the undead are a nice touch. Even the fact that the last film Heston has access to for the rest of his life is Woodstock, which he knows word-for-word, is cute. Actually, that last part is just sad. But everything else is a lot of fun. The Omega Man is certainly not a great film, but it's a good enough film and a DVD we've waited a long time for.

Warner's treatment of The Omega Man is pretty damn good. They cleaned it up real nice and present it in a nice anamorphic widescreen with good color representation and solid blacks. The audio is in standard Dolby Digital mono, and sounds good in its original format. There are no pops, hisses or any distractions of any sort.

The extras are good as well. We get an introduction to the film from actor-turned-director Eric "Richie" Laneuville, as well as actor Paul "Butch" Koslo and screenwriter Joyce Corrington. It's less an intro and more a very short interview featurette, with short talking head stuff and clips. There's also an archival documentary entitled The Last Man Alive: The Omega Man where Chuck discusses the film and his character with anthropologist Dr. Ashley Montagu, between behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the film. It's a very well done featurette, better than most you will find for older films like this. There's also an essay on Heston and his sci-fi films, a trailer and a non-interactive cast and crew index.

Doogan Says: The Omega Man is a nice slice of dated sci-fi. It's not a good adaptation of the classic novel, but it tries to be its own thing so it gets points from me. The production design is what really lifts it up where it belongs, which is in the hearts of film fans everywhere. Check it out if you haven't already.B

Day of the Dead

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs


Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

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Day of the Dead
1985 (2003) - Anchor Bay

"People today, looking back on the three zombie films... I think that there are really split camps. There are some people that you can't get 'em away from the first film, you know, that's their love. And there are some people that just sort of celebrate and party with Dawn of the Dead. It's sort of the wildest of the three. It was also the most popular. And then there are the trolls, you know, who like Day of the Dead." - George A. Romero

More and more, as time goes by and with countless repeated viewings, Day of the Dead has shown itself to be the very best Dead movie of Romero's career. Night of the Living Dead was the classic, a pinnacle title for horror fans everywhere. And Dawn of the Dead is the hands down fan favorite, no doubt about that. But in terms of pace, storytelling and filmmaking talent, Day is the film to look at. The acting is much better than the other two, Tom Savini's effects are much more realistic and sophisticated and, because of it's limited environment, the film hasn't aged much at all. This could have been filmed today. But when it first came out, fans turned their backs on Day of the Dead. We all read the epic script and we were expecting a glorious film. Thanks to money constraints, that glory became a whimper as far as we were concerned. But I think we were wrong. And hopefully this new DVD will give us all a chance to look at this film differently.

Day of the Dead occurs underground, in a limestone mine where a scientific team and a military group have set up shop to research their situation. But some time has passed since they set-up shop and, slowly but surely, it's Lord of the Flies time. Without a real leader, the military group has splintered away from the medical research team and big problems have arisen. Stress has caused most of the occupants in the mines to loose whatever grasp on reality they ever had. Tensions are high as the new military leader chooses pointing guns at heads over talking situations through. What we witness is the last 4 or 5 days of this little camp. And it isn't pretty.

Day is a slow burning pot, but when it gets to boiling it's mmm-mmm good. As stated about, Romero has crafted a glorious story. Forced to rethink his original script, he ended up making choices that served the story and made it more internal. Does it kick Dawn's frenetic style? No, but it becomes better for it. I started liking Day over the other two about eight or so years ago ,when I was researching a magazine article about zombie movies. I found that if I tossed my fan boy allegiance to Dawn, Day easily emerges as the better film.

This two-disc set of Day helps bring the film up to that other level. It's one of Anchor Bay's new "Divimax" titles, so expect a luscious anamorphic widescreen transfer with nice muted colors in the caves, minimal but appropriate grain and solid blacks. It's presented with three soundtracks: Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby 5.1 EX and, best of all, a rich and full DTS 6.1 ES track. Now there's been some bubbles popping up here and there about the "wrong" soundtrack being used, and something about a few looped sound bits that don't belong, but of the three times I watched the film in the last couple of days, I didn't notice anything "wrong." So do with that info what you will.

The extras are vast and very fun. First up are two commentary tracks. Filmmaker Roger Avery discusses Day from a fan's point of view and does a great job of it. This is the type of track you would have found on a laserdisc, less these days on DVD. It's a nice change of pace. The other track is a filmmaker commentary with Romero, Savini, actress Lori Cardille and production designer Cletus Anderson. This a great track as well, but it's much more laid back and casual, something pretty common with Romero tracks on DVD. He doesn't get all worked up, just leans back and talks, which is nice because he's fun to listen to.

Those tracks are on Disc One. Disc Two is packed with additional extras, starting with two documentaries. The Many Days of Day of the Dead is filled with nice, current interviews from the cast and crew, as they talk about the making of the film and its place in film history. Day of the Dead: Behind the Scenes, features archival video footage, starting with the folks in Savini's workshop torturing unsuspecting people with zombie appliances and spirit gum, and heading into "making of" fare on the set focusing on the more fascinating gore effects. Next, there's some promotional footage from the Gateway Commerce Center (the limestone mine the film was shot in) just to give you an idea of what the location looks like when it's not filled with zombies. There's also an audio interview with Dr. Logan (aka Richard Liberty), three trailers, three TV spots, Romero's bio and, on DVD-ROM, the legendary first draft of the script. Anchor Bay really did us proud with this one.

Hopefully the Bay's upcoming Dawn of the Dead set will either match the level of greatness seen with this DVD or kick it's ass. Either way, I can't wait to see what they have planned. For now though, I'm going to pop this one in my player and watch it one more time. Go zombies!

Doogan Says: Day of the Dead rocks as a flick and rocks as a DVD. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up now. A+

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