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review added: 3/5/04



Dawn of the Dead
U.S. Theatrical Cut - Divimax Special Edition - 1978 (2004) - Anchor Bay Entertainment

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Dawn of the Dead: Divimax Special Edition Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): B+/B+

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): B/B+

Specs and Features
127 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ??), keep case packaging, audio commentary (with director George A. Romero, special make-up effects artist Tom Savini and assistant director Chris Romero, moderated by DVD producer Perry Martin), 2 theatrical trailers, 3 TV spots, 9 radio spots, poster and stills gallery, George A. Romero bio, comic book preview, film-themed menu screen with music, scene access (25 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1, 2.0 & Mono and DTS 5.1), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned


"When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth."

Zombies. Love 'em or hate 'em... they're here to stay. Don't think for a moment that by turning your back and ignoring them, you can just make them go away. It doesn't work that way. Oh... and if you think that just because you don't see them for awhile, they've left you -- you're wrong. That couldn't be truer this year. For good or the bad, 2004 should be a great year for DeadHeads everywhere. Both in the theaters and in your home.

The main reason Dead fans should rejoice is right around the corner -- the DVD release of Dawn of the Dead: Divimax Special Edition due from Anchor Bay on 3/9/04. First, we should tell you that this set is NOT the long-awaited "super" special edition we all hoped would appear first. The Bay does claim that one is coming (probably in September or October, just in time for Halloween) but this disc is certainly not it. But that doesn't mean THIS disc is a wash. This is still well worth having if you're a fan.

Dawn of the Dead, for those not in the know, is the feel good tale of a group of survivors (four in total) who hole up in an abandoned mall and set up their own civilization after the dead start to walk the Earth. Why the dead are rising up is never told, but that doesn't matter much. This is George Romero's riff on where the world was heading in the late 70's and early 80's -- coasting toward rampant commercialism and consumerism. A society defined by what people have, what they wear and who they know... instead of who they are. The zombies in this film are us, and the survivors of the apocalypse are simply window dressing. You know, it's funny... I always knew that Romero was saying something with these zombie movies, but I didn't release that that was all he really cared about.

You will learn this point even more strongly in the commentary accompanying the film, because Romero remarks about a possible fourth film. It doesn't matter to him at all who the characters in these Dead films are, or even who plays them. The "story" isn't even very important to him. What's important is that he can riff on the themes of each film. The point he'll be making in the fourth film, currently titled Dead Reckoning, is that we are "ignoring the problem". I find that fascinating, because it would seem that Romero isn't making "zombie" movies. He isn't even making movies per se. He's making statements: visual essays/social commentaries. Maybe that's why studios are afraid to give him money to do the fourth film. Either way, Dawn of the Dead is the fan favorite of the three films, because it's the most over the top, circus-like zombie film in the series. Day is a bit more serious, and Night simply a classic horror film. I like Day better as a film, but Dawn is a favorite film of mine regardless.

We have another disclaimer for you about this DVD. This is the US Theatrical Cut of the film, so some of the gore that a lot of us have experienced over the years (thanks to various director's cuts and European versions) is a little trimmed down. I forgot that when I was watching the film, and was a bit flipped when the edits came a bit sooner than I remembered. Having said that, this Dawn is gorgeous on DVD. This is an anamorphic widescreen transfer, and the colors, blacks and detail are all spot on. It's a bit soft in spots, but for a film working on 30 years of age, it looks really, really nice. This is the best I can remember seeing this film look ever. And that's saying a lot, 'cause I catch this film every chance I get. The Bay also went all out on the sound here, giving it to us in good Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 and Mono versions, as well as excellent DTS 5.1. All sound incredible. You really can't go wrong with this; it's a nice appetizer for the big set that's on its way later this year.

When I first popped this disc in, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is not a movie-only dump, but rather a pretty nice special edition. First, there's a very good, brand new audio commentary (as mentioned earlier). It includes Tom Savini, who made his name with this flick with his brilliant effects, Romero and Romero's wife Chris (billed as the assistant director of the film - they weren't married at the time the film was made). They discuss the production, trivia, the future of the series and the Turner Classic Movies documentary about Lon Chaney, featured on the Bitsy winning Lon Chaney Collection DVD. There's also a nice collection of remastered trailers, TV and radio spots, a collection of poster and stills, a bio of Romero, a comic book ad (it's called a preview but that's silly, it's an ad) as well as a very nice Easter egg of Chris Romero discussing her first meeting with George. All in all, it's pretty packed for a standard release.

If you want to save your money and wait for the more elaborate edition, I don't blame you. I don't know the complete details for the next set yet, so whether this disc will be the only way to get the U.S. version or not, I have no idea. Still, this disc is a good bet for you completists out there. I know I'm happy to have it in my library.

No matter how good the new remake film is, I'll bet you this version is way better... and there's no better way to see it right now in your home than on this DVD.

As George would say... stay scared.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


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