Film Reviews

Dawn of the Dead – Blu-ray Review

It could be argued that you haven’t truly seen George Romero’s seminal zombie movie Dawn of the Dead if you haven’t watched the theatrical cut. And the Argento cut. And the Cannes cut. Luckily, the folks over at Second Sight Films have you covered with what has to be the single most comprehensive release of this movie ever.

Do I genuinely need to go into the plot of Dawn of the Dead? Are there people out there who don’t know what it’s about? Okay, just to make sure we’re all on the same page. Dawn of the Dead is set in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. The shit has already most definitely hit the fan and mankind is fighting a desperate and losing battle to try and stem the tide of the undead. In the midst of all this we have our four protagonists, Peter, Roger, Stephen and Fran. Peter and Roger are members of SWAT who, after an apartment block raid goes south, decide to run, while Stephen and Fran work for WGON TV, with Stephen usually giving traffic reports from a helicopter instead of running away from zombies.

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“Borrowing” the helicopter, the four head North to try and find somewhere safe in Canada.  Along the way they come across a massive shopping mall and decide to land there for supplies, only to be lured to stay permanently by the massive array of shops filled with goods below. In the end they trap themselves there with their lust for material things as much as the zombies roaming the countryside do. It’s a beautiful satire on consumerism and greed that’s stood the test of time.

In terms of this release there are three different versions of the film included. The theatrical release is actually what Romero considers to be his “directors cut”. He has stated it’s the closest to the vision he had and it’s likely the one most people have seen. The “Cannes Cut” is the extended version of the film but it’s not radically different from the theatrical one. There’s a lot of little extra shots and extended scenes. The biggest difference is really the reintroduction of the scene with Joseph Pilato as a cop fleeing the city. He would later go on to play the character of Captain Rhodes in the sequel Day of the Dead.

The “Argento Cut”, which is the version initially released in Europe, is the most noticeably different, especially in terms of the soundtrack. While the theatrical cut used a fair bit of stock music, the Argento cut leans hard on the soundtrack by Goblin, as well as Argento trimming scenes he considered non-essential to the plot. His version has less humour, more focus on the action, but also includes a scene in the mall that’s not found in either of the other two versions! Each version has been painstakingly restored from the original negative and the film looks amazing. You can sit and read the notes pinned to the wall inside the mall security office, for instance, everything is pin sharp. There’s a touch of film grain, but it’s nowhere near as egregious as in some releases.

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Each disc also has its own commentary track. The theatrical release has commentary by George A Romero, Tom Savini and Christine Forrest. The Cannes cut has commentary by the film’s producer Richard P Rubinstein, and the Argento cut has commentary from the main cast, Ken Foree (Peter), Scott Reiniger (Roger), Gaylen Ross (Fran) and David Emge (Stephen).

As well as the commentaries there’s an entire disc of special features with new interviews and featurettes as well as trailers and TV spots. This particular version doesn’t come with the additional stuff you get in the Limited Edition release, so there’s no Goblin soundtrack or any of the other CDs, but then this is also less than half the price of that version and it’s still a pretty damn comprehensive offering for the money.

While not quite as all-encompassing as the Limited Edition, this really is a great re-release of this classic zombie film and it deserves a place in any zombie movie fan’s library.

Dawn of the Dead is out on Blu-ray on 22nd March from Second Sight Films.

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