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Day of the Dead: Collector's Edition (1985) - Blu-ray Review

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Day of the Dead - Collector's Edition

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4 stars

The Dead Walk!

With no further explanation than that, writer/director and all around Horror Maestro George A. Romero returns for a third time to the zombie setting he famously started with Night of the Living Dead.  This time he takes the genre to Florida where an underground limestone cave houses the military and a group of scientists who are at each other’s necks.

The movie is, of course, Day of the Dead and, while much maligned by print critics in its original release, a fresh viewing of the film finds it easily as sharp and terrifying as its predecessor, Dawn of the Dead.  The gore-hounds over at Scream! Factory are celebrating the film with a fresh transfer in a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack released this week.

Holed up deep inside an underground missile silo, this uncooperative group of logic-thumping scientists and military-minded meatheads are at the crossroads with each other.  The tension is high and so are the stakes throughout much of Day of the Dead.  Nobody has time for any jokes.

Think Alien 3 and you get the idea of the level of desperation.  They look for survivors in the nearby city but always return empty-handed.  Against their collective will, these survivors have squeaked out an existence of depression and certifiable madness.  The close quarters – with the zombies just around the corner – are getting to all of them.

The military – led by Captain Henry Rhodes (Joseph Pilanto) and Pvt. Steele (Gary Howard Klar) – want to destroy the zombies while the scientists – led by Dr. Sarah Bowman (Lori Cardile) and Dr. Matthew "Frankenstein" Logan (Richard Liberty) – want to understand them, if not train them.  Turns out that – even in their individual groups – the trust levels are low and both sides are wrong.  Nothing can stop the zombies.

Opening with one of the most terrifying scenes in zombie lore, Day of the Dead notably continues with Tom Savini's gnarly make-up and effects work.  That "zombie hands through the wall" sequence is a nice metaphor that carries the picture to its finale as Sarah becomes one of the first strong-willed and intelligent leading ladies of horror survival.

To its credit, the film and its topic remains a controversial picture.  The inclusion of a zombie who remembers his former life is rich with meaning.  They call him "Bub" (Sherman Howard) and, for lack of a better word, this zombie is pretty much docile.  Held captive in a lab, he becomes a sort of guinea pig for experimentation.  He knows how to play a Walkman and appears to remember certain things – like saluting another officer.

Made as a commentary on America’s lack of trust in institutions (and each other) during the 1980’s, Day of the Dead goes out of its way to humanize the zombies, satirizing us, and provides another way to look at the whole creepy situation … especially when so few of the human survivors deserve to continue soldiering on in their lives.

If there is one thing to take away from Day of the Dead, it’s the fact that even zombies – as hungry as they are for the next piece of flesh – love Beethoven.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Day of the Dead - Collector's EditionMPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA.
Runtime:
101 mins
Director
: George A. Romero
Writer
: George A. Romero
Cast: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato
Genre: Horror
Tagline:
The darkest day of horror the world has ever known.
Memorable Movie Quote: "They are us."
Distributor:
United Film Distribution Company
Official Site:
Release Date: July 19, 1985
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 17, 2013

Synopsis: A small group of military officers and scientists dwell in an underground bunker as the world above is overrun by zombies.

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Day of the Dead - Collector's Edition

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - September 17, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A/1

Day of the Dead is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory (an imprint of Shout! Factory) with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1.  This is the second trip to Blu-ray for the film, having been released on the format back in 2007 by Anchor Bay.  It’s about time this gets an overhaul.  Immediately, the color and level of detail is striking.  You can see the movie's biggest visual change immediately: the color has been re-timed to remove the slight blue/green tint that had covered everything. Sarah's face in the opening sequence is as flesh-colored as you would think it would be, and the white walls appear, well, white instead of a very pale blue/green.   This release sports only the film's original mono mix, presented via DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  It’s shallow but still manages to have some nice effects .

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There are two commentaries on this release.  The first is with writer/director George A. Romero, Special Make-up Effects artist Tom Savini, Production Designer Cletus Anderson and actress Lori Cardille.  The second is with filmmaker Roger Avary.  Both are interesting and filled with insightful recollections from the making of the film.

Special Features:

Featuring an all-new HD transfer of the film, this must-have collector’s edition contains a brand new interview with George A. Romero as well as a bevy of insightful bonus features, including a new documentary World’s End: The Legacy of Day of the Dead, two new audio commentaries, behind the scenes footage and a look at the underground setting of the movie.  There are also numerous trailers and TV spots -- none of which are particularly good -- as well as image galleries shot on the set as well as of promotional material, including earlier VHS/LaserDisc/DVD releases.

  • World's End: The Legacy of Day of the Dead (85 min)
  • Behind the Scenes Footage (31 min)
  • Wampum Mine Promotional Video (8 min)
  • Underground: A Look Into the Day of the Dead Mines (8 min)
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Still Galleries

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