The Dead Are Alive

The Dead Are Alive (1972)

Cast: Alex Cord, Samantha Eggar
Extras: Photo Gallery, Talent Bios, Press Book Reproduction

Fans of EuroHorror have another reason to celebrate, as a new company, Eurovista Digital Entertainment, has thrown their hat into the DVD ring. Their newest offering is Armando Crispino’s 1972 film, ’The Dead Are Alive’. Allow me to go ahead and quell the excitement for those of you who are hoping that this is another Italian zombie film. Instead, ’The Dead Are Alive’ is a straight-forward giallo, which offers shades of Argento and Fulci.

The film stars Alex Cord (TV’s ’Airwolf’) as Jason, an alcoholic archaeologist who has come to Italy to search for Etruscan ruins. It just so happens that his dig isn’t far from the home of orchestral conductor Nicos (John Marley) and his wife Myra (Samantha Eggar). The connection here is that Jason and Myra used to be lovers. Soon after Jason opens an Etruscan tomb, a series of violent murders begin. Due to his drinking problem, and a history of violent behavior, the police feel that Jason is the prime suspect. So, Jason begins to do his own sleuthing to discover the identity of the killer. As the film features many eccentric characters, it will be a challenge for Jason (and the viewer) to unmask the murderer, and learn their motive.

’The Dead Are Alive’ is an above average giallo shocker and is much better than director Crispino’s more popular ’Autopsy’ (a film which set a new precedent for gratuitous nudity). ’The Dead Are Alive’ presents the audience with an intriguing mystery and enough red herrings to keep the viewer interested. The film does become bogged down in its own dramatics, and there is a noticeable lack of explanation for certain character relationships and for the killer’s motivation. On an interesting note, there is one element of the killer’s MO, which is echoed in Dario Argento’s ’Tenebre’. ’The Dead Are Alive’ isn’t groundbreaking, but it is an entertaining film, and should be of interest to giallo fans.

The quality of ’The Dead Are Alive’ DVD presents a situation where one must take the good with the bad. The film is presented in a letterboxed format, but isn’t enhanced for 16×9 TVs. The packaging claims that the aspect ratio is 2.35:1, but this Panavision film has the feeling of being even wider than that. The source print from which the digital transfer was made was in very bad shape. There is a green scratch running down the center of the frame for the majority of the film. Also, there is a green hair in the lower left-hand corner. Throughout the film, scratches and blemishes abound. Also, there are many obvious edits and jumps, and certain places where it feels as if parts of the scene are missing. Yet, the image shows very little grain, and the colors are only slightly washed-out. The audio on the DVD is a digital mono, which gives clear and audible dialogue. However, the soundtrack was recorded a bit loud, so there is some distortion, accompanied by pops and hissing throughout the film.

’The Dead Are Alive’ DVD offers a photo gallery, which contains 9 images. These are made up of lobby cards, movie posters, and foreign video packages for the film. There are four talent bios. Of most interest is the insert booklet, which reproduces the press book for the film. It’s done in the style of a newspaper called ’The Terror Times’ and offers photos and stories about the film.