Day Of The Dead

Day Of The Dead (1985)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Jeff Pilato, Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Richard Liberty
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Featurettes, Interveiw, Photo Galleries, Trailers, and more

It’s been years since I last saw George A. Romero’s "Day Of The Dead" on Anchor Bay’s initial release of the film and I remember not being overly impressed with the quality back then. It is film that poses some challenges to any video transfer with its dark, low contrast settings and the filmmaker’s deliberate use of light and shadow to hide and reveal certain parts of the image deliberately. Now, Anchor Bay has issued as Special Edition of the movie with a completely new transfer and the result is nothing short of stunning.

The third on in Romero’s "Dead" series of films, "Day Of The Dead" takes us into a world that has been overrun by zombies by now. Humans can only be found in a few reclusive hideouts where they are surrounded by hordes of the walking undead. A handful of scientists and soldiers have bunkered up in an underground shelter, completely isolated from the rest of the world, unable to establish any sort of contact. There, under the helm of Sarah (Lori Cardille), the scientists try to find out what causes the undead epidemic and how it could be countered. At the same time the soldiers try to keep them alive among the flesh-eating monsters. Gradually one member of the team after the other is becoming a victim of the zombies and just when the scientists seem to have made a break-through, things go haywire as the captain of the soldiers (Jeff Pilato) cracks under the pressure and the remaining members of the team find themselves fighting for their lives.

"Day Of The Dead" is a bleak vision at how the world could come to an end. If there was at least a shimmer of hope in "Dawn Of The Dead," "Day" takes all that away and even exemplifies how the few remaining humans are turning into monsters themselves as they try to deal with the hopelessness of their future.
I didn’t really like "Day Of The Dead" that much when I first saw it in theaters but with every repeat viewing I get a growing appreciation for the film. It is a carefully crafted horrific vision of the future that offers much more than just gore. The special effects in the film are still marvelously convincing and will run shudders down your spine as you watch zombies go for the jugular in extreme close-ups. Hats off to Tom Savini and his crew for once again pulling off some of the most amazing gore effects in movie history.

The movie also has some superb visuals and a bleak atmosphere that is haunting. Shot in the perfect location, great lighting and supported by a great cast. Especially Jeff Pilato stands out as Captain Rhodes in this film, as his character is everything you would the human race not to deter into.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has created a new <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> transfer for this release of "Day Of The Dead," and the result is simply spectacular. Free of defects or blemishes and virtually devoid of any grain, the film presents itself in an immaculate form here, rich in detail and with solid color reproduction. The previous DVD was clear showing oversaturated colors and in this new transfer the colors have been pulled back quite a bit. The result is an image that is much more drab and better represents Romero’s original intent for the film. At the same time the new transfer has an incredibly level of definition to offer. Shadows that used to be entirely black are now revealing details that were previously unseen. The contrast is also much more balanced, creating an image that has linear fall-offs and creates deep, solid blacks and balanced highlights that never bloom. No compression artifacts are evident anywhere in the transfer, making this an outstanding presentation better than any version you will have ever seen of "Day Of The Dead."

The sound has also been remixed for this release and here we have the pleasure of getting a full <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> EX track, or a 6.1 <$DTS,DTS> track, whichever you chose. The audio is wonderfully clean and has a spatial integration that is unexpectedly wide and active. Frequency response is good with solid basses and clear high ends. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable, and the music is creating the eerie icing on the cake.
Two commentaries can be found on the first disc of the set. The first one features George Romero, Tom Savini, Cletus Anderson and Lori Cardille in an engaging exchange of thoughts and memories. I always enjoyed Romero and Savini on their <$commentary,commentary track>s together and this one is no exception. It is filled with little tidbits and some great background information on the production and the making of the film.
The second <$commentary,commentary track> on the DVD is by filmmaker Roger Avary, which, while still good, is not nearly as blistering as the previous one.

One the second DVD you will find a series a featurettes and other goodies. "The Many Days Of Day Of The Dead" is a 39-minute featurette that gives you a look at the set during the shoot. Complete with new interviews by the principal cast and crew members, it covers nicely the tribulations the film had to go through, the revisions of the script and the problems wit the studio about the liberal use of expletives throughout the picture. But also more practical aspects of the film, such as the location, are covered here in detail.

The second featurette is a behind-the-scenes documentary that takes a closer look at the many of the special effects. Filled with interviews by Greg Nicotero and Tom Savini they dissect many of the film’s most spectacular gore effects explaining how they were done. While very interesting, I do have to admit that this featurette takes away A LOT of the power of the movie, as it simply works better if you don’t know how it was done. So watch this featurette at your own discretion.

A large number of photos are also included on the disc, ranging from various zombie make-up studies to a continuity still gallery, production stills, behind-the-scenes photos and a poster gallery. An audio interview is also included as well as a commercial for the Wampum Mine, the place where the movie was shot, which is used as a commercial underground storage facility.

As a bonus, owners of a DVD-ROM drive will also have access to the movie’s original screenplay.

A lot of discussion has been going on about some removed expletives in the film and the lack of the film’s original mono audio track. I can’t quite follow either and would think that these complaints stem more from fanatic worshipping of the movie rather than from really missing these elements. It makes no difference really, whether a character says "Right!" or "Shit!" in one instance, because the dialog has been looped, so don’t let yourself get whipped into a frenzy, especially since the loops are not evident to those unfamiliar with the film on a frame-by-frame basis.

I found this release of "Day Of The Dead" to be an exhilarating and exciting thrill ride. It gave me the chance to revisit this film and with the phenomenal presentation, it just wowed me to no end. The downside to this spectacular release? It made me even more hungry for the upcoming Special Edition of "Dawn Of The Dead," and of course the fourth Dead film that George A. Romero is hinting at in one of the interviews on the release.