To many, Gary Sherman’s "Dead & Buried" is one of the horror highlights of the early 80s, and everyone who’s seen the picture will immediately agree that it is an extremely effective and atmospheric horror film that perfectly blends 80s splatter sensitivities with classic, gothic horror elements. Bill Lustig’s Blue Underground has now taken care of this movie gem and has prepared a 2-disc DVD set that will have fans salivating. But first, some more on the film itself…
Potters Bluff is a small fishing town somewhere on the West Coast. It appears quite normal, quiet and serene and even attracts the occasional tourist. However, these tourists will soon learn that something is horribly wrong with the place, as the people of Potters Bluff brutally murder their visitors. Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) is desperate in finding the psychopath seemingly roaming the streets of his town as the bodies pile up. Mutilated, incinerated, eviscerated, it is hard to believe that someone capable of such atrocities should walk among his friends and neighbors. He tries to get to the bottom of this case but by doing so his whole world seems to collapse around him.
As I said in the opening, the film is extremely effective and you will be sitting tight in your chair watching the horror unfold. With extremely suspenseful plotting, and very deliberate camera work, "Dead & Buried" is truly a small gem that is overlooked all too often. We also get quality acting which further helps to bring the story to life and to create the chills necessary to make this movie effective. The recipe is topped off with some gorgeous cinematography and direction that conjures up images of classic 30s horror movies in their brooding style. Combined with special effects guru Stan Winston’s gory set pieces, the film is just leaps and bounds above the average 80s horror fare.
Blue Underground has prepared a brand-new re-mastered transfer for this movie and they made it look like you’ve never seen it before. The film is very grainy at times, granted, but it is a limitation of the original film stock used for the production and not a flaw of the DVD itself. Interestingly, in many cases the grain adds some sort of an ethereal, dreamlike quality to the picture, making it a good example how such a limitation can be deliberately used to a film’s advantage. The color reproduction of the film is very good, with saturated colors and faithful skin tones. While the palette is somewhat muted at times, once again, it is by design, and it is probably the only thing that truly dates the movie. Black levels are generally good, though occasional blemishes are visible where the original print was faded, creating somewhat weak shadows. Edge-enhancement is at a minimum and the compression has been handled carefully to make sure no compression artifacts are introduced in the picture.
The studio has also sponsored new audio tracks for this release. Presented as a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital EX and a full blown 6.1 DTS ES track, complemented by a Dolby Surround and the original mono track, the audio has been remastered and remixed to create a wide sound stage with good surround usage. Not overly aggressive, of course, but subtle and effective, the track also has an expanded frequency response with deeper basses and clean high ends. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable, never sounding too harsh either.
Sadly the release contains neither captions nor subtitles, which I find unforgivable in this day and age. Fortunately it is the only beef I have with this release, though.
No less than three commentary tracks can be found on the DVD. The first one features director Gary Sherman as he reminisces about the production, moderated by Blue Underground’s David Gregory. It is a very informative track that doesn’t shy away from getting technical at times and thus relays a lot of valuable insight.
The second track is with co-writer/co-producer Ronald Shusett and actress Linda Turley – now Mrs. Shusett. The track is also moderated by David Gregory who does a good job in keeping the conversation going throughout the film, though there are a few gaps where the participants rather let the movie speak for itself.
The third track is featuring cinematographer Steve Poster and David Gregory as they discuss the film from an almost purely technical standpoint. You don’t get to hear many of these tracks any more as bonus materials become increasingly watered down and as such this one is more than welcome. Very detailed and insightful, to me this is almost the best commentary on the disc.
On the first disc of the set you will also find the movie’s theatrical trailer and a photo gallery with posters, publicity shots, and a closer look at some of the special effects.
On the second disc of the release you will find some additional gems in the form of new featurettes. The first one covers Stan Winston’s work on the movie. Running for almost 20 minutes, it starts out with an overlook over Winston’s career and his background, as told by himself, and then covers "Dead & Buried" in more detail.
Robert Englund is the center of the second featurette. Englund, of course, plays a supporting part in the film and he seems more than happy to talk about the experience of making this film. Talking about how he got involved, how the production came along and his fellow cast members, this featurette more than any other underscores and captures the enthusiasm that must have gone into this low budget movie with everyone trying to give 110% to make this a memorable film.
Dan O’Bannon, one of the writers of the film, is the focus of the third featurette. O’Bannon, who is probably best known for his work on "Alien" and the horror comedy "Return of the Living Dead," gives us a good glimpse into the origins of the film, the ideas and the influences, as well as the hurdles to get it made.
The disc is rounded out by a photo gallery of pictures taken by the director of photography, Steve Poster, as he was location-scouting California for the film. They are great pictures capturing the quintessential small-town quirkiness that would later make its way into the movie. Too bad only that the pictures are a bit small.
"Dead & Buried" is a fascinating movie that belies its low-budget status on so many occasions and Blue Underground’s presentation here puts the film back on the big genre map where it rightfully belongs. The studio went to great lengths to make sure this is a top notch presentation, featuring the entire, uncut and uncensored version of the movie. Spiced up with the great extras, this 2-disc set is clearly one of the genre highlights of the year.
Stylish, imaginative, gruesome, atmospheric, chilling and terrifying are the words that come to mind when thinking about the film, and if these words start to get your imagination going, there is no question that you have to go and get this DVD. This one gets my highest recommendations!