Directed by George Romero
Reviewed by Adam, added on Jan 1 2005
I don't really need to go into why "Dawn of the Dead" is considered a horror classic. Chances are, if you're actually taking the time to read this review, you already know why. No, today kids, I'll be discussing the finer (and lesser) points of the newly released "Dawn of the Dead: Ultimate Edition" DVD set. I know what you're thinking – didn't those bastards just release the friggin' movie on DVD a few months ago? Yep, and here it is again, but with a crapload of extras. Should you throw down your hard-earned money to buy this edition, if you already own the first Anchor Bay release of the film? Well, read on and found out…
The first disc contains the original U.S. theatrical cut (which, by the way, is Romero's preferred cut of the film); a commentary with Romero, Tom Savini, and Christine Romero; trailers; TV and radio spots; George A. Romero bio; poster, photo, and advertising gallery; and finally, a comic book preview. All and all, not too shabby – and this is just the first disc! The theatrical cut looks better than ever – yep, you can finally say goodbye to that old VHS copy. The sound comes in three varieties: DTS, Dolby Digital, and the original mono soundtracks. Dolby worked fine and dandy for me; zombies rushing from all sides never sounded so good. The mono tracks… Well, they suck. 'Nuff said.
The commentary track is worth a listen or two, if for no other reason than to hear FX master Savini talk about making the zombie makeup effects. The guy is a genius, plain and simple. Romero is an animated commentator, and will keep you entertained throughout the duration of the film. Christine Romero throws in her two cents, and has plenty of interesting info to add.
The second disc contains the U.S. extended cut, which I'm not that big a fan of, to be honest; a commentary with producer Richard P. Rubinstein; a commercial for the Monroeville Mall (the main filming location); a behind-the-scenes photo gallery; memorabilia gallery; production stills; and mono soundtrack. Rubinstein's commentary isn't as entertaining as Romero and company's, but it is quite informative; it is definitely worth a listen. The film itself is a bit longer this time; a few extra scenes help to spell out a few head-scratchers from the original cut, but don't really add anything to the overall enjoyment of the film. The other extras are interesting in their own way, but nothing special. Oh, and must I mention the mono soundtrack? What the hell happened here, Anchor Bay?
Disc numeral san (you do know you're Japanese, right?) contains the love-it-or-hate-it European cut, which is actually shorter than the other two versions, and contains a slightly altered soundtrack (courtesy of the Goblins); a commentary featuring actors David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross; international trailers; UK TV spots; international lobby card gallery; international poster/ad gallery; international press book gallery; video and soundtrack artwork; Dario Argento bio; Dolby 5.1 surround, 2.0 surround, and original mono soundtracks. I really, really dislike the European cut, simply because Dario Argento's Goblins provide one of the shittiest soundtracks I've ever heard; and in this version, you get more of it. Not a good deal in my book… The commentary is a fun listen, but the actors go off into strange tangents at time. I guess this is forgivable, considering this is a group of old friends meeting again after many years, to discuss a labor of love. Good times, kids, good times… Once again, the other extras are merely OK. That's fine, though, because next we have…
The fourth and final disc is the "cool" disc, containing "The Dead Will Walk," a brand-new 75 minute featurette on the making of the film; Roy Frumkes' "Document of the Dead," a feature-length doc made during the original production; on-set home movies, shot and narrated by zombie extra Robert Langer; and last but not least, a tour of the Monroeville Mall with actor Ken Foree. "The Dead Will Walk" is my favorite of the bunch – an incredibly informative doc, unlike most docs thrown together in a rush for other DVDs. If there's something you didn't know about "Dawn of the Dead" before, you'll be an expert on it after watching this doc. Yes, it is that good. The "Document of the Dead" doc is pretty good, too, it's just a little bit of a downer. I mean, you're getting a behind-the-scenes look at one of the greatest horror films every made; but when Romero and Tom Savini talk about how hard it is for independent filmmakers to get work, you get awfully depressed. Of course, now that Romero is preparing to make the long-awaited "Land of the Dead," it's all good in the hood, G.
The short but entertaining "On-Set Home Videos" is fun to watch. Seeing the making of the film from the perspective of a zombie extra is quite an eye-opener. Finally, there's the tour of the Monroeville Mall, featuring Ken Foree, a handful of the "hero" zombies, and a crowd of fans. It is quite remarkable to see first-hand how time can change a place – the mall no longer resembles the setting of "Dawn of the Dead" we've all come to know and love.
Overall, I'd have to say that this set is more than worth a purchase. If you're a true horror fan, you owe it to yourself to pick this baby up. Sure, it ain't cheap, but you won't regret the purchase. Well, you might if you're broke, and you have to sell crack to buy it…
Please don't sell or buy crack, kids.
Disc 1: 10/10
Disc 2: 9/10
Disc 3: 7.5/10
Disc 4: 10/10