Not to be confused with the awful 2008 re-make starring Mena Suvari and Ving Rhames and Day Of The Dead 2: Contagium, both of which have little in common with Romero’s original, this is the third instalment of George A. Romero’s original Trilogy Of The Dead which has received a 25th anniversary release courtesy of the people at Arrow Video in conjunction with the members of Cult-Labs.
The living dead outnumber the humans significantly and, consequently, the humans have been forced into small pockets of resistance. The film focuses on one such group that has taken base in a missile silo in Florida, a team of scientists trying to find a cure for the epidemic (or a method of controlling them) and their military security force. We’re introduced to the group as tensions are running high and they become more dangerous to each other than the hordes of undead that surround them.
The film’s standout performances come from Joe Pilato’s Captain Rhodes, Richard Liberty’s Dr Logan, and Lori Cardille’s Sarah. Rhodes and Logan deliver the majority of the classic lines whilst Sarah acts as a strong female character who’s central to the movie.
The film differs drastically from Romero’s original vision. (Copies of the original script are available online and make for great reading.) If the movie could have been made as originally intended, no doubt it would have been extraordinary.
Ultimately, a compromise was needed as Romero was given the option of toning it down and having a budget of $6m or making the film he wanted with a budget of $3m. Unsurprisingly, the $3m option was what Romero opted for, and a simplified version of his original script was produced. Despite the compromise, what was produced was an excellent film that’s one of the finest the genre has to offer. It’s also one that Romero has stated is his favourite of his original trilogy.
It’s an interesting look at how group dynamics are affected in the face of adversity and how various factions and extreme views are formed when there’s a distinct lack of communication and order. Ultimately, the leaders, if they can be called that, of both factions go to extremes and, as a result, are the architects of their own downfall.
As with all of Romero’s films, Day Of The Dead carries a strong political message that echoes the issues of its time. The issue addressed here is vivisection and it’s handled incredibly well. Whilst you can see the benefit of Dr Logan’s testing through his progress with Bub, it’s clear that he’s taking things to the extreme and acting in a completely unethical way.
This film is as much Tom Savini and his team’s opus as it is Romero’s, with them having been instrumental in the construction of the set pieces, as well as the extraordinary makeup and effects. The work put in here is astonishing and the effects more than hold up today, despite showing one or two signs of dating, they are incredibly effective. The use of real internal organs and the lengths they went to to create set pieces gives a greater sense of realism than CGI could ever hope to achieve.
Claustrophobic, uncompromising and incredibly gory, Day Of The Dead easily holds its own against the other two additions to the original trilogy and it’s fantastic to see it get such great treatment here. Dawn Of The Dead received similar treatment on its most recent 3-disc Blu-ray release. Here’s hoping Night Of The Living Dead gets similar treatment in the not too distant future.
The picture is incredibly clear, especially considering the age of the source and the number of rough versions of the film I have seen over the years. The presentation here is fantastic and it’s easily the best looking version of the film I’ve seen. Enjoying all the glorious effects in such clarity really was a treat.
The sound is equally impressive. The original uncensored dialogue version is what features and it has received the high-def treatment. John Harrison’s score has never sounded better. There were moments when I struggled to make out some of the dialogue from time to time, particularly Salazar’s, but for the most part the sound is faultless, especially when compared to other versions of the film that have been released.
There’s a fine array of extras here, some additional to the discs. Scottish critic Calum Waddell has penned an essay titled For Every Dawn There Is a New Day’ (or why George Romero would never direct a Rambo movie). This is contained within a collector’s booklet and is an incredibly interesting and informative read. It explores the themes of the movies, providing context to the social comment of the film and features interviews with those involved in making the film.
As the copy of the film I got was for review purposes, I don’t have the benefit of seeing what the retail copy will look like, but from what’s described, it sounds excellent. A 24-page comic titled Day Of The Dead: Desertion has been specially commissioned for this 25th anniversary release. Written by Barry Keating and Stefan Hutchison and illustrated by Jeff Zornow, it charts the origins of Bub. Frankly, this sounds amazing and I’m strongly considering purchasing the retail copy of the Blu-ray to get my hands on this.
The other non-disc extras are four alternative sleeves and a double sided poster, which were unavailable at time of review.
In terms of what’s on the discs, two new documentaries were made specifically for this release, both of which are based on star Joe Pilato and are in full HD. Calum Waddell directs Joe Of The Dead, an hour long documentary where Pilato talks about his career and experiences filming Day Of The Dead as well as almost appearing in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn and his brief appearance in Pulp Fiction.
The second of these features is Travelogue Of The Dead, which is directed by Naomi Holwill. This feature sees Pilato travel across Ireland and Scotland meeting fans and celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film. I got the impression that Calum Waddell was heavily involved in organising this trip. It’s clear that he’s been heavily involved in this release and his contribution to this set is significant. It’s certainly his contributions that provide the exclusives that many of the diehard fans will seek out.
There’s also a feature length commentary by the special effects team (Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, Everett Burrell and Mike Deak). It’s an engaging and insightful track that’s well worth taking the time to listen to.
The second disc includes an assortment of extras that have all been available on previous DVD releases. The Many Days Of The Dead is an interesting look at the making of the film, all those involved speak fondly of their experiences filming despite most of them falling ill having spent such a length of time down the mine. Speaking of the mine, there’s a cheesy promo clip for the Wampum mine where the film was based. No doubt the quality of the promo lead to them making the decision that this was the ideal location to shoot the film.
Other features include galleries (Photo Album Of The Dead and Souvenirs Of The Dead), trailers (Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead and various TV spots) and the audio recollections of Richard Liberty.
This 25th anniversary is a must own for any Romero fan.
Day Of The Dead be released on Blu-ray on March 29 and can be pre-ordered from the Den Of Geek Store.