Blu-Ray Review: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Horror fans recently had a real reason to be excited with the Blu Ray release of George A. Romero’s legendary “Dawn of the Dead” in a 3 disc special edition. Although more than 3 decades have passed since the film originally moaned and shuffled its way onto cinema screens and into the collective consciousness of genre aficionados and mainstream critics alike, its reputation has only grown and grown. Indeed, its iconic image of a small band of zombie plague survivors trapped in and indeed by a huge shopping mall, a monstrous monument to consumerism, remains every bit as potent today – if not even more so. The film raised the bar in several ways for the genre, not only in terms of gore and special effects, but proving that horror cinema was perfectly capable of mixing intelligence and social commentary alongside the usual blood and guts.

By now, anyone even with only a passing interest in horror must be aware of the plot – two Philadelphia Police S.W.A.T. officers, a helicopter pilot and his TV reporter girlfriend escape the city after it is overrun by the living dead, and take shelter in a massive suburban shopping mall. Although initially they only plan to refuel and gather supplies, they find themselves setting up home, barricading the doors against the ever growing number ghouls gathering outside and defending it from vicious looters.

With the quality of the film being beyond doubt, the question here is to whether or not this new release, which comes courtesy of the old school horror hands of Arrow Video, has anything new to add to make it worthwhile – no small challenge, given that most fans will more than likely own a copy of the film or one of the many special editions that have appeared through the years. The first and perhaps the most important comment to be made is that the quality of the Blu Ray image is quite astounding.

For a film that is now more than 30 years old, “Dawn of the Dead” looks amazing. The Theatrical Cut is presented in full 1080p resolution, with the step up in quality from older DVD releases being immediately obvious. The picture is incredibly sharp and the colours are far richer, giving the film a brighter, more lurid air, especially during the gore scenes. Indeed, the film arguably now looks better than many Blu Ray releases of more modern films, rather ironically, including the recent and rather needless “Dawn of the Dead” remake.

In terms of extras, Arrow have gone some way to putting together what stands as the ultimate and most exhaustive edition of the film, including the Romero approved Theatrical Cut, the Director’s Cut, and even the Dario Argento Cut, here available for the first time in the UK. Different versions of the film aside, which come with a variety of commentaries, spread across the discs are an impressive collection of documentaries and featurettes, including the “Scream Greats” documentary on make up maestro Tom Savini, the French piece “Fan of the Dead” from Nicolas Garreau, and more.

As a result, “Dawn of the Dead” is a must have for all fans of the film, both for its image quality and extras. Whilst its hard not to suspect that somewhere down the line someone else will bring out an even more feature packed edition, Arrow Video have done a first rate job in putting together what certainly rates as the very best currently available.

George A. Romero (director) / George A. Romero (screenplay)
CAST: David Emge … Stephen
Ken Foree … Peter
Scott H. Reiniger … Roger
Gaylen Ross … Francine

Buy Dawn of the Dead on DVD