Day of the Dead
U.S.A. / 1985
Directed by George A. Romero
Starring
Lori Cardille
Joseph Pilato
Richard Liberty
Color / 101 Minutes / Not Rated

Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC / 2-disc set)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
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7
    9   10 = Highest Rating  
Guest Review by Kevin Novinski
Anchor Bay Entertainment continues their DiviMax series with the third, and tentatively final, installment in George A. Romero's "Dead" saga, Day of the Dead. Since its 1985 release the film has frequently been overlooked by many horror fans and fans of the Dead series alike. Romero and his crew attempt to pull out all the stops in this one, including topnotch zombie/make-up effects no blue-faced ghouls here as in the previous film, Dawn of the Dead. The acting won't win any Academy Awards (and can actually get rather shrill at times), but what can one say about a George Romero film? In a way, Romero achieved what he wanted to with Day by making not just some of the characters depressing, but the entire atmosphere along with it. Rest assured, though, zombie/gore fans won't be let down.
    The film begins with a young woman alone in a desolate white room as the opening credits appear on screen accompanied by a repeating unsettling soundtrack in the background. After some time the woman begins the rise from her seated position and walks across the floor toward a calendar hanging on the wall. She moves her hand over the calendar. It is just then that a horde of undead arms smash through the wall, reaching for her. We are then tossed out of what was a dream and back into reality.
    The woman's name is Sarah (played by
Lori Cardille, daughter of Bill Cardille, the TV news correspondent in Romero's original Night of the Living Dead). She's a governmental scientist, riding in a helicopter along with three other men. The group is flying across Florida trying to find any signs of life left in the world. From above, it appears that locating anyone alive is hopeless... The living dead walk the streets below. The helicopter sets down on a deserted street where Sarah and a soldier, Miguel (Antone DiLeo), use a bullhorn to try and signal any remaining humans. A few tries with the bullhorn only summons a legion of zombies that inhabit the city. Having no choice but to return to the helicopter, they depart.
   
Upon returning to their fortified underground military base, Sarah, along with Miguel, is asked to help and collect a few of the walking dead for scientific experiments, which are being conducted by the psychotic Dr. Logan. The zombies are kept in a cavern, a segregated area of the underground complex which is separated from the survivors' living quarters by a large wooden fence. One of the soldiers, Steel (G. Howard Klar), begins to taunt the zombies upon arriving at the fence, but they don't come toward him. Because of this Sarah and the others begin to realize that the ghouls can learn things over a period of time. More vulgar taunts are hurled as the creatures begin to shuffle towards the fence. An emotionally unstable Miguel takes up a pole, used to keep the zombies beyond arm's length, much to the disapproval of Sarah. Quickly, one of the zombies is attached to the pole by the collar around its neck and reeled in through the fence. Miguel can no longer hold the zombie away from the other soldiers and accidentally loses his grip; the thing is now loose inside the perimeter. Sarah quickly picks up the pole and gets the zombie under control while an angry Steel grabs Miguel and threatens to feed him to the zombies. Sarah tells the bully to back off or else she'll shoot him dead. Miguel is soon released by an extremely pissed-off Steel. Later on we're introduced to Captain Rhodes (Joseph Pilato), a power-mad officer who wants results pronto for the time, effort, and casualties spent on the scientific experiments being conducted. Sarah pleads to have Miguel temporarily relieved of duty due to his instability but is only met with profanity-laced insults from Rhodes. (There is a lot of cursing in this film.) She soon leaves, against Rhodes' orders, and decides to visit "Dr. Frankenstein" to find out exactly what he's been up to.
    Sarah visits Dr. Logan
(The Crazies' Richard Liberty), an obviously cracked scientist who's determined to find out what makes the dead walk the earth. He schools her on how he's discovered the secret to teaching the zombies to act beyond their "primitive" instincts; even going as far as teaching them to not attack the living. Following his speech, Sarah pleads to see preliminary results of his bizarre experiments, telling Logan that the soldiers are growing impatient and increasingly hostile to the scientists the situation could get violent. Suddenly a cadaver on one of the lab's operating tables rises up, reaching for Sarah. Dr. Logan immediately picks up a drill and shoves it into the zombie's forehead, killing it instantly. I apologize but I cannot tell you anymore of the story without giving away the really interesting stuff...
    Overall, the film packs a good wallop for gore freaks and just plain horror fans in general. Those who are looking for a film of the likes of Dawn of the Dead... sorry, you won't find it here. Day features substantially less humor, satire and social commentary. But it is this film that Romero calls the goriest and most underrated of his "Dead" epics.

To start off, I'd like to address the controversial audio editing issue, which has gotten many die-hard Deadheads angry. Unless you know the entire script from beginning to end you'll most likely not pick up on the change to the original dialog. There aren't many adjustments, just small tidbits here and there. (Example: for some reason the word "Shit!" is changed to "Right!" in one passage of dialog.) The soundtrack is excellent and is far better than that of the old Anchor Bay release. Day is finally given a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix along with a very interesting commentary track featuring Romero, gore effects maestro Tom Savini, production designer Cletus Anderson, and star Lori Cardille. The track will be most interesting to those new to the film and the lore surrounding it. A second commentary track by director Roger Avary doesn't contribute much of anything.
    The picture is superb, right up there with the sound quality, and is anamorphic widescreen to boot. The transfer is sharper, compared to the older release, and the colors are beautiful and vibrant. Disc # 2 is packed to the brim with special features, many of which are not available on any other previous release. Firstly, Anchor Bay has produced an all new 39-minute documentary featuring interviews with many of the cast and crew about their experiences and enjoyment making Day of the Dead. This worthwhile documentary provides loads of information about the filming and locations. A behind-the-scenes featurette, running 31 minutes, consists of rare footage shot by Tom Savini during his special effects sessions on the set and is rather interesting for those who ask, "How did they do that?" We also get every theatrical trailer ever used in America, along with TV spots.
    An extensive library of production, behind-the-scenes, advertising art, memorabilia, zombie make-up, and continuity photos is also included. As usual, Anchor Bay includes a text biography of director Romero. Nothing new here. Last, but certainly not least, a DVD-ROM extra is accessible for PC users. It provides production memos and the entire original screenplay, which was rejected for being far too violent and expensive. A special note for those film completists out there: the original Day of the Dead DVD includes extra behind-the-scenes footage that is not available on the new disc. After almost two years of the original Anchor Bay release being out of print, and going over $60 on auction sites, we finally get a well deserved re-release that's well worth the buy (especially since it retails for under $25).
9/23/03
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