Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Lori Cardille, Richard Liberty, Joe Pilato, Gary Klar, Terry Alexander, Anthony Dileo, Jr., Howard Sherman
Written and directed by George A. Romero
Distributed by Arrow Video
It isn’t often that I can’t think of words to describe how I feel about something. In those rare instances I’ll usually just throw in a bunch of expletives and hope for the best, but in the interest of decency I’m going to try extra hard to refrain from doing so lest the torrent that would ensue in this particular case scar the minds of any who may unwittingly come across this review.
George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead needs very little introduction to genre fans. The third entry in his ongoing saga is undoubtedly the most bleak and desolate of them all, pitting scientists against the military in an isolated research station. Surrounded by a world overrun with the walking dead, lead scientist Logan (Richard Liberty) is attempting to find a way to domesticate the flesh-eaters in the hope of developing coexistence; meanwhile the borderline psychotic Captain Rhodes (Joe Pilato, giving a legendary performance) is rapidly losing patience with the lack of results. In true Romero Dead fashion, human differences (and blatant stupidity) eventually give the ever-present zombies a chance to gain the upper hand.
And holy shit, do they ever! The final third of Day of the Dead contains some of the most amazing, and abundant, gore to ever grace the screen as zombies bite, tear, disembowel, decapitate, and just plain annihilate our villains. The prosthetic creations of Tom Savini and company stand as a pinnacle of their craft even today, and it’s absolutely no surprise that the film is still hailed as a splatter classic.
Day is also guilty of splitting fans right down the middle in terms of opinion, right from its initial box office failure. Gone is the humour with which Dawn was laced, replaced with an unyielding sense of foreboding and sheer mean spirit. Personally, I find it creeps just above Dawn to take the top spot in Romero’s canon – in fact it’s not only the best of the series, but one of the best zombie films ever made.
Being such a big fan of the film, Arrow’s Blu-ray release feels like a gift that was designed just for me. It’s astounding. The film looks and sounds fantastic (though the first few minutes contain a slight hissing on pronounced “s” sounds), the picture the best it’s ever been or realistically may ever be. A few small moments of murkiness betray the source material, but the gore scenes look positively wonderful (or do I dare say gore-geous? Wakka wakka…).
On the Blu-ray disc we have two brand new documentary features. The first, Joe of the Dead, is a brand-new 50-minute interview with Joe Pilato by Calum Waddell. The ever-likable Pilato does repeat some of the age-old anecdotes about the movie (such as the oft-retold unrefrigerated pig intestines during his climactic demise), but he also goes into a lot of detail regarding his career, festival experiences, fanbase, and a whole lot more. An excellent interview.
Alongside this we get Travelogue 09 Tour, a short video diary of sorts displaying excerpts from a promotional tour Pilato did with Ken Foree in 2009, travelling across Ireland and Scotland appearing at Q&As, film festivals, and signings. Foree is nowhere to be seen during the video segments of this featurette, but it’s a lot of fun watching Pilato interact with the fans, answer some ridiculous questions, and get accosted by a very strange and almost incoherent fan.
The final feature present on the Blu-ray is a world exclusive commentary track by effects team Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, Everett Burrell, and Mike Deak. In a nutshell, this is a must-listen. The guys get on like a house on fire, even letting us know when they’re cracking open the next beer, keeping a steady stream of behind-the-scenes info and details of many of the gore gags flying at you. They’re also incredibly funny – I haven’t laughed out loud this much during a commentary in a long, long time.
The second disc supplied in the set is a DVD that is the exact same supplementary disc found in Anchor Bay’s Divimax edition of the film. If you’re a fan, you’ll likely already own this, but for those who don’t, it includes a 38-minute documentary called The Many Days of the Dead (shot before Romero made Land of the Dead) featuring contributions by Romero himself, Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero, producer David Ball, Joe Pilato, Lori Cardille, and Bub himself, Howard Sherman. It’s definitely worth a watch to hear them discuss experiences with the film and Romero’s original vision. After this, there’s the 20-minute Behind the Zombies Footage. This featurette gives us a look at some of the makeup effects and zombie stunts and a few moments speaking with a few of the extras playing zombies in the movie.
The last substantial extra on the disc is a 15-minute audio interview with the late Richard Liberty. It’s a good listen but unfortunately suffers from some volume issues and audio dropouts, appearing to have been recorded outdoors.
Finally, there’s a collection of Day TV spots; trailers for Night and Dawn; a written Romero bio/filmography; gallery of featured zombie production stills; another gallery of Day related promotional material such as lobby cards, posters, drinks coasters, and various cover art; and a cheesy 80s promotional video for the Wampum Mine location (ideal for storage services!).
Now, even though the above is an impressive number of features, it isn’t everything. Arrow has also included a ton of physical extras. You’ll find yourself with four different pieces of cover art to choose from, including a brand new design by artist Rick Melton; a double-sided fold-out poster including the awesome “wall of faces” cover design; a brand new booklet written by Calum Waddell entitled For Every Dawn There Is a Day, which features an essay on the film and brand new interviews with cast and crew; and, finally, an all-new comic book – Day of the Dead: Desertion – which fleshes out the story of Logan’s smartest zombie pupil, Bub. Unfortunately the press pack didn’t include these physical extras, but if the booklets in Arrow’s past releases and the preview of the comic we gave you here are anything to go by, the quality will be exceptionally high.
Arrow has excelled with this release. It can only be described as a labour of love – far and above anything fans could have seen coming. It’s like Christmas has come early in 2010, and the ultimate zombie movie has almost been given the ultimate treatment. I say almost because I’m going to be a bit of a prick and complain about the lack of a commentary by Romero himself (which was present on the Anchor Bay release from which the second disc is sourced). You see what happens when you spoil people?!?
4 1/2 out of 5
4 1/2 out of 5
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