Directed by Frank Darabont, Michelle MacLaren, Gwyneth Horder-Payton, Ernest Dickerson, Guy Ferland
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Here we are talking about another edition of AMC’s successful horror series on home video. Less than one year later. I’m not going to actually recap my thoughts on this show or the graphic novel, as my stance is remarkably similar to Uncle Creepy’s. As such, I’d compel those of you looking for a critical analysis to click here. There’s just too much supplemental ground to cover, and I want to be thorough without turning this into an unreadable rant. So join me on this deep dive!
Anchor Bay has gone all out in providing fans with everything they could possibly want to know about “The Walking Dead”. This three-disc special edition set is just packed with features so dense that I’ve literally spent the past week pouring through everything. Sitting now on the other side of this review, I can tell you that there isn’t a single solitary stone unturned throughout these special features. ‘Special’, being the operative word here.
Having never gotten the previous release, I was happy to find all of those special features have also been ported over. Admittedly, some of this stuff is of the generic EPK variety, though even the fluffiest carry-over retains enough value to warrant your time. The thirty-minute Making of The Walking Dead documentary is a comprehensive experience covering everything from the show’s origins to shooting that ambitious pilot. Lots of AMC love is spread around (ironic, considering their publicized treatment of the show), and a ton of cast/crew interviews are spliced in throughout.
Next up are six, five-minute featurettes – each of them dedicated to one of the episodes. They’re brief inside looks centered around the major events of each episode. Solid stuff, especially as mini addendums to the aforementioned documentary. Disc 2 also houses a five-minute “sneak peek” with comic creator Robert Kirkman. It’s EPK fluff that can be skipped as the information is covered elsewhere. The make-up featurette with Greg Nicotero is an absolute blast. A delightful “how to” for those looking to turn themselves into zombies this Halloween. There’s also that infamous twelve-minute San Diego Comic-Con panel that got everyone so excited for the series in the first place. A few deleted scenes offer some additional zombie hi-jinks and character beats. Rounding out the initial set of extras is the AMC trailer. All fun stuff, and huge props to the good people at Anchor Bay for carrying it over.
Now for the new stuff: Every episode of “The Walking Dead” has been outfitted with a commentary track. The pilot, Days Gone Bye, sees a solo discussion from writer/director/former showrunner Frank Darabont. For a 67-minute, super-sized episode, Darabont’s commentary is well-paced and informative. A nice mixture of reaping constant accolades upon a talented cast/crew while alternately delving into making-of trivia and his inspirations. Perhaps Darabont gets a bit too carried away with some technical details (I checked out during his descriptions of various lighting techniques), but it remains a fun and easy listen.
The second episode, Guts, is a discussion between director Michelle MacLaren and FX artist Greg Nicotero. It’s a so-so little dialogue, focused mainly on the breakneck pace at which these shows are shot. Nicotero is fairly quiet unless asked, though his additions are worthy contributions, not merely about the brilliant FX work but also the constant barrage of Romero nods found throughout the show.
Tell It to the Frogs boasts audio commentary from director Gwyneth Horder-Payton and actors Andrew Lincoln and Jon Bernthal. It’s easily the best commentary to date, thanks in part to the addition of actors included in the discussion. It lends diversity to the conversation with lots of fun actor anecdotes mixed in throughout the now-generic ”we shoot this show on a tight schedule” rhetoric that grows a little stale after three straight commentaries.
The low point in Season One is the heavy-handed and manipulative Vatos. The commentary with comic author/executive producer/episode writer Robert Kirkman and actress Emma Bell, however, is a blast. This is a lighthearted chat with Kirkman/Bell enjoying nice chemistry throughout. Kirkman mocks Bell when her stories teeter on the uninteresting, laughs at background extras and spills some dirt on the atmospheric Atlanta locations. Bell is equally enthusiastic and funny (especially referring to Jeffrey DeMunn as Gandalf). In the end this track isn’t quite as informative as I would’ve liked from Kirkman, but it’s a total pleasure to listen to. Hopefully he’ll do more of these as the show continues into future seasons.
Wildfire pairs off director Ernest Dickerson and actress Laurie Holden. Holden is no stranger to genre greatness (The Mist, Silent Hill and “The X-Files”), and her dialogue with Dickerson is really good. They enjoy a nice, amicable discussion that ranges from career backgrounds to perspectives on the series. There’s a lot of Darabont revelry tossed around (depressing, considering his departure from the series this past summer), and Dickerson is especially informative/interesting as he details the differences between the shooting script and the original, intended version of this episode. Of them all, this track strikes perhaps the best balance between fun and educational.
To close out the first year, we have TS-19, the second misfire of the season. This is a commentary with director Guy Ferland and producer Gale Anne Hurd. Like the episode itself, this commentary is a bit of a dud. Far too redundant in its techno-speak, Ferland talks in-depth about shooting on a tight schedule and how quickly he had to adapt himself to the process. Not a terrible commentary, but a bit lackluster.
Disc 3 brings on all the new stuff. And it’s awesome. First up is the option to watch Frank Darabont’s pilot in black and white, similar to the special feature on The Mist special edition. I did revisit the pilot in B&W and thoroughly enjoyed the stark atmosphere it provided. Beyond that is the We Are the Walking Dead documentary. Running a full hour, this is a great making-of piece that covers the filming of all six episodes. It’s comprehensive, endlessly informative and consists entirely of superb behind-the-scenes footing of the cast and crew. A blast to watch: from scheduling challenges, action choreography and horrible weather, this isn’t the easiest show to shoot, and I came away from this admiring the series even more than I already did. It should also be noted that there are severe spoilers throughout so do not watch this unless you’ve seen the whole first season. This is the kind of feature that I’d love to see included on every home video release of each subsequent season. Great stuff.
The sixteen-minute ”Bring out the Dead: KNB and the Art of Making Zombies” featurette gives fans exactly what they’re looking for: a solid look behind the curtain of Greg Nicotero’s KNB FX company. It’s a perfect examination of how horror movie magic is made. That it’s done on a weekly basis on the small screen is all the more impressive. As a contrast, there’s Digital Decay: The VFX of The Walking Dead. Twelve minutes detailing how the VFX wizards make those headshots, decapitations, and zombie masses blend in against live action. It also reveals how CGI is often used to fix gaps/errors that arise on the set. Sure, it’s easy to hate on CGI, but this little featurette goes a long way toward detailing exactly how it should be used in the filmmaking process.
No More Room in Hell: The Walking Dead Phenomenon runs 12 minutes and focuses around Kirkman’s comic book source material. Adapting the Dead is the follow-up piece, running 7 minutes, and discussing the challenges of bringing this expansive work to the small screen. Finally, there’s Killer Conversations, another 12-minute featurette, this one a candid talk between Greg Nicotero and Frank Darabont. It covers a bit of everything and proves to be a nice capper to this incredible set of extra material.
Make no mistake; I’m exhausted. Anchor Bay’s second dip for Season One of “The Walking Dead” is packed! The commentaries are all informative and fun, and the brand new special features are excellent. Couple that with strong video quality (remember, this is shot on 16mm) and rock solid audio, and you’ve got a must own for any hardcore fan of this series. It all comes housed in a great gatefold package with a nifty collage blending the real life cast with their comic book counterparts. If you never purchased the first release of “The Walking Dead” and would like to add this series to your collection, this set is a no-brainer. Content, technical specs and extra material are out of this world, and it all comes highly recommended.
Each version includes bonus features from the previous release of “The Walking Dead: Season 1” on DVD that contained the following:
Extra Footage includes:
4 out of 5
4 1/2 out of 5
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