Starring James Farentino, Jack Albertson, Melody Anderson, Dennis Redfield.
Directed by Gary Sherman
Distributed by Blue Underground
Recently, I caught up on some older episodes of Mick Garris’ Post Mortem podcast and among his guests was Gary Sherman, well known to horror fans as the director of Death Line (a.k.a. Raw Meat, 1972), Poltergeist III (1988) and Dead & Buried (1981). Sherman discussed the myriad issues he has run into on his productions – the most famous of which is the death of Heather O’Rourke during filming on Poltergeist III – but when talk turned to Dead & Buried my ears perked up because I think it’s one of the more under-praised films in horror. Sherman made a small town horror movie with Gothic trappings and a plot straight out of an E.C. comic book. Unbeknownst to me, Sherman had the film taken away from him when a production company purchased the company for which Sherman had been making the picture. Their head honcho demanding more blood because “if I wanted [Ingmar] Bergman to make a horror movie I would have hired Bergman”. Additional deaths were filmed, the feature re-cut, and although it doesn’t match up exactly to what Sherman had intended the end result is no less intriguing and creepy. Blue Underground has been doing justice to Dead & Buried since the DVD days and this latest release, a 4K Ultra HD disc, is the end-all-be-all.
A gloomy day at the beach turns into a hellish inferno for amateur photographer Freddie (Christopher Allport) when his impromptu session with a local lady ends with the citizens of Potters Bluff dousing him with gasoline and lighting it up. Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) gets on the case, searching for a reason behind the brutal attack. He doesn’t get long to think, however, when more visitors to this quaint seaside town wind up hacked to pieces or worse. The only person not bothered by the string of killings is William G. Dobbs (Jack Albertson), the local mortician who is all-too-pleased to be able to bring his artistry to fresh corpses – his only lament is after he creates a “masterpiece” they go into the ground. Or do they? Sheriff Gillis begins uncovering strange clues that don’t yet add up to a break in the case, and the explanation behind it all might be enough to drive him mad.
The most striking aspect of Sherman’s film is Steven Poster’s cinematography, which is soft, grainy, dour, and devoid of the color red. Though shot in Northern California the town of Potters Bluff is located in Maine and the overcast weather certainly helps to sell that illusion – though if you’re a fan of The Fog (1980) you’ll likely think the beaches and coastline look fairly familiar. Poster’s lensing injects plenty of atmosphere and dread into Sherman’s story.
Another highlight not to be overlooked is Stan Winston’s FX work, my favorite of which is the hitchhiker’s reconstruction. His attention to detail with anatomy and animatronics proves why even at an early stage in his career Winston’s effects were a cut above the rest. The only effect Winston didn’t do is the acid death, which is one of a handful of changes forced on Sherman by his new producers. That scene also makes no narrative sense, making it additionally pointless.
This is an atypical horror film, one that offers up more of an introspective look at life and death instead of something along the lines of then-popular slasher films. Dr. Dobbs is played by Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), though his turn toward something sinister isn’t exactly an acting stretch because Dobbs is still a joyful man with a notable love for his work. Dobbs’ only lament is the ephemeral nature of his job – after the wake his hard work gets placed in a coffin and lowered six feet. How he circumvents that problem is best left up to first-time viewers to discover on their own but I will say I love how this story feels like it was ripped from horror films of the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Blue Underground previously issued Dead & Buried on DVD, with a lavish limited edition 2-disc set, and on Blu-ray, but this new 4K Ultra HD release handily blows those two away. Featuring a 4K 16-but scan of the interpositive, the 1.85:1 2160p image looks considerably cleaner, with swirling film grain, strong color density, and tighter definition that helps cut through the ever-present fog. Don’t go into this expecting the 4K to magically make the film look sharply defined; this accurately reflects the intended look and is likely the best this can ever look on home video. As usual, the audio has been upgraded to include an English Dolby Atmos track and it’s another fine effort, though I think the original mono track is no slouch. The film is moody and so is composer Joseph Renzetti’s score, which uses plenty of piano and strings to set a somber tone.
- BRAND NEW 4K 16-BIT RESTORATION OF THE FILM FROM AN INTERPOSITIVE approved by Director of Photography Steven Poster
- DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
- NEW DOLBY ATMOS AUDIO TRACK
- Audio Commentary #1 with Director Gary Sherman
- Audio Commentary #2 with Co-Writer/Co-Producer Ronald Shusett and Actress Linda Turley
- Audio Commentary #3 with Director of Photography Steven Poster, ASC
- NEW Audio Commentary #4 with Film Historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson
- NEW Behind the Scenes of Dead & Buried
- NEW Dead & Buried Locations: Now & Then
- NEW Murders, Mystery, and Music – Interviews with Director Gary Sherman and Composer Joe Renzetti
- NEW The Pages of Potters Bluff – Interview with Novelization Author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
- Stan Winston’s Dead & Buried EFX
- Robert Englund: An Early Work of Horror
- Dan O’Bannon: Crafting Fear
- Theatrical Trailers
- NEW Poster & Still Galleries
- Steven Poster’s Location Stills
- BONUS! Collectible Booklet with a new essay by Michael Gingold
- BONUS! DEAD & BURIED Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD by Joe Renzetti
- Optional English SDH, Français, and Español subtitles for the main feature
Blue Underground’s 4K releases have been nothing short of spectacular and this is one of my favorites yet. Gary Sherman’s cryptic little tale gets the ultimate in a/v quality, along with plenty of worthwhile bonus features and – my favorite – Joseph Renzetti’s fantastic score on CD. I cannot recommend this enough.