Dawn of the Dead is George A. Romero’s superb sequel to his legendary zombie horror film Night of the Living Dead. Coming in 1978, a full ten years after Night, this sequel, often touted as equally as good or even better than the first film, picks up the story only months after the events that took place. The living dead are now a full-blown zombie apocalypse, with hordes of the shambling flesh-eaters swarming the cities. The U.S. government has imposed a state of martial law and special militarized law enforcement groups are sent out to confront and contain the undead. That’s how two members of one of those forces, Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott Reiniger), Stephen (David Emge), a traffic pilot for WGON-TV, and the station’s floor manager, Stephen’s girlfriend Frances (Gaylen Ross) team up to seek refuge in an empty shopping mall. The mall at first seems the perfect oasis away from the chaos of the world outside with all the consumer goods the heart could desire at their fingertips, but their idyllic hideaway is soon breached by a violent biker gang and more zombies causing the makeshift group of allies to once again have to face realities of the world.
Just as he had in his 1968 film, Romero once again provided horror film in Dawn of the Dead with lots of subtext that was a running social commentary. This time around it was a commentary on the growing consumerism in America, the mall culture that would ironically consume (and eventually itself die out) the culture, and of course racism and bigotry (check out the hyper-racist commanding officer in the opening scene).
The film is also a superb mixture of horror gore and quick-paced action, the former courtesy of the inimitable Tom Savini who provided the legendary practical FX, and the latter of course is all down to the pacing of Romero’s direction.
There are a few versions of this film available (three provided in this limited-edition collection). There is the Theatrical Cut (127 mins.) which is the version that Romero is noted to have preferred; there is the Extended ‘Cannes’ Cut (137 mins.), often referred to as the Director’s Cut, which was the initial version of the film edited together by Romero to qualify for inclusion at Cannes, and there is the Italian Dario Argento Cut (120 mins.) a shorter, faster-paced version that gets rid of some of the deeper character development in favor of more action – and also ran into trouble with UK sensors because of a lack of ‘contextual violence’. I won’t go into a detailed analysis of each cut for the purposes of this review, but I will say the each have their merits. My favorite remains Romero’s favorite, however, the Theatrical Cut. For those who would like a detailed comparison and explanation there are two excellent articles at Screen Rant and Movie-Censorship.com that likely do a far better and more thorough job than I ever could.
The Theatrical Cut of Dawn of the Dead provided here is from a new 4K scan and restoration of the original camera negative by Second Sight at Final Frame, New York and London supervised and approved by DoP Michael Gornick. The Cannes Cut was produced using the 4K scan of the Theatrical Cut original camera negative and a 4K scan of the Extended Cut color reversal internegative. The Argento Cut is from a 4K scan of the interpositive by Michele De Angelis at Backlight Digital, Rome.
Only the Theatrical and Cannes cuts are in HDR, with HEVC 2160p (4K) HDR10+ encodements and the Argento Cut is in an HEVC 2160p (4K) SDR encodement. For the HDR10 base, the encodement is done at Max. Light Level 1000nit, Min. Light Level 0.0001nit, Max. Content Light Level 1000nit, and Max. Frame-average Light Level 400nit.
I watched both HDR discs in HDR10 since my display only supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The Theatrical Cut is the best looking straight through, no doubt about it, and the original 35mm source looks fantastic. There’s a lot of film grain preserved, but it isn’t noisy and looks true to how this film has always looked only now just a little cleaner and a little sharper. The HDR grading is awesome as well. There’s a lot of ‘pop’ in the highlights when needed so we get excellent brightness in lighting and the glint on metal, but also colors look vibrant. The Cannes Cut looks nearly identical, with just some subtle shifts in detail and grain structure where the source changes from the negative to the reversal internegative.
The Argento Cut, the only film that is only in Standard Dynamic Range (SDR), looks the worst of the bunch, but that’s not to say it looks bad. There is definitely a little more coarseness noticeable in the grain and the colors and contrast doesn’t quite ‘pop’ as much without the HDR. That said, if you didn’t have the side-by-side comparison of the new HDR restorations, you would easily think this is a solid restoration of this low budget, catalogue, cult horror film.
The audio for at least the Theatrical Cut has been newly restored as well. Second Sight presents the new restoration of the new restoration of the new OCN Optical audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo, and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The additional cuts of the film also include either only 1.0 (Cannes) or all three mixes (Argento) but it is unclear if these also come from the new audio restoration. Based on the sound of the Argento 5.1 mix, I would say it’s a different source and mix from the 5.1 mix on the Theatrical Cut because it sounds a lot more aggressive in the surround channels, but I don’t like it much. In fact, I tried all the mixes on the Theatrical Cut (and Argento) and found I liked them in this order of preference, from best to least preferred: 1.0, 2.0 Stereo, 5.1. The 5.1 mixes to me sound a bit artificial. The 2.0 on the Theatrical is good with nice stereo effects, but the reality is the mono mixes are the superior ones with punchier sound and great balance.
This collection is packed — packed! There are commentaries new and previously available, a whole Blu-ray filled with mostly new interviews of the cast and crew and featurettes, documentaries, and then additional bonuses like a hardcover book, Romero’s novelisation of the film, and much, much more. See below for the details.
Theatrical Cut Disc 1:
- Commentary by George A. Romero, Tom Savini, and Christine Forrest
- New audio commentary by Travis Crawford
Cannes Cut Disc 2:
- Commentary by Richard P. Rubenstein — This and the Cast commentary from the Argento cut are my favorite commentaries on the collection. They provide a lot of candid information
Argento Cut Disc 3:
- Commentary by Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, Gaylen Ross, and David Emge
Special Features Blu-ray Disc 4:
- (NEW) Zombies and Bikers (1080p; 00:58:29) – With John Amplas, Roy Frumkes, Tom Dubensky, Tony Buba, Taso Stavrakis, and a whole host of zombies and bikers.
- (NEW) Memories of Monroeville (1080p; 00:34:22) – Take a tour of the mall with Michael Gornick, Tom Savini, Tom Dubensky, and Taso Stavrakis.
- (NEW) Raising the Dead (1080p; 00:25:03) – A look at the production logistics of Dawn
- (NEW) The FX of Dawn with Tom Savini (1080p; 00:12:55)
- (NEW) Dummies! Dummies! (1080p; 00:12:20) – An interview with Richard France
- (NEW) The Lost Romero Dawn Interview (upscaled 1080i; 00:20:27) – A previously unreleased archival interview with Romero.
- Super 8 Mall Footage (1080p; 00:13:25) — By Zombie extra Ralph Langer with optional archival commentary by Langer and a new commentary track by Langer.
- Document of the Dead: The Original Cut (720p; 01:31:36)
- Document of the Dead: The Definitive Cut (720p; 01:42:12) — With optional commentary by Roy Frumkes.
- The Dead Will Walk (720p; 01:15:01) – 2014 documentary
- Trailers, TV Spots, Radio Spots (1080p; 00:18:37)
Limited Edition Contents:
Audio CD Disc 1
- The Goblin Soundtrack – 17 tracks including alternate and bonus tracks
Audio CD Disc 2
- Dawn of the Dead: A De Wolfe Library Compilation Part 1
Audio CD Disc 3
- Dawn of the Dead: A De Wolfe Library Compilation Part 2
- Rigid box with lid featuring the original artwork
- Two inner digipaks
- Dissecting the Dead – 160-page hardcover book featuring 17 new essays, archive article, and George A. Romero interview plus original marketing, artwork, and merchandise images and behind-the-scenes stills.
- Dawn of the Dead: The Novelisation book by George A. Romero and Susanna Sparrow with exclusive artwork.
The Final Assessment
This is it horror fans, this is the collection you have all been waiting for. If you love horror, zombie movies, and George A. Romero films and the Dead franchise, then this limited edition 4K Ultra HD set of Dawn of the Dead from Second Sight is must have, must own, must watch, and well done!
Dawn of the Dead (Limited Edition) 4K Ultra HD is out 16 November 2020 from Second Sight
- Studios & Distributors: Dawn Associates | Laurel Group (production)
- Director: George A. Romero
- Written By: George A. Romero
- Run Time: 127 Mins (Theatrical Cut) | 137 Mins. (Cannes Cut) | 120 Mins (Argento Cut)
- Street Date: 16 November 2020
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K)
- HDR Format: HDR10+ (Theatrical & Cannes Cut)
- Maximum Luminance: 1000nits
- Minimum Luminance: 0.0001nits
- Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 1.0 (All Cuts)
- Secondary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo (Theatrical & Argento Only) | DTS-HD MA 5.1 (Theatrical & Argento Only)
- Subtitles: New English HOH