Color, 1978, 128 mins.

Directed by George A. Romero

Starring David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross, Tom Savini / Produced by Richard P. Rubinstein / Music by Goblin / Cinematography by Michael Gornick

Format: DVD - Anchor Bay (MSRP $29.95)

Letterboxed (1.66:1) / Dolby Digital Mono

Dawn of the Dead is that rare film whose reputation just seems to keep getting better and better with time. Either adored or reviled by critics on its initial release (which broke box office records in Europe and Asia), Dawn was one of the first unrated, explicitly gory films to become a smash hit in the U.S. and paved the way for more bloodsoaked mayhem to follow. Of course, Romero's classic also contains its fair share of social subtext beginning with the familir shopping mall setting. However, the analysis continues far beyond simple American consumerism, with militarism, the institution of marriage, and the consequences of a repetitious, deadening lifestyle all coming under fire. Oh, yeah, and it has some pretty amazing Tom Savini effects, too.

Presumably picking up after the zombie plague from Night of the Living Dead has engulfed the nation, Dawn picks up during a technical crisis at a local television station and introduces its four protagonists: couple Stephen (Emge) and Fran (Creepshow's Ross), Roger (Reiniger), and Peter (Foree, another strong black Romero hero). While the ghettos turn into a zombie and military bloodbath, the quartet escape and find shelter in a shopping mall where they quarantine themselves into a blockade of shops and desolate storage areas. All goes well, if somewhat boringly, until a frisky group of bikers decide to invade the mall...

Anchor Bay has now unveiled no less than two incarnations of Romero's masterpiece, and while the more recent "U.S. Theatrical Cut" might seem inferior by missing about 12 minutes from the 140 minute "Director's Cut," both versions are well worth owning. Numerous publications have documented the minute changes between these two cuts, as well as the European version, Zombi, supervised by exec producer Dario Argento (go to the Unofficial Dawn of the Dead Website for a thorough overview). However, for a casual and entertaining viewing experience, the "U.S." cut which has been most familiar to audiences over the years, remains the superior edition. The longer edition may be more purely Romero, but this movie just isn't the same without that blast of Gobln music over the main titles. Also, the 128 minute version simply moves faster; the director's cut embellishes more and rewards fans with greater insight, but for the uninitiated, it simply drags. While the Director's Cut version released on laser (Elite) and DVD (Anchor Bay) looks passable, Anchor Bay's DVD of the standard cut is a knockout, easily blowing away the prior releases from HBO Video and Republic. In fact, the crispness of detail outdoes any version of Dawn to date, period, and the color saturation looks much purer and richer than could be expected from such a low budget film. Both Anchor Bay DVDs contain the same theatrical trailer, while the Elite special edition laser contains more extras (not as thorough as their NOLD but fun nonetheless). The 128 minute Anchor Bay DVD also includes an amusing circa-'78 TV spot for the Monroeville Mall and a few extra scenes from the alternate Zombi cut (but none of the extra gore footage from the climactic attack sequence, alas). Perhaps someday Anchor Bay will see fit to release all three cuts of Dawn together in a special box set with all of the available extra material together, but until that day, horror fans shouldn't be fooled by the newer DVD's shorter running time.

Mondo Digital MainPage | Mondo Digital Vault | LaserLogue | ScoreLogue