Day of the Dead: Ultimate Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (30th December 2018).
The Film

"Day of the Dead" (1985)

Some time into the zombie apocalypse, a handful of people are working and surviving in an underground military bunker with three specific missions: for the helicopter team to find survivors, the military team to take out the hordes of zombies, and the scientific team to study the effects and find a cure. Sarah (played by Lori Cardille) is afraid to go to sleep, as her nightmares are as frightening as the real world where the dead walk but also where the survivors are having issues communicating and working together. In her group is the spiritual helicopter pilot John (played by Terry Alexander), the quiet radio operator McDermott (played by Jarlath Conroy), and the borderline mad scientist Logan (played by Richard Liberty), where they are about reasoning and finding answers to the situation. The military group led by Captain Rhodes (played by Joseph Pilato) on the other hand is not taking the hordes of zombies lightly, with a severeness to his actions. The two factions collide with their moral stances, where the biggest challenge is not keeping the undead out, but keeping the sanity of the survivors.

The third film in the George Romero Dead Series following "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) and "Dawn of the Dead" (1978), "Day of the Dead" is a spiritual successor but in no way is it a true sequel, just as "Dawn" had no true connection to "Night", with different characters, different times, and a completely different tone. "Night" reflected the era of the 1960s with the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, with frustration from the youth and misunderstandings being the core with the character interactions in the film. "Dawn" was about excess, with the economic boom and bust, which was both fun and disturbing, becoming one of the biggest independent movies of the year. "Day of the Dead" on the other hand is closer to the frustrations and divide seen in "Night", where politics and reason collided reflecting the Reaganomics era of America, where conservatism came back swinging. Interestingly, the social divide seen with the characters in "Day of the Dead" might be more reflective of the Trump era America more than thirty years after the film was shot, with many of the confrontation scenes between the military and the civilians looking like an exaggerated Thanksgiving family dinner with politics colliding and no one able to agreeing on anything.

While in "Night" and "Dawn" there were scenes of the survivors having disagreements and conflicting ideals, it was about surviving together while suffering the consequences. In "Day of the Dead" the conflicting ideals almost never come to a full agreement. One faction is looking at the logical approach by studying about the outbreak and looking for survivors. One faction is looking at the logistical approach of survival by killing the zombies, as well as any humans that may stand in the way. Although most people would side with Sarah and the civilians, what Rhodes is doing is not in fact "wrong", as he has seen combat and is using his instincts for survival and leadership to keep his people alive. Most of the soldiers are cartoonish in nature, with Steel (played by Gary Klar) and Rickles (played by Ralph Marrero) ready to fire at anytime and laugh their way through. Though the scientific crew is not at all angelic. Logan's experiments on the dead is reminiscent of what was later depicted in "District 9" with the laboratory of alien body parts (which in turn was based on the real experiments of Unit 731 during WWII), and the ethical vs unethical nature of experimenting with body parts, whether dead or alive, whether human or not. There is conflict within the civilian camp when they start looking into some of the more gruesome experiments by Logan, though the one that comes off as the most memorable would be the zombie named "Bub" (played by Sherman Howard), the first zombie to show signs of brain activity. Learning and copying, as well as showing forms of compassion to Logan as a father figure, the scenes featuring Bub are both comical yet touching, with brilliant moments of acting pulled off by Howard done almost entirely without dialogue.

With "Dawn of the Dead" upping the ante of zombie gore in cinema with some absolutely painful looking practical effects, "Day of the Dead" went even further with the special effects sequences, courtesy of effects maestro Tom Savini who manned many of the effects in "Dawn". With a larger group of artists including young apprentice Greg Nicotero, the scenes with amputations, decapitations, face ripping, torso splitting madness were at their peak in practical effects. The level of gore was absolutely disgusting and extremely well done, with some of the most ambitious in the Dead series of films. The film being made with an "unrated" label in mind, the team did not hold back anything, and the death sequences were incredibly memorable. Though it is never made clear how the slow walking seemingly weak zombies have enough strength to rip into skin or tear apart people, they are somehow able to, and that falls into zombie logic.

But where the previous two films became overnight cult hits with extended theatrical screenings and major box office grosses, "Day of the Dead" did not receive the same accolades or the same enthusiasm when it was first released. Distributed by United Film Distribution Company, the premiere was in New York on June 30th 1985, followed by a general release nationwide from July 19th at 168 screens. Many major chains would not carry the film as it was "unrated" without approval of the MPAA, and that also meant limited advertising with many newspapers not carrying ads for the film. There was also box office competition with "Return of the Living Dead", which was also riding on the coattails of "Night of the Living Dead", being co-written by "Night" co-screenwriter John A. Russo, released only a month later. The critical reaction to "Day of the Dead" was mostly negative with the criticism towards the unredeeming qualities and over the top characters, as well as the over the top violence. Fans were also not happy with the pessimistic tone and the film quickly disappeared from the public eye. Romero's career hit a standstill with difficulties in financing his personal projects over the years, and the film was only embraced by a small core of fans. It wasn't until the early 2000s with the DVD format that people started to embrace the film for what it was - a disintegration of American society and a divide that proved prophetic, rather than being a sequel to "Night" or "Dawn". With the new found reception, it led to countless special edition DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film over the years, and even have Romero to continue the zombie tradition with "Land of the Dead" (2005), "Diary of the Dead" (2007), and "Survival of the Dead" (2009). "Day of the Dead" is still an imperfect film, but it held a mirror up to what was happening to society and sadly the people did not like what they saw. For most including myself, it took time to warm up to the film and it was the various extras on the DVDs and Blu-rays that gave me further appreciation. Australia's Umbrella Entertainment has previously released the film on Blu-ray twice already. Once as a 2-disc Blu-ray plus bonus features DVD set, later as just the Blu-ray without the bonus disc. Umbrella Entertainment has decided to revisit the film once again on Blu-ray, again as a Blu-ray plus bonus DVD set, with a new transfer, additional extras, and including the original mono audio track.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray + region 0 NTSC DVD set

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Utilizing the same HD master from the US Shout! Factory Blu-ray and the Austrian Blu-ray, this is a step above with improved colors and better detail throughout. Granted the film was not lit and shot in the most ideal environment within the underground caves with minimal lighting for many of the scenes, and the transfer does have some inconsistencies with some minor fluctuating colors. But overall it looks very good with little in terms of damage or debris in the master with the blood and gore looking as fantastic as could be.

The film is uncut with a runtime of 100:58.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono

Both the 5.1 remix and the original mono audio tracks are presented with lossless audio on the disc. The 5.1 remix is done very well with dialogue coming in from the center channel while the surrounds contain most of the effects and music, spread fairly evenly. The uncensored dialogue is always clear and well balanced, with no issues of dropouts or other defects. The music and effects are well balanced and never overpowering the dialogue, and these points are both for the remix and for the original mono tracks. The previous Blu-ray releases from Umbrella Entertainment only had the 5.1 remix so including the original mono track is a very welcome addition.

There are optional English HoH subtitles in a white font, clear and easy to read with no errors in spelling to note of.

Extras

This is a Blu-ray+DVD set with the film and some extras on the Blu-ray and additional extras on the DVD.

DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

Audio Commentary with George A. Romero, Tom Savini, Lori Cardille and Cletus Anderson
In this group commentary, Romero along with Savini, Cardille, and production designer Anderson reminisce about the production and reception eighteen years after the original release. They discuss about the script, three month underground shoot and its difficulties, the casting process, Cardille on getting into character, the gun safety issues, the failed theatrical reception and much more. There are a lot of technical details within but also a lot of fun while discussing the production, This was recorded for the US Anchor Bay DiviMax DVD in 2003.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Audio Commentary with Everett Burrell, Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, and Mike Deak
In this group commentary from the special effects team reunite to talk about the special effects sequences revealing the tricks of the trade, comparisons to the original script, the music they listened to during the production and more. It's not only about the tech, but the men also talk about a lot of funny and crazy happenings from behind the scenes. This was recorded for the UK Arrow Video DVD and Blu-ray in 2010.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"World's End: The Legacy of Day of the Dead" documentary (85:26)
In this comprehensive Shout! Factory produced documentary from 2013, many of the cast and crew are given new interviews to discuss the legacy of the film. Talked about are the themes presented in the script, the scrapped original ideas from the original script, the casting process, the shooting, the music, the effects, and the box office failure and cult status, and much more. At nearly 90 minutes quite a lot is packed in, though there is quite a lot of overlap with the other older extras that are present on the discs. But if there is just one extra to watch, this is the must see.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Behind the Scenes: On Set" featurette (20:12)
Shot on film but coming from a video source, this featurette focuses on the many extras who played zombies in full make-up, with some traveling quite a distance just to be in a Romero zombie film, and the make-up artists that made the zombies come to… life? In addition to interviews, there are behind the scenes footage of the shoot, plus a few shots of the film itself.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1 and windowboxed 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Behind the Scenes: Tom Savini" featurette (30:42)
Shot on videotape, this reel of footage from Tom Savini features various behind the scenes footage, make-up application, workshop footage, shooting of the various death scenes and more.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Interview with George A. Romero at the 2008 Melbourne International Film Festival (49:26)
In this lengthy Q&A, Romero discusses quite a bit about "Diary of the Dead" which was his latest film at the time. He also discusses his early influences including the films of Orson Welles and the films of Powell and Pressburger, especially with "Tales of Hoffmann", the zombie genre, and much more. Questions are taken from the moderator with audience questions coming in later on.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.80:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Theatrical Trailers (5:23)
The original unrated trailer, the trailer with the zombie watching the movie in the theater, and the teaser promoting it as the third in the Romero’s Dead trilogy are presented back to back. These are from standard definition masters, slightly windowboxed. The second trailer is also embedded below, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

TV Spots (2:31)
A series of US TV spots are presented, and actually looking better than the trailers in video quality, with the exception of the teaser at the end, which the video quality drops. Although note the sound is skewed to the left speaker rather than being centered.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Gateway Commerce Center Promo Video (8:12)
The cave locations were shot in an underground facility in Pittsbugh, Pennsylvania, used as storage facilities and office spaces throughout the years. This is a promo video of the Gateway Commerce Center, as it was known in this 1990s promotional video for interested customers.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles


DISC TWO (DVD)

"The Many Days of the Dead" documentary (40:14)
In this featurette from 2003, the cast and crew of the film talk about the making of the film. From the script, the financing, the special effects, and much more are discussed. There is a transfer issue with the featurette, in what looks like a PAL master transferred to NTSC, resulting in some choppiness in the picture. This featurette was produced for the 2003 US Anchor Bay DiviMax DVD.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Joe of the Dead: Acting in a George Romero Classic" interview with Joe Pilato (50:53)
In this lengthy interview made by High Rising Productions, Pilato discusses his career at length, from his childhood to getting into acting, being cast by Romero for "Dawn" and "Knightriders", his memorable role as Rhodes, and his career following "Day". This interview was produced for the 2010 UK Arrow Video DVD and Blu-ray.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Reflections on the Living Dead" documentary (78:44)
Originally released in 1993 as "Night of the Living Dead 25th Anniversary Documentary", this updated extended version from 2005 includes a George Romero, John A. Russo, Russell W. Streiner, and Karl Hardman roundtable discussion plus interviews with famous fans including Tobe Hooper, Fred Olen Ray, John Landis, Sam Raimi, Wes Craven, and many more. This is an extra that has nothing to do with "Day of the Dead", so it is a strange inclusion to have here, especially since it was already included as a supplement to Umbrella Entertainment's "Night of the Living Dead" Blu-ray.
in non-anamorphic 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Travelogue of the Dead" featurette (17:44)
In this featurette made by High Rising Productions, it follows Pilato on a promotional tour around the UK for retrospective screenings of "Day of the Dead", from various Q&As to autograph signings to encounters with unusual fans. This featurette was produced for the 2010 UK Arrow Video DVD and Blu-ray.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Image Gallery
A manual slideshow of 90 stills are presented.
in anamorphic 1.78:1



Although tagged with "Ultimate Edition" the release is by no way complete, as there are some exclusive extras on various other DVD and Blu-rays from over the years. But the Umbrella Entertainment Ultimate Edition definitely improves upon the previous 2-disc Blu-ray+DVD set from Umbrella Entertainment, which had the two commentaries, the "Reflections on the Living Dead" documentary and behind the scenes featurette along with various trailers.

Packaging

The artwork is reversible, with the other side having alternate artwork of an illustrated "Dr. Tongue" zombie. The packaging states "region B" but this is in fact a region ALL release, both for the Blu-ray and the bonus DVD.

Overall

"Day of the Dead" was overlooked on its release, but the gorefest was literally resurrected with DVD and Blu-ray releases over the years. Umbrella Entertainment's re-release on Blu-ray with the new "Ultimate Edition" has an excellent new transfer, an upgrade in audio, and a wealth of extras makes the release highly recommended.

The Film: B Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: A Overall: A-

 


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