In 1968, director George A. Romero brought us Night of the Living Dead. It became the definitive horror film of its time. Eleven years later, he would unleash the most shocking motion picture experience for all times. As modern society is consumed by zombie carnage, four desperate survivors barricade themselves inside a shopping mall to battle the flesh-eating hordes of the undead. This is the ferocious horror classic, featuring landmark gore effects by Tom Savini, that remains one of the most important – and most controversial – horror films in history. Lots of "serious" types look down on zombie movies. That's a shame, because some of them are really first-rate films. Dawn of the Dead, the middle film of George Romero's "dead" trilogy, is a case in point. You want zombies, we got your zombies RIGHT HERE! You want blood? Guts? Flesh eating? Oh boy, does Dawn of the Dead ever deliver! Then it does something really unique - it delivers drama, engaging characters with realistic delimmas, a smartly crafted story, and a heavy dose of dead-on social satire.
Did I mention that it's just flat-out
scary as hell, too? One scene in particular, toward the beginning,
that still haunts me - twenty some-odd years after I first saw it.
The National Guard has been called in to clear a tenament building.
In the basement, they find a cage where the dead have been locked
away. The simple, unsettling music of Goblin rises on the soundtrack,
underscored by a heartbeat-like bass drum. There are the zombies,
many in death shrouds, feasting on body parts. Guardsman Peter
Washington (Ken Foree) steps into the nightmare with a pistol to
dispatch the zombies with bullets to their heads. The whole thing
takes on a surreal, hellish texture, like a Bosch painting. Foree's
performance is striking - he is truly in the moment, as they say,
without a hint of the winking self-awareness we see in other genre
flicks. If the dead really started coming back to feed on the living,
this is exactly how the world would be like. This is the toll it would
exact on people trying to grapple the situation. Dawn of the Dead's
primary filming location was at the Monroeville Mall.
In the U.S. Dawn wasn’t
available for home viewing until 1983 when Thorn EMI Video released the
clamshell cased theatrical version (TV1977) in December, borrowing
the official poster book cover graphic, just adding a green logo.
Although it rented well and sold respectably (even at a pricey
$59.99) in early 1984, a small-box commercial version didn’t
arrive until summer 1987 as part of the affordable HBO/Cannon
Video reissues of early 80’s Thorn EMI videos. Another small box
edition, with a darker reprint of the packaging and no stills on
the back, came out in 1989 from HBO/Weintraub. A BETA version was
only available on Thorn EMI Video (TXB 1977) until 1986. This particular
VHS is the more sought for (1st issue original) clamshell VHS
distributed by Thorn EMI Video. Presented in Pan and Scan and with a
length of 126 minutes this version is the version that George
envisioned during the production of the film. This is what George calls
the “final version.” In my opinion this is the best version of the
film ever released. VHS comes from a private collection.
Ebay: Dawn of the Dead (VHS, 1978) Thorn EMI Video - $29.99 (USED)