Of all the zombie movies the late, great George A. Romero made, I think Dawn of the Dead is probably my favourite – and I know I’m not alone in that. As much as I love Night of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead, of the original trilogy, I just think Dawn has the edge. So, what great news that Second Sight have brought out this brand spanking new ‘all bells and whistles’ collectors’ item with a whole host of extras!
By now everyone must know the story, but here goes… Some time has passed since the events in Night, and the world stands on the brink of total collapse because of the zombie outbreak. At a chaotic TV studio, Stephen (David Emge) and Francine (Gaylen Ross) are trying to make a break for it. Their friend, SWAT team member Roger (Scott H. Reiniger), joins them fresh from a raid with newcomer Peter (fan favourite Ken Foree) in tow. They manage to get away in a helicopter, the plan being to head to Canada, but instead they come across a shopping mall that might just be the answer to their prayers.
Chock full of everything they could possibly need, all they need to do is clear out the zombies already inside and block off the entrance so that no more can get in. But nothing’s ever that simple in a zombie apocalypse; as tensions rise, the realisation of what’s happening to them all dawns, and the living prove just as dangerous – if not more so – than the dead…
Included in this box set are three different versions of the movie: firstly the one that we’re all familiar with, the ‘Theatrical Cut’, which to all intents and purposes is the definitive edition (this comes with its original commentary from Romero, effects maestro Tom Savini, and assistant director Christine Forrest, plus a new one from Travis Crawford); the extended ‘Cannes Cut’, which adds about ten more minutes (complete with the original commentary by producer Richard P. Rubinstein); and the ‘Argento Cut’ (famous director Dario seeded the film) also known as Zombi for the Italian market, which is actually tighter at 7 minutes less than the theatrical cut (with the original commentary by stars Foree, Reiniger, Ross and Emge). The transfer for all three is amazing.
Disc 4 is where all the special features are at, including a number that were specially created for this outing. Zombies and Bikers for example interviews a lot of the actors who played those parts, like ‘Helicopter Zombie’ Jim Krut who gets the top of his head cut off by the blades of the chopper (‘They said, “We’ve got a great part for you!”), Lenny Lies who played ‘Machete Zombie’ and gets it in the head from Tom Savini at the mall, and the child zombies from the airfield – actually played by Savini’s nephew and niece Mike and Donna. Memories of Monroeville is a tour of the mall itself in the company of Savini, assistant cameraman Tom Dubensky, DP Michael Gornick and actor/stuntman Taso Stavrakis. The funniest tale here is a recounting of when people were throwing themselves around for the climax – including Savini being pitched from the balcony – and George said, ‘Do these cats know what they’re doing?’
Raising the Dead: The Production Logistics brings in people like Christine Forrest, who recalls what a visionary and workaholic George used to be (‘I said to him when he had all these big ideas, “Who do you think you are, MGM?” and he told me, “Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.”’). The FX of Dawn is a new chat with Tom Savini, who explains that 60-80% of the effects they came up with there and then on set, like the screwdriver in the ear gag and the head explosion – which was literally him just shooting a fake head with a real shotgun. He also tells us how much he owes George and misses him (‘When he hugged you, you felt hugged!’).
Dummies! Dummies! catches up with Richard France who plays the scientific expert we see on TV trying to warn everyone about what will happen, and of course also appeared in The Crazies (‘That line about dummies, it was ad-libbed. It was made up in the scene. I had no idea how iconic it would become!’). And then we have a wonderful unseen ‘Lost’ interview with George himself, which is worth the price of the set alone (‘I went through a period of resisting being attached to the genre, I just didn’t want to be limited in what I did.’). All this is supplemented with two versions of the previously seen Document of the Dead, and the documentary The Dead Will Walk from 2014, as well as the usual trailers, TV and radio spots.
In the limited edition you also get three audio discs, with the Goblin soundtrack on one and the De Wolfe Library Compilation Part 1 & 2 on the others, not to mention a 160 page hardback featuring 17 new essays about the movie, a George Romero interview and other extras, plus the novelisation George did with Susanna Sparrow presented with exclusive artwork – all in a rigid box featuring the original iconic artwork.
Put simply, if you have any interest the zombie subgenre, in Romero’s movies or just cinema history in general, you need to own this set. Paul Kane