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Michael R Gates | Nampa, ID United States | 07/20/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the horror flick DEATHDREAM (1972/1974), director Bob Clark and screenwriter Alan Ormsby borrow the basic concept from author W.W. Jacobs' famous short story "The Monkey's Paw" and remold it into a low-budget but effective statement against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. DEATHDREAM tells the story of a U.S. soldier (Richard Backus) who is killed in Vietnam but nonetheless returns home exhibiting some semblance of life. However, unbeknownst to his family--happily surprised to see him after having been informed by the Army that he was killed--he has become a vampiric zombie who must ingest human blood to maintain the pretense of being alive. The problems that his undead state causes for himself and his loved ones are really intended as allegorical reflections of the devastating effects of the Vietnam War on returning vets and their families.
As a horror film, DEATHDREAM is clearly a product of its time. In spite of the compelling plot and the presence of accomplished thespians among the cast--e.g., actor John Marley, here playing the soldier's father, made cinema history with his Oscar-nominated performance as the businessman who wakes up next to a severed horse's head after refusing Marlon Brando's offer in THE GODFATHER (1972)--the dialog is often inordinately histrionic and the acting therefore very melodramatic at times. To be fair, though, these qualities add a sense of surrealism that mostly compliments rather than detracts from the film's creepiness, and such histrionics and melodrama actually comprise an aesthetic that is common to many horror greats of the '70s such as Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974), Larry Cohen's IT'S ALIVE! (1974), and Richard Donner's THE OMEN (1976), to name just a few. So DEATHDREAM is not really a bad film. But the fact that its primary theme revolves around the era's counter-culture attitudes towards the Vietnam War, in combination with its palpable 1970s cinematic aesthetic, make it a bit dated, and it therefore hasn't aged quite as well as its better-known contemporaries.
Regardless of its trivial flaws, DEATHDREAM's infamously disturbing and graphically macabre climax could alone elevate the flick to its status as a minor genre classic. The unique and grisly scene is arguably as chilling as any in the history of horror cinema, and the imagery stays with the audience long after the closing credits have rolled. DEATHDREAM is also notable for marking the first professional film credit for makeup FX legend Tom Savini--just back from a tour in Vietnam himself--who would later do FX work for George Romero on the legendary DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) and DAY OF THE DEAD (1985) in addition to many other genre classics.
The DVD release of DEATHDREAM from Blue Underground offers a very good digital transfer, made from a recently discovered negative, in the movie?s original widescreen aspect ratio (enhanced for 16x9 TVs). It has been wonderfully restored, though a few filmic artifacts and some color shift are occasionally noticeable. The film was released at various times over the years bearing several different titles, and though it was more commonly known as DEATHDREAM in the U.S. (hence the DVD title), the negative used for this transfer--which is apparently the only complete copy known to exist at this time--uses the title DEAD OF NIGHT in the opening sequence. Interestingly, DEAD OF NIGHT was the title under which the film originally premiered.
Also on the disc are some pretty cool extras, including two feature commentaries--one with the director; one with the screenwriter--alternate opening titles, a recent interview with actor Richard Backus, a featurette profiling FX man Savini, and more. DEATHDREAM is definitely worthy of a place in the DVD collections of all serious horror fans."
What an Awesome Surprise!
K. Brown | Walnut, Ca USA | 08/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many of us baby-boomers remember "Deathdream" as a staple of late night T.V. horror flicks like "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things" and "Psychomania." Many films in this B-Movie horror genre, when released on DVD, get the "Budget Buy" treatment: just the movie, no cool "behind the scenes" or "Movie Trailer" extras.
So imagine how jazzed I was to pick up this DVD expecting only the bare-bones movie, and found a cool mountain of extras including Commentary by Director Bob Clark, Commentary by screenwriter Alan Ormsby (who also wrote and starred in the abovementioned "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things"), a Tom Savini feature, an interview with lead man Richard Backus, not to mention the cool theatrical trailer.
Just hours after learning that Andy has been killed in Vietnam, his family is pleasantly shocked to find their lost beloved show up at their doorstep, looking very much alive, albeit a bit shell-shocked. With vampiric needs and zombie mannerisms, the horror ride begins!
Of the bonus features, I enjoyed the interview with Richard Backus the most. When I read that the interview length was 12 minutes, I thought it would be low key and trivial, but the crew wound packing a lot of cool information into that 12 minutes! Richard Backus has aged really well, and its hep to see that he has fond memories of his campy first film role. He is even good-humored enough to recreate one of his more over-the-top moments in the film! Backus went on to appear in a number of movies and several Soaps, including "As the World Turns" into the early 1990s.
As for the film itself, what trips me out about "Deathdream" is that while it has a low budget and campy feel, the performances, direction, and editing are quite exceptional. Also starring in the movie are John Marley (who is probably remembered best for waking up next to a horse's head in "The Godfather."), and Lynn Carlin (in my opinion, one of the most underrated actresses from the 60s & 70s. She was exceptionally good as an unstable mother in the almost forgotten 1973 film "Baxter"). The majority of actors in this flick went on to get a healthy dose of work in the TV and movie industry, and even the folks whose only role was in "Deathdream" did a good job.
Aside from the horrid looking bloodbath in a doctor's office that looks more like a botched interior paint job, the make-up and effects are impressive. Andy's deteriorating appearances, be they subtle or excruciating, look cool!
For those of you who remember "Deathdream" from the Land of Late Night TV Past, this movie plus the extra features will be a fun trip down memory lane. If you have never seen this before and are a connoisseur of campy horror, this is essential for your collection! "
Early Bob Clark gem.
M. | Mass. | 02/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Deathdream is one of Bob Clarks first films from the early seventies, it's an original and interesting take on the zombie genre and one of my personal favorite zombie flicks. After a family recieves notice that they're son Andy has died in the Vietnam war, you can imagine they're shock when he returns home presumamably normal, but he is far from normal, Andy is now a blood-fiend that must inject himself with blood in order to stay alive. Muhahaha!!!!!..........Muhahahaha!!!!! Special Effects are handled by Tom Savini and this is some of his earliest work, even though on the box it says that this is his first film doing effects, it was actually his second after his first job on Deranged (come on Blue Underground?!?!). Bob Clark shows his direction skills as always, Deathdream has a great screeplay, acting, and social commentary on the effects of war (that is just as relevant now that it was then) reminiscant of Romero films. Check it out, if you have the balls."
ANDY'S HOME! 1970'S FRIGHT NIGHT CLASSIC RETURNS TO HAUNT!
Steven Cummings | keyport, nj United States | 06/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Aside from another rediscovered cult classic - LEMORA, A CHILD'S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL - DEATHDREAM has always been my favorite horror film from the 1970's that haunted me on numerous late-night TV showings. I've watched this cult classic countless times and have come in contact with numerous bad quality prints on VHS, complete with extremely cheesy box artwork!!! For years I've hoped for a DVD remastering of this special film, and now, thanks to Blue Underground, we have the definitive edition. DEATHDREAM is now in anamorphic widescreen, from a remastered negative and accompanied by juicy extras to please hardcore fans like me! Although there are times when a bit of grain is still noticeable in a few sequences, this is THE version to own.For the 'virgin viewer,' you're in for a treat. DEATHDREAM is a grim, low-key, and extremely eerie film that benefits from great performances by John Marley, Lynn Carlin, and especially Richard Backus as Andy; a chilling AND moving script by Alan Ormsby; an unsettling music score by Carl Zittrer; grisly makeup effects by Orsmby and a young Tom Savini; and screw-tightening direction by Bob Clark. The overall effect is tragic and haunting.The film was one of the first to address the cataclysmic after-effects of the Vietnam war when veterans returned to their families. Andy plays one such veteran, a young man whose parents receive the awful news that their son has been killed in action. The night they receive this information there's a knock at their front door. It is Andy, although they are shocked at his pale, sunken face and expressionless demeanor. At first they are elated by his appearance, but as Andy is encouraged by his loved ones to resume where he left off before going off to war, his family begins to realize that something isn't quite right about Andy - something's missing, both physically and emotionally. Eventually they discover that Andy is indeed dead and has come back to them as a bloodthirsty corpse!The film manages to move and provoke the viewer as well as frighten him/her. There are several truly disturbing sequences, and if you are squeamish about needles (like me) I will warn you that they are Andy's prefered method of obtaining blood! Horror films like these don't appear that often, especially in these irony-addicted times where film-makers seem incapable of taking their subject matter seriously. Despite a low-budget, DEATHDREAM takes itself very seriously and manages to hold up well alongside scare flicks today! Rediscover this long-lost classic ASAP. I recommended viewing this with Bob Clark and Alan Orsmby's other gems - CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, DERANGED and BLACK CHRISTMAS. All are similarly atmospheric and way creepy, although DEATHDREAM, in my opinion, is their masterpiece!"
Horrible cover art- great DVD
Zoveck | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like Blue Sunshine, Deathdream (here retitled Dead of Night) used to be a staple of KHJ channel 9 in So. Cal back when I was a kid. Also like Blue Sunshine, it's been given a first-class DVD release. The transfer is excellent and the extra features are interesting and plentiful.
If you've never seen the film, it's a very well done zombie/vampire film with anti-Vietnam overtones. The acting is excellent by the leads and Alan Ormsby's story (particularly the ending) is actually both creepy and moving- no easy task. Bob (Black Christmas, Porky's, She Man) Clark's direction and Ormsby's disturbing makeup are very good.
Clark's commentary is a little dry, but has some interesting insights about his career and past experiences. Ormsby's commentary is more robust. There's a recent interview with lead actor Richard Backus (who does a funny re-enactment of one of his Deathdream character's not-so-subtle rage building scenes) and a recent interview with Tom Savini (who assisted Ormsby on the makeup).
So good it makes me want to check out Black Christmas again."