Land of the Dead: Collector’s Edition

| October 27, 2017

We waited 20 years after the release of the late, great George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead (1985) for him to put out another film in his genre-defining the Dead series that began in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead. And in those 20 years, Romero’s original trilogy of films had become classics in the minds of many, regardless of how they individually may have been received upon initial release. And when the wait is that long, audience expectations are inevitably high, if not impossible to meet.

As a result, Romero’s Land of the Dead (2005), though still obviously loved by a lot of folks, proved to be a disappointment to many others. And this perhaps was inevitable. No film is ever truly an instant classic. Classics become classics over time, as Romero’s trilogy had. Land of the Dead could not therefore possibly be as cherished upon initial release as I think a lot of people expected it to be. And that is a real shame.

The film’s legacy suffered immediately because it’s not enough like the original trilogy and also because it was released immediately prior to Romero’s subsequent Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009). These comparisons are unfair, though, because it’s necessarily a different film from its predecessors in terms of both Romero’s concerns and capabilities as a filmmaker. Moreover, it is neither as ham-fisted as Diary in Romero’s handling of Land’s themes, nor is it as forgettable as Survival.

Land of the Dead returns to Romero’s world plagued by zombie hordes after civilization has reformed. Being, as Romero’s zombie films always were, far more about people than zombies, Land of the Dead ruminates on the dehumanizing potential of unchecked, oligarchic capitalism and the classism that inevitably results from so few having so much while everyone else fights over scraps. It’s a film about how afraid we are of the monsters outside (i.e. we’re xenophobic), and yet we bow down to people who are just as apt to eat us alive, all in the hopes of being in a position to make a living wage, eat, or see a doctor. The real horrors, Romero always asserted in his films, are right here, right now.

Even though these parallels to critiques of American capitalism and George W. Bush-era politics is blatantly obvious in the film, Land of the Dead is nowhere near as blatant as Diary would be two years later, with its protagonist narrating at us about how horrible people are. Here, it’s story first, message second, as it was in the original trilogy, wherein, by the way, the themes were also extremely obvious. The themes of racism are unmistakable in Night and the critique of consumerism superficial in Dawn. In that regard, Land of the Dead keeps the spirit of the original trilogy’s social commentary-focused horror alive.

Yet Land of the Dead still stands very much apart from the original trilogy. It is a less gritty, bigger-budgeted, and all-around sleeker production, far more in keeping visually with the era’s studio horror films than with the independent productions of the late-1960’s through the mid-1980’s. In fact, with its plot centered on the retrieval a massive battle wagon called the Dead Reckoning, the film proves to be more of a horror-infused action film than it is pure horror. Plus, unlike the original trilogy which was headlined by relative unknowns, Land’s got an impressively star-studded cast, featuring The Mentalist’s Simon Baker, Asia Argento, Dennis Hopper, and John Leguizamo alongside them are brief appearances by the likes of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, and Tom Savini.

So while the film may not be all that dissimilar from the original trilogy, Land of the Dead certainly deserves to be judged on its own merits, and I encourage anyone with bitter memories of it being a film that wasn’t a classic like its predecessors to give it another shot. I write this today not because it’s Halloween and it’s the perfect time to watch zombie movies, though that helps. Now specifically is the time to revisit the film because it’s being released on Halloween day, October 31, 2017, on a 2-disc Blu-ray Collector’s Edition from Scream Factory, including bot the theatrical and unrated versions of the film. This is supplemented by an incredible array of special features both old and new. The content of the discs is as follows:

DISC ONE: Theatrical Cut

  • NEW 2K Scan of the Interpositive
  • NEW Cholo’s Reckoning – An Interview with Actor John Leguizamo
  • NEW Charlie’s Story – An Interview with Actor Robert Joy
  • NEW The Pillsbury Factor – An Interview with Actor Pedro Miguel Arce
  • NEW Four Of The Apocalypse – An Interview with Actors Eugene Clark, Jennifer Baxter, Boyd Banks, and Jasmin Geljo
  • Dream Of The Dead: The Director’s Cut with Optional Commentary by Director Roy Frumkes
  • Deleted Footage from Dream Of The Dead
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer

DISC TWO: Uncut Version

  • NEW 2K Scan of the Interpositive with HD Inserts
  • NEW Audio Commentary with Zombie Performers Matt Blazi, Glena Chao, Michael Felsher, and Rob Mayr
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director George A. Romero, Producer Peter Grunwald, and Editor Michael Doherty
  • Undead Again: The Making of Land Of The Dead
  • Bringing the Dead to Life
  • Scenes of Carnage
  • Zombie Effects: From Green Screen to Finished Scene
  • Scream Test – CGI Test
  • Bringing the Storyboards to Life
  • A Day with the Living Dead Hosted by John Leguizamo
  • When Shaun Met George

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
×

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.