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The Dead Zone – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Last year, Paramount released a multi-movie set of Stephen King films which featured the long awaited debut of David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone on Blu-ray. I had an inkling at that time that the following year we’d get a Scream Factory Collector’s Edition of the 1983 film. I’ll pat myself on the back here, because on July 27th, I’ll be proven right. They’ve done the film up nicely with a load of new extras, including a Brooke Adams interview and 4 commentaries. In addition, this also features a brand new 4K scan of the film (and in its correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio, too). Its surprising the film has taken so long to get to Blu-ray in the first place, being both good, notable and having both a name star director and actor in it. But, alas, better late than never. And better a big Collector’s Edition than bare bones. You can pre-order the release via the paid Amazon Associates link below the review to ensure yourself a copy for release day, July 27th!

Film

School teacher Johnny Smith (Chistopher Walken) had a beautiful fiancée, a rewarding career and a fortunate life … until one tragic accident changed everything. After slamming into an 18-wheeler, Johnny is plunged into a five-year coma. When he awakens, he finds his true collision was with destiny – he now has the remarkable gift (or curse) of seeing into the future. From horror master Stephen King and Director David Cronenberg (Scanners, Dead Ringers), this supernatural thriller turns an everyday guy into a reluctant hero … saving children in danger, helping the police and finding a serial killer. But Johnny’s next vision may be his most terrifying yet …

Its been said that The Dead Zone is both David Cronenberg’s most accessible film and Christopher Walken’s most regular performance. To a degree, I can see that. But The Dead Zone carries both their impulses and utilizes them in different ways. Granted, they are working with specific material here. Cronenberg impresses in many other ways in the film, with some stunning cinematography and terrific use of the visions. And with Walken, his weirdness and unique contributions are all over this, he’s just playing a more traditionally sympathetic hero in this one.

Its quite easy to see how The Dead Zone wound up becoming a television series, too. After the film’s prologue, it then plays into a series of little vignettes displaying the visions in different mysteries to solve. The film is a bit like an anthology in a way with a rather larger wraparound that takes over completely for the final act. We see different kinds of crimes, mysteries, characters and suspenseful sequences of danger. Its a lot of movie, but also flows very well.

One strength of The Dead Zone, and this drives from the source, is how the power of Walken’s visions are shred with the world and they are embraced or taken seriously by the authorities. He’s in the public eye, questioned as an equal and brought to crime scenes for further investigations. There’s no real struggle with getting people to believe in what he has or going up against a tough grain. Its accept almost from the first vision.

David Cronenberg’s take on Stephen King’s The Dead Zone is one of the best efforts at adapting the master’s work. Its a lovely film to look at, but it also feature plenty of variety and a pretty nifty political angle to things as well. Performers are top notch and its great to watch Walken bounce off Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt and Martin Sheen in this film. The Dead Zone is one of the must see and must own films in the Stephen King books turned to films library.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Dead Zone – Collector’s Edition features a brand new 4K scan from the original camera negative. And boy is this a beauty. The image features a well rounded look with terrific depth. The picture is sharp and the condition of the print is really good as it does have a light grain structure but looks overall quite clean. Great color saturation and contrast with the blacks. Judging from stills of the previous release, this is a big step up. Also helps that its now in the correct aspect ratio.

Depth:  This is where the film really opens up. Cronenberg’s lens and craft get a grand sense of scale as this film feels big. The tunnel sequence is quite awesome and many of the exteriors feel so big and open. Movement is cinematic and smooth with no distortion issues.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and close to natural. No issues regarding anything being hidden or darkened out occur. Details, textures, patterns stay intact. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are strong, well saturated and quite bold. This has a lot of regular or plain colors but they all come through quite strong on a nice palette.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Facial features and textures are plenty visible from any given distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The Dead Zone comes with the same 5.1 track its always had to go with a stereo track. Its solid, above average track that does well in getting the job done. Its a bit lighter on the low end sounds, but has a good balance and works solid with the dialogue driven film. There are some impact moments you’ll want to strike better, but overall, its a good viewing.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  As mentioned above, the weakness here in the mix is the subs impact. But it does decent with scoring strikes, crashing, gunshots and more.

Surround Sound Presentation: This kinda hangs out up front but there are some neat contributions from the rear channels. Sound travel is accurate to onscreen action.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

The Dead Zone – Collector’s Edition comes with reversible cover art featuring the original poster design. Some of the featurettes are encoded in HD, but come from an SD source.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director of Photography Mark Irwin
  • With Film Historian Michael Gingold
  • With Film Historian/Author Dr. Steve Haberman and Filmmaker/Historian Constantine Nasr
  • With Film Music Historian Daniel Schweiger with Isolated Score selections

Sarah’s Story (HD, 10:37) – Interview with actress Brooke Adams. She opens with how she got into acting and then draws into what she knew about Stephen King before the movie. She said she didn’t audition, that Christopher Walken asks for her specifically to play the role. Adams says Walken has a love of breaking the fourth wall and playing to an audience. She considers it all a great story and had no trouble finding relation in the material and disappearing into that world. “Dead Zone for me was the nadir of my career.”

Cold Visions: Producing The Dead Zone (HD, 20:32) – “It’s really a love story”.  Production manager John M. Eckert and associate producer Jeffrey Chernov tell their story on how they came to the film (Debra Hill) and reflect upon its production, the story, working with Cronenberg, Dino de Laurentis, the cast and the legacy of the film.

Trailers From Hell: Mick Garris on The Dead Zone (HD, 2:11) – As the trailer plays, Mick Garris gives commentary and thoughts on “one of the best” films based on a Stephen King property.

Memories From The Dead Zone (HD, 12:19) – David Cronenberg, Brooke Adams, editor Ronald Sanders, critic/writer Douglas E. Winter look back on making the film from a featurette carried over from the DVD edition.

The Look of The Dead Zone (HD, 9:25) – Another port from the DVD. The same talking heads, now with cinematographer Mark Irwin, talk about the shooting locations and aesthetic of the film.

Visions of The Dead Zone (HD, 9:44) – This DVD ported featurette has this group of folks talking about the visions used in the film and how they relate to the book and are utilized in the film.

The Politics of The Dead Zone (HD, 11:34) – This last DVD carry over featurette focuses on the Martin Sheen character in the film what it was derived from and is meant to showcase and explore.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:16)

TV Spots (HD, 1:15) – While encoded HD, they are clearly SD.

Behind The Scenes Gallery (HD, 13:10)

Summary

While The Dead Zone is one of Cronenberg’s most accessible films, its still far from safe and pretty outstanding. Scream Factory’s new 4K transfer on the film is also outstanding, improving significantly upon the Paramount release from last year. Also improving are the extras, as this thing is loaded with them, both new and old. The Dead Zone took some time to get to Blu-ray, and on its second iteration in as many years, they’ve nailed a definitive release as best they could.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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