Article: Dawn of the Dead 4K Restoration

George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, arguably the greatest zombie horror film of all time, hasn’t been the easiest title for horror fans to get ahold of lately.  Between Anchor Bay’s Ultimate Edition DVD set followed by their blu-ray going out of print along with the UK Arrow Video blu-ray, the Japanese blu-ray boxed set and the Australian blu-ray, the only real way to see Dawn of the Dead now seems to be paying an exorbitant amount on Amazon or eBay to a third party seller, usually exceeding the $100 range.  This is one of the rare cases where a film wound up being discontinued not just in the United States but seemingly in every country in the world.  Not to worry, however, as there are massive things ahead with George A. Romero’s film happening in Europe and eventually the world over.  As part of the 2016 Venice Film Festival programming, Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn and Italian horror maestro Dario Argento jointly presented on September 2nd, 2016 the world premiere of a newly restored 4K high definition digital remaster of Argento’s 115 minute European cut of Dawn of the Dead alongside a limited theatrical reissue in Italy.  

Not long after a 4K UHD disc as well as a blu-ray set of the 4K restoration were announced and slated for release on November 17th, 2016 with a preorder listed on  With poster art most certainly designed by Refn with the image of a zombie’s face covered in blue and red blood, the questions become why the slightly shorter European cut by Dario Argento and whether or not the 4K set on UHD and blu-ray will include the Cannes cut (dubbed the director’s cut) and the original theatrical cut approved by George A. Romero?

According to Koch Media, which will surely port this upcoming set over to the United States as well, this new Dawn of the Dead set will in fact include the other cuts despite favoring Argento’s cut for the theatrical re-release.  As for the Argento cut, there’s a bit of history behind that.  Initially after George A. Romero and producer Richard P. Rubinstein ran into difficulty financing their long awaited sequel to Night of the Living Dead, Suspiria director Argento got wind of their dilemma and set up a unique arrangement with the two: secure financing in exchange for international distribution rights.  In other words, Argento (who also scored the film with progressive rock band Goblin) helped front the money under the pretense that for the European release of the film Argento retained final cut.  The first cut seen by audiences was the admittedly work-in-progress ‘director’s cut’ which premiered at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival.  Of the three cuts the 1978 Cannes cut is easily the roughest around the edges, with additional gore, loose ends, unfinished music cues as well as temp cues only on this edition, making it akin to a work print that screened in cinemas.  While busily paring down that same version to a more finalized theatrical cut for US theaters, Dario Argento’s own shorter European cut premiered nine months before Romero’s version reached cinemas and it remains the most-seen version of the film outside of the United States.  Argento’s cut is noted for moving at the briskest pace, losing much of the comic relief and feature more Goblin tracks than any other release version.  Despite the three distinctly different cuts which have been curated in DVD/blu-ray boxed sets over the years, the film was a worldwide financial success which grossed $55 million against a $1.5 million production budget, an enormous amount for an unrated adults-only production.   

With word on the street of the new 4K remaster hitting the Italian market, one can only hope and wonder just what that means for US fans of Dawn of the Dead and whether or not we too will have a chance to see George A. Romero’s timeless classic on the big screen again.  Having been out of print for almost ten years, it’s time for the most savagely satirical rebuke of distinctly American consumer culture to grace the silver screen in the US once more and for this undisputed masterpiece of modern horror to be available to newcomers and not just be a niche item for die-hards to snatch up older copies on eBay for hundreds of dollars.  For those who have only seen Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake (still his best work in my opinion), you are in for a real treat which in all honesty is closer to Brian De Palma’s Scarface or Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers for their mutually nihilistic takedown of wretched materialistic excess, told in an operatic and even farcical fashion.  George A. Romero would continue the series with four more entries, including the once reviled now revered Day of the Dead, the Hollywood produced Land of the Dead, the found footage Diary of the Dead and lastly Survival of the Dead.  Romero even participated in a downloadable add-on game for Call of Duty: Black Ops entitled Call of the Dead where Romero himself transforms into a mega-zombie.  Still, for all Romero has done after the fact and for all the many imitations it inspired over the years, Dawn remains his greatest film and one of the most important horror films ever made.  If you haven’t seen it yet, the forthcoming 4K promises to be a most delightful viewing experience.

- Andrew Kotwicki