Easter Egg #1: Go to the “Extras” menu, move the cursor upwards, and after you pass “Trailers,” a zombie silhouette to the right will darken. Press “Enter” and an interview with Chris Romero plays (4:35), in which she discusses how she met George Romero while still a drama student.
Easter Egg #2: On Disc 2, at the bottom of the Still Galleries menu, arrow down each selection to "Main Menu." When you arrow right, a zombie icon appears to the left. Hit Enter to play an interview (3:05) with Gaylen Ross discussing her "special skill."
Easter Egg #3: On Disc 3, in the Trailers Gallery menu, arrow down each selection to "Main Menu." When you arrow down once more, a zombie icon appears to the left. Hit Enter to play an interview (0:57) with John Harrison, discussing immortality as "screwdriver zombie."
Easter Egg #4: On Disc 4, in the Main Menu (with incredibly creepy animation), arrow down each selection to "Monroeville Mall" When you arrow left, a zombie icon appears to the left. Hit Enter to play an interview (1:04) with a Japanese monk explaining how Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" gave him "much to consider." No, really.
Anchor Bay's pretty well outdone themselves in presenting as much "Dawn" material in one affordable set for George Romero novitiates, and rabid Deadites who've wanted all three versions in one easy to hold/cuddle set.
Note: For details regarding Disc 1, please see our review of the single edition of "Dawn of the Dead," which replicates the same contents.
Disc 2's Extended Version (the only version without a surround remix in the set) is the longer "Cannes Cut," previously released by Anchor Bay in 1997 as a two-sided disc, and prior to that , iin a fullscreen transfer that accompanied the European/Argento Cut in a 1995 Japanese boxed laserdisc set.
Collectors should note, however, that the Extended Version differs from the "Pre-Cannes Cut" that was released by Elite Entertainment on VHS and laserdisc in 1996. The source print was apparently a rougher director-supervised edit, shipped to Cannes before fine tuning the picture and music tracks. Both the laserdisc and VHS releases contained foreign trailers - now replicated in Anchor Bay's new Ultimate set - but Elite's laserdisc contained an earlier commentary track with director Romero, assistant director Christine Romero, and makeup artist Tom Savini.
The commentary that accompanies the Extended Version on the Ultimate DVD set features producer Richard P. Rubinstein and Perry Martin, and happens to be the best track in the set. Why? Because Rubinstein gives us a non-stop, brutally frank discussion on the trials of making a movie outside of the Hollywood studio system, and his views, eloquently articulated, provide a more realistic portrait of filmmaking. Romero's commentary on Disc 1 is supported by his wife and makeup whiz Tom Savini, and is obviously subjective from the director's POV.
Rubinstein's involvement with Romero, culminating in their company Laurel Entertainment, began when Romero's career was being tortured by an awful debt load, and Rubinstein doesn't shy away from discussing the director's many merits - brilliant editor, caring director, creative writer - and some character flaws that have sometimes kept the director beyond the greater success that a mainstream studio can offer. Rubinstein isn't one for dipping into witty anecdotes: he succinctly covers Romero's career and their business relationship, until Romero felt the corporate responsibilities were affecting his creative endeavors; Rubinstein addresses Romero's brief and unsuccessful fling with Orion Pictures and the nature of studio compromises; and he details his decision to remake "Dawn," with some good production details on the new film.
Disc 3's European Cut contains a commentary track with the four lead actors, all assembled together for the first time in 26 years, and it's a lively chat that should please fans. There's nothing new that isn't already covered in the superb documentary, "The Dead Will Walk," on Disc 4, but the actors have a good time poking fun at themselves, and Ken Foree's humorous barbs and baritone voice keeps the others on their toes to the film's final scene.
(Note: this version and the disc's extras were released on their own DVD by Anchor Bay on Oct. 25th , 2005, under the film's original European title, "Zombi: Dawn of the Dead.")
Saving the European Cut to the very end also makes sense in the set's arrangement, because on Disc 2, producer Rubinstein talks heavily about the film's genesis, and Dario Argento's offer to fly the Romeros to Italy and finish the "Dawn" screenplay. Rubinstein also discusses in great detail the rights issues that permitted Argento to edit his own faster-paced version of the film, along with more Goblin music, and the tonal differences between all three versions. Moderator Perry Martin is always ready with another question, and fans wanting an intelligent take on the film's use of violence and the censorship issues in England are rewarded with a great re-telling on why the longer version was subject to less snipping than Argento's shorter edit.
In terms of subsidiary extras, Disc 2 replicates the Monroeville Mall TV commercial, present on Anchor Bay's Theatrical DVD edition from 1999, plus newly unearthed memorabilia from the production archives. Disc 3 adds an advertising and art gallery, plus TV and the aforementioned national and international theatrical trailers. The real good stuff, however, lies on Disc 4.
"The Dead Will Walk" gathers everyone connected with the film, putting faces to the actor voices on Disc 4, along with various production people - including Dario Argento, composer Claudio Simonetti - and most of the bit players who gained immortality in being brutally killed or zombified as a Hare Krishna, nurse, or nun. There are excellent details on the makeup and effects, and fans will be pleased that the archival film extracts from Roy Frumkes' documentary and some vintage home movies are also present in their complete form on Disc 4.
The Frumkes documentary (unfortunately lacking chapter breaks, like the aforementioned doc), was previously released by Elite, has been released separately by Elite on DVD in 1998 and in an expanded version in 2012 [M]. "Document of the Dead" contains a lot of behind-the-scenes footage when students from a local school wanted to shoot a doc on Romero's career. The opening narration is amusingly pretentious - clearly influenced by heady theoretical class discussions on auteurism - but the mix of older film clips eventually lead up to the "Dawn" segments, which include several interviews with the cast, crew, and chain-smoking director.
Just as compelling are some home movies, shot on speckled Super 8mm film, by one of the extras over a two-day period at the mall. Great candid moments, and Robert Langer also provides an affectionate commentary track. (The original soundtrack of the edited footage is faintly heard in the background, and seems to have included small bits of narration by Langer, grafted over musical excerpts from "Rosemary's Baby").
Whereas Langer's home movies provide a past window into the "Dawn" production at the mall, co-star Ken Foree was drafted into providing a recent guided tour (or as much as he can remember after 26 years) showing where some of the famous deaths, self-preservation battles, and the biker massacre were filmed. A few surviving extras joined the tour, and the short revisitation also notes some of the cosmetic changes the mall has undergone. It's clearly a geek moment, but the mall itself continues to receive occasional visits from "Dawn" fans, and Romero's satire on consumerism remains a classic deserving such an elegant boxed set.
The last goodie is the first part of a "Dawn" comic book, adapted by Steve Niles, and designed by Chee and Tom B. Long. Basically a sampler of the longer trade paperback, the illustrations are gloriously gory (lots of exploding brain matter), and some scene variations that demonstrate the immortality of Romero's zombie epics.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan