George A. Romero's Land of the Dead Returns in a Tasty New Blu-ray
It’s unprecedented in the history of cinema: an immensely popular trilogy of films all but launches a new genre and spawns countless imitators, and after several years of failing to recreate their success with other kinds of movies, the creator returns with a new trilogy based on the original films (made possible largely by advances in special effects) only to have the new trilogy largely rejected by the fans as pale yet overwrought imitations.
The one and only time anything like that has ever happened was when George A. Romero, after creating what we now consider to be the modern zombie film with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, and 1985’s Day of the Dead, returned with a new trilogy: 2005’s Land of the Dead, 2007’s Diary of the Dead, and 2009’s Survival of the Dead. Now, Shout! Factory is releasing Land of the Dead on October 31 in an extras-packed double-disc collector’s edition Blu-ray.
Finally getting to fulfill the director's original, budget-addled plans for Day of the Dead, Land concerns the divisions between the haves and have-nots, as a group of rich folks live in a fortified skyscraper while the less fortunate live on the streets and still have to deal with the pesky undead. The film was roundly criticized upon release for the bluntness of its political metaphor, which goes to show that Romero was damned either way: his original trilogy was praised for its politics, but when he continued in that same vein with the new films, he was accused of being heavy-handed. But as John Leguizamo points out in one of the new interviews, that political element is more relevant than ever in the Trump era.
This is neither Land’s first time on Blu-ray nor its first video release with extras, but as is so often the case, the Shout! Factory set truly earns the words “collector’s edition” by collecting all the extant versions and bonus features from past releases. In addition to the Leguizamo interview -– in which he mentions having fun hanging out with Dennis Hopper during the making of Super Mario Bros., which may be the first positive anecdote ever about the making of that film -- there are new interviews with character actors Robert Joy and Pedro Miguel Arce, as well as Eugene Clark, Jennifer Baxter, Boyd Banks, and Jasmin Geljo, who played the four primary zombies pictured on the cover.
Both the theatrical and unrated versions are included in new 2K scans, and the unrated version has both a previous commentary track with George Romero as well as a new track with four other zombie performers, Matt Blazi, Glena Chao, Michael Felsher, and Rob Mayr. That’s pretty much it for the new material, but it appears that all the extras from the past editions are present, and especially interesting is Dream of the Dead, which has never been on video before. It’s a 25-minute documentary on the making of Land by Roy Frumkes, who directed the feature length Document of the Dead about the making of Day two decades earlier. There’s also a director’s commentary from Frumkes on Dream, as well as 18 minutes of deleted footage.
Never given its due at the time, Land is waiting to be rediscovered. On that note, Romero said in 2013 that Survival of the Dead was his favorite of the new trilogy, and he hoped that it would someday receive a Day-style critical re-evaluation. It didn’t happen in his lifetime, but hopefully it will within ours.
Images: Shout Factory