• Deathdream

    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: November 28th, 2017.
    Director: Bob Clark
    Cast: John Marley, Lynn Carlin, Richard Backus, Henderson Forsythe, Anya Ormsby, Jane Daly
    Year: 1974
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    The Movie:

    Also known as Dead Of Night, 1974’s Deathdream, directed by the late, great Bob Clark and written by Alan Ormsby (who also wrote Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, directed by Clark shortly before this picture, opens with an interesting scene where the Brooks family sits down to dinner only to be interrupted by a telegram altering them to the fact that son Andy (Richard Backus) has been killed serving in the Vietnam War. Charles (John Marley) and Christine (Lynn Carlin), his parents, are understandable distraught and upset by this news, Christine seemingly unable to accept it as reality. His younger sister Cathy (Anya Ormsby) is also distraught.

    In the middle of the night, after the family has settled down to bed for the night, who should arrive on their doorstep but Andy himself, looking rather amused, a strange grin on his face. They are, of course, overjoyed to see him and assume that the telegram must have been sent in error. It soon becomes obvious though that Andy isn’t quite the man he once was. After his return home he’s incredibly introverted, he doesn’t want to go outside or have any sort of social life. Instead, he’s content to stay hidden away from the world in his bedroom, rocking back and forth in his chair at an almost manic pace. When Andy suddenly snaps and kills their dog in front of some kids, it’s clear that something is very wrong here. Doctor Allman (Henderson Forsythe) isn’t sure what to make of this either. Charles intends to get to the bottom of it even if deep down he knows he doesn’t want to face the truth.

    Deathdream is a very well made movie. Expertly directed by Clark, who proved a few years earlier he knew how to make a great horror movie with his seminal slasher Black Christmas (also made in 1974), it’s deliberately paced but remarkably intense. Ormsby’s script tackles the social and political issues of the era in which the film was made without beating you over the head with things. The movie also does a great job of exploring the family dynamic by letting us get to know the Brooks well enough to make them interesting to us. It’s clear that Charles is strong enough to face reality here while Christine is in denial about what’s happening. It tears at them, you can see through the expert performances the stress that it puts on their marriage and in many ways its heartbreaking to watch all of this play out.

    However, despite the family drama and heady scripting, Deathdream is first and foremost a horror movie. It’s a smart, different, very intelligent horror movie but it is a horror movie just the same. While it’s never going to have you jumping out of your seat and running for the exit, it’s a very suspenseful picture. We know early on what’s wrong with Andy, it’s made fairly clear, but seeing how he and his family adjust to it and watching them figure out what to do about it is where the tension stems from. He is very definitely a threat to those around him, no matter how much they might all care for each other.

    The performances are very convincing, never over done or underplayed but completely believable from all involved. The picture is also very well shot using some interestingly plain locations, Deathdream is set to a fantastic score from composer Carl Zittrer that helps accentuate the drama and the horror alike. Clark (who has a small cameo in the film himself as a policeman) builds the story to a suitably grim and horrific conclusion. It’s great stuff.


    Deathdream arrives on Blu-ray from Blue Underground on a 50GB disc framed at 1.66.1 widescreen in a transfer taken from a new 2k scan of the film’s original 35mm negative. Picture quality here is very strong, the image shows great detail and nice texture. It’s clean, with no noticeable print damage, but still very film-like. The movie is also presented with a strong bit rate, avoiding compression issues and the transfer appears free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement issues. This is a very strong picture.

    The only audio option for this release is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track with subtitles available in English, French and Spanish. No problems to report here. Range is understandably limited but the quality of the audio is fine. The track is clean, clear and nicely balanced and it’s free of any noticeable hiss or distortion.

    Extras on this disc are a mix of old and new. Carried over from Blue Underground’s previous DVD release are an audio commentary with the late Bob Clark and a second one with Alan Ormsby. Both tracks are quite interesting, with Clark’s chat covering things from a directorial standpoint and Ormsby talking up the writing process and where some of the ideas for the picture came from. Also carried over from the older DVD release are the Tom Savini: The Early Years and Deathdreaming interview with star Richard Backus. Again, both of these are quite interesting, as the Savini pieces covers quite a few films he was involved in during his early days in the business while the Backus piece sees the actor offering up his memories of the shoot as well as his thoughts on the picture and the cast and crew that he worked with on the film.

    New to this release is a half hour long ‘Recollection’ with actress Anya Liffey and Alan Ormsby. Here the two, who were married for a while, discuss how they came to work together in Florida and then the work that they did on this feature and on a few others like Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. In another new piece, Notes For A Homecoming, we get an interview with composer Carl Zittrer that clocks in at just over nineteen minutes. He speaks in quite a bit of detail about his approach to scoring films and what he tried to bring to this movie in terms of mood. Also new to this release is Flying Down To Brooksville, a quick five minute long interview with production manager John Bud Cardos who talks about securing the Florida locations used in the picture. Also new here are an Alan Ormsby student film (a ten minute black and white piece that deals with slavery and racism) and twelve minutes of screen test footage featuring actor Gary Swanson (the original choice to play Andy!).

    Rounding out the extras is an alternate opening title sequence, the film’s original theatrical trailer, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    As this is a combo pack release a DVD version of the movie is also include inside the Blu-ray sized keepcase. This case also houses a full color insert booklet containing an essay on the film by Travis Crawford.

    The Final Word:

    Blue Underground has really rolled out the red carpet for this one, carrying over all of the extras from their previous DVD edition, adding a bunch of new supplements to the mix and presenting the film in excellent shape. As to the movie itself? Deathdream is an excellent film, a genuinely chilling horror picture that is really well made on all fronts.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      this is a great film.I'm getting this for Xmas and gifting my old dvd out.
    1. Raf A.'s Avatar
      Raf A. -
      Thanks for the review Ian. Have you by chance watched the German BD from Subkultur? If yes, which one is the better release? I have the German blu and will happily upgrade to this one if it's worth it.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      I reviewed the German disc here. BU definitely wins for the supplements by a big margin if that matters to you. Both transfers are really good, BU's is a bit warmer to my eyes but I haven't done a formal A/B comparison yet.
    1. Raf A.'s Avatar
      Raf A. -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ian Jane View Post
      I reviewed the German disc here. BU definitely wins for the supplements by a big margin if that matters to you. Both transfers are really good, BU's is a bit warmer to my eyes but I haven't done a formal A/B comparison yet.
      Thanks for the info Ian. Somehow I forgot about that review. Not interested in those extras that much to buy Deathdream again. Thanks again.
    1. Keeth's Avatar
      Keeth -
      I ordered right after reading the review & my copy shipped out today. Glad BU did a good job on this.