The Dead Zone [Collector’s Edition] – Blu-ray Review
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Film Title: The Dead Zone (1983)
Release Date: 2021
Runtime: 103 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Distributor: Scream Factory
Audio Formats: DTS-HD MA 5.1 & 2.0 Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Version Reviewed: 2021 Scream Factory Blu-ray
Blu-ray Release Date: 7/27/21
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, Anthony Zerbe, Nicholas Campbell, Martin Sheen
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Full Blu-ray Tech Specs at bottom
“The Dead Zone” was a 1983 film adaptation of the 1979 novel (of the same title) written by Stephen King. The film was directed by David Cronenberg. Cronenberg is best known for directing films such as “Shivers” (1975), “The Brood” (1979), “Scanners” (1981), “Videodrome” (1983), the remake of “The Fly” (1986), “Naked Lunch” (1991), “Crash” (1996), “A History of Violence” (2005), and “Eastern Promises” (2007).
The screenplay adaptation of the Stephen King novel was done by Jeffrey Boam. Boam is best known for writing or co-writing screenplays to some very well-known films like “The Lost Boys” (1987), “Inner Space” (1987), “Funny Farm” (1988), “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989), “Lethal Weapon 2” (1989), “Lethal Weapon 3” (1992), and “The Phantom” (1996).
It is most certainly worth mentioning that this film was produced by the late Deborah Hill, best known for her work on other films such modern classics as “Halloween” (1978), “The Fog” (1980), “Escape from New York” (1981), “Clue” (1985), and “The Fisher King” (1991). The film was also executive produced by the late Dino De Laurentiis, best known for also producing such memorable films as “Flash Gordon” (1980), “Dune” (1984), “Silver Bullet” (1985), “Blue Velvet” (1986), and “Army of Darkness” (1992). It’s safe to say that a lot of talented people worked on the film adaptation of this Stephen King novel.
The story of The Dead Zone involves a protagonist named “Johnny Smith” (Christopher Walken), who when we first meet him is a school teacher. Johnny also has a girlfriend “Sarah” (Brooke Adams), also a teacher, when we first meet him. The two go on a rollercoaster ride, literally, one day after school when something just feels odd to Johnny. In his white little Volkswagen Bug, he goes on about his way, dropping Sarah off at her house. The young couple embraces and kiss, and Johnny says to Sarah that he plans to marry her someday. It’s just that he doesn’t feel comfortable spending the night — despite it raining horribly. The two say their goodbyes, she reminds him to drive safely, and Johnny drives off on his way. It’s only a matter of time before he ends up in a very unusual traffic accident with a large tractor and trailer.
As a result of his accident, Johnny ends up in the hospital and immediately his girlfriend Sarah comes to his side, crying and promising him (as he lay unconscious) that everything is going to be okay. Eventually, five years pass as Johnny lies in a coma until one day when he awakes. He’s as upset, as anyone would be, to realize that five years of his life have been lost and things have changed. Johnny also starts to realize that he has a newfound ability, when making hand-to-hand contact with a nurse, to be able to see past, present, and future events that have or will occur involving death — henceforth the title The Dead Zone. Some may call this “second sight” or a type of psychic ability of sorts, but it’s quite different than that. With this newfound ability and the fact he’s spent the extended amount of time in a coma, it’s a tad bit much to all deal with at once.
Luckily, for Johnny, he has a great doctor taking care of him named “Dr. Sam Weizak” (Herbert Lom) who helps him try to make the most sense of out all of the new things going on in his life. He will have to deal with the local press finding out and questioning him about his newfound abilities and even have the local Castle Rock police ask for his help in a case.
Later on, Johnny will really try to avoid this life and attention but it just continues to follow him, no matter where he goes. He will eventually cross paths with a man that is destined to do some very, very bad things when he is given the highest office in the land: President of the United States. That man is an aspiring politician named “Greg Stillson” (Martin Sheen), and Johnny will have to decide if he should do the right thing and attempt to prevent this man from doing what he has seen.
The Dead Zone is one very intense story and involves some very difficult moral choices, that could offend certain people. I, personally, find this film to be one of the more underrated Stephen King film adaptations out there and it comes with an excellent performance from Christopher Walken.
Movie Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)
“The Dead Zone” Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray Disc via this Scream Factory release, is presented in the original intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The previous 2020 Blu-ray was not in the correct aspect ratio, as it was in 1.78:1, and it also had some framing issues that I’ll discuss a bit further in a moment. According to IMDb, this movie was shot on 35mm film using Panaflex cameras and spherical lenses.
This time around, the movie has received a new 4K 2020 scan from the original camera negative. This is not the same video presentation you’ll find on the previously mentioned 2020 Blu-ray, as I’ll discuss a bit further below. I suspect that the previous Blu-ray came from just an older master likely from an HD transfer or telecine. This time around it’s got some real improvements that you’ll start to notice once you look closely, but more on that a bit later, as mentioned.
This release comes on a BD-50 (50 gigabytes dual-layered) Blu-ray Disc. To get even rather a bit more technical for a moment here, the film itself is using 30.3 gigabytes itself out of the 40.46 GB total used entirely on the disc. Looking back on it, the original 2020 Blu-ray was using 21.2 gigabytes itself for the film out of 22.10 GB total used entirely on that disc. So, it’s safe to say that this version is using almost 9 gigabytes larger of a file for the film just a year later, here on the 2021 Collector’s Edition Blu-ray.
Let’s take a look at some screenshots taken from the two (2020 and 2021) Blu-ray sources below. Also below, you can take a pretty lengthy look at a 2020 VS. 2021 Blu-ray Screenshots Comparison video over on YouTube that I’ve put together.
SOURCES: 2020 Blu-ray (left), 2021 Blu-ray (right)
Looking at the comparisons above, you can tell that the previous (2020) Blu-ray had a basic transfer and that this has a totally different new scan, as I had mentioned. The color timing is similar but it can differ very slightly on a few different scenes in particular. There’s much more detail to be found in this new scan (2021) and its Blu-ray presentation. The black level is perfectly solid, there’s a very nice amount of film grain left intact here and it feels more pronounced than before (where it felt pixilated almost), and overall the color timing here is spot-on. Flesh tones appear a bit more accurate this time around and facial close-ups really offer up a bit more detail than they did before.
It’s not a restoration or even a remaster, but instead a new 4K scan and that is enough to be impressive and serve as a very nice improvement over the previous 2020 Blu-ray of the film that was released by Paramount (in a 5-movie collection).
It’s great to see the film now finally getting the visual treatment that I feel it deserves. All and all, this may not look like a huge upgrade visually at first glance, but I strongly suggest you take a closer look at my comparison shots. It really is superior to the previous Blu-ray, especially in terms of video quality. Congratulations to the folks at Scream Factory here on a job well done, as their “Collector’s Edition” of “The Dead Zone” on Blu-ray earns itself an impressive 4.5 rating for video quality.
Video Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Audio here on this “Collector’s Edition” release of “The Dead Zone” on Blu-ray Disc comes with the options of either DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround or DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo lossless sound. The previous 2020 Blu-ray that was included in a set (from Paramount) was only presented in a 5.1 configuration, so this marks the first time on Blu-ray that the film has been available with the original 2.0 Stereo sound mix (in English).
First off, I have to say I really appreciate the fact (as a purist, at times) that there’s a 2.0 Stereo lossless mix included here. That mix really proves to be just as impressive in my honest opinion as to the 5.1 surround lossless sound mix that is included here, that I’ll be primarily focusing on. The 2.0 mix offers a nice amount of clarity, and never once requires any volume adjustments when listening at reference level. There’s a nice amount of bass represented here for the stereo mix, as well as a nice amount of range in terms of mids and treble. This is a rather impressive 2.0 Stereo lossless mix and I rather enjoyed getting to hear the film in its original configuration in a lossless format.
In terms of the 5.1 surround mix, this has a decent amount of bass presence, via the subwoofer at times, and a light but effective use of the rear channels — mostly for the film’s sound effects and a bit of some of the music. Dialogue is delivered spot-on from the center channel here and no volume adjustments were needed throughout my viewing experience. It is a solid 5.1 lossless mix and has several moments that are somewhat impressive, despite it coming from just a 2.0 stereo source. One scene early on that proved to make use of the rear channels effective involves a rollercoaster ride and you’ll feel the sound effects panning from the front (left & right) channels towards to rear (left & right) channels. It’s a pretty nice 5.1 surround sound mix, and it has its moments. The film’s beautiful original musical score, composed by Michael Kamen, gets a nice amount of rear channel presence but is admittedly a bit too front-driven for the most part, in my opinion. However, it gets the job done and this is after all just a dramatic and suspenseful form of horror with only a few action scenes.
I feel this to be the same as that on the 2020 Blu-ray, in fact, I decided to conduct a test to see. I feel this has not at all been reworked by Scream Factory and in no way in terms of its 5.1 lossless sound mix from the 2020 Blu-ray and its 5.1 lossless sound mix in the very same format. This mix offers just as much oomph as that mix did, once I did two sets of looking back through listening to the opening 9 minutes of each. So, for that reason, I’ll be keeping my overall rating for the 5.1 surround mix and that write-up from my review for the original 2020 Blu-ray (found above). However, I do find that the lossless 2.0 Stereo mix is a nice addition and it really makes for perhaps a bit more accurate representation of this particular film, as I had mentioned. That being said, I feel this deserves a slightly higher rating for audio quality for both offering the consumer the option of either a 5.1 surround sound and 2.0 Stereo lossless sound mix. Both of these prove to be rather impressive at times.
In turn, this time around “The Dead Zone” in its “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray release earns itself a 4.5 rating for audio quality. As someone who is starting to become a bit more of a purist, I feel the 2.0 Stereo lossless original sound mix to be something I have learned to appreciate being there as an option to experience.
Audio Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release are presented in HD (high definition 1080p) video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.
The bonus materials that are on the new 2021 “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray Disc include:
- NEW Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Mark Irwin. This is a must-hear. The cinematographer reflects on the making of the film here and it is excellent. This offers a lot of insight that I don’t think we will ever get from the film’s director. However, this is the next best thing you have to think about getting that. I enjoyed listening to this from start to finish, and yes I actually listened to it entirely right before watching the film in its entirety. It was that appealing to me, as a fan of the film, and I had to hear it first. There’s a lot of added behind-the-scenes value you get from this audio commentary that serves more like a making-of that is scene-specific.
- Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman and Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr
- Audio Commentary with Film Historian Michael Gingold
- Isolated Score with Introduction by Film Music Critic Daniel Schweiger — is in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (@192kbps)
- NEW “Sarah‘s Story – Interview with Actress Brooke Adams” (10 minutes, 37 seconds – HD) is a must-see for fans of the film, as this is the only cast member that we get to hear from. Adams offers up a discussion of how she became an actress and then looks back on this film. She had actually read the book before doing the film, so that seemed a bit like fate (as she put “kismet”). I won’t spoil things for you, but this is very fun for a fan of this film, such as myself. This interview is very worthwhile and offers up some really unique insight into the making of the film, as well as her specific role. She also discusses working with David Cronenberg as a director and her friendship with Christopher Walken. This new featurette was done by Shout! Factory and Red Shirt Pictures.
- NEW “Cold Visions – Producing The Dead Zone“ (20 minutes, 32 seconds – HD) includes interviews with John M. Eckert (production manager) and Jeffrey Chernov (associate producer), who both worked on the film. This new featurette was done by Shout! Factory and Red Shirt Pictures.
- “Trailers from Hell – The Dead Zone” (2 minutes, 11 seconds – HD) is hosted by filmmaker Mick Garris. This is an absolute treat, considering that Garris is no stranger to directing film adaptations of Stephen King’s work. Mick considers this one of the best of those.
- “Memories From The Dead Zone“ (12 minutes, 19 seconds – HD) is presented in a 4×3 aspect ratio with black pillar bars on the sides, as it’s an archival 2006 Paramount featurette. This includes interviews with David Cronenberg (director), Brooke Adams (“Sarah Bracknell”), Douglas E. Winter (author, critic, biographer), and Ronald Sanders (editor).
- “The Look of The Dead Zone“ (9 minutes, 25 seconds – HD) is presented in a 4×3 aspect ratio with black pillar bars on the sides, as it is an archival 2006 Paramount featurette. This includes interviews with Douglas E. Winter (author, critic, historian), Mark Irwin (director of photography), and David Cronenberg (director).
- “Visions From The Dead Zone“ (9 minutes, 44 seconds – HD) is presented in a 4×3 aspect ratio with black pillar bars on the sides, as it’s an archival 2006 Paramount featurette. This includes interviews with Mark Irwin (director of photography), David Cronenberg (director), Douglas E. Winter (author, critic, historian), and Ronald Sanders (editor).
- “The Politics of The Dead Zone“ (11 minutes, 34 seconds – HD) is presented in a 4×3 aspect ratio with black pillar bars on the sides, as it’s an archival 2006 Paramount featurette. This includes interviews with Douglas E. Winter (author, critic, historian), Ronald Sanders (editor), David Cronenberg (director), Mark Irwin (director of photography), Brooke Adams (“Sarah Bracknell”), and an excellent archival 1983 interview with Martin Sheen (“Greg Stillson”).
- Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, 16 seconds – HD) is presented in widescreen, however, it is in the 1.78:1 ratio and I’ll forgive it for that. Why? Because it looks and even sounds really good.
- TV Spots (1 minute, 5 seconds – SD) include a total of two short TV spots. These come from a VHS source.
- “Behind-The-Scenes Gallery” (13 minutes, 10 seconds – HD) will play as a slideshow. Just sit back and watch. This is fun. If you find a shot you like, just hit the pause button on your remote control. I like when they put image galleries in this slideshow type of “play all” method. It’s more entertaining and less frustrating for the viewer. There are tons of still photos here that really do give you a glimpse behind the scenes of the film and let you get to see what it was like making it.
Overall the bonus materials here consist of the three audio commentary tracks, an isolated score (with some audio commentary), two new featurettes, as well as five other featurettes, the theatrical trailer, the TV spots, and an image gallery. This proves to be one very impressive set of extras for a film. Let me break that down in some math here for you below.
32 mins (new extras) + 45 min (2006 DVD extras) + 15 mins (trailer, tv spots, & gallery) = 92 minutes. That is over an hour and a half of just extras not including the audio commentary tracks or isolated score. This is one very impressive set of extras for a film. This, in terms of the supplemental material and living up to the name of being a Collector’s Edition, is almost perfect and earns this a very respectable 4.75 rating for bonus materials.
Bonus Materials Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)
“The Dead Zone” from 1983 was a great David Cronenberg film and adaptation of a Stephen King novel, equally as much. It also delivered one amazing performance from the always impressive Christopher Walken in one very memorable role, as Johnny Smith. The antagonist played brilliantly here by Martin Sheen, proves to disgust you, and reminds me very much of what’s wrong with the world right now. I’ll leave it at that, to avoid getting into politics, as he should have. Let’s just say that this film is a bit much to take, so be prepared. But, then again so is real life. A bit much to take at times, that is, here lately especially. We could all use a little bit of escapism right now and this film proves that.
This new Scream Factory “Collector’s Edition” 2021 Blu-ray release of the film comes with a new 4K scan and looks visually superior to the previously available 2020 Blu-ray release. It looks really good and serves as a very nice improvement (visual upgrade) over even that previous HD release, let alone over the previous DVD release of the film in SD (standard definition 480i/p). So, let’s just say that the fans of this film that held out for an individual release are going to be very pleased with what they get here in terms of video quality. The new 4K scan really makes for an impressive improvement, even if you owned that set with the 2020 Blu-ray debut. You will want to get this release for the video quality alone, not to mention for the bonus materials that I’ve discussed and will briefly a bit more further below. This new 1080p HD presentation is very pleasing.
The audio presentation here on this new Scream Factory “Collector’s Edition” 2021 Blu-ray release comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround mix, as we had seen on the 2020 Blu-ray previously available. It also comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo lossless sound mix which is very nice to see included and proves to be well-worth giving the listen, if you’re a purist (like myself) or just on perhaps a soundbar? The 5.1 surround lossless mix proves to still be impressive at times, and perhaps has been slightly mixed differently than the previous release — as I found it to have a little bit more oomph at times than before. All and all, both the 5.1 surround and 2.0 Stereo lossless sound mixes here prove to be equally as impressive and are going to leave you pleased.
Now, finally, in terms of extras, first of all, you get some on this release unlike with the bare bones previous 2020 Blu-ray. That comes as a huge relief to be able to say but it’s also what you would expect from a “Collector’s Edition” release of a film and especially from a Blu-ray release by the folks at Scream Factory. After all, that’s what Scream Factory has become well-known for over the years: producing great releases on home video and commissioning excellent bonus materials. This release is no exception to that standard that they have set, as it comes with a total of 3 audio commentary tracks, an isolated score track in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (with slight commentary), and some great new interviews, as well as even some archival featurettes, included here as well. Plus, there’s even the theatrical trailer thrown in. This proves to be a very impressive set of supplemental material for a 1983 film. The only things missing here are an audio commentary with the director and a digital copy, and that latter is very unlikely, due to licensing. I’ll overlook the lack of both of those but perhaps someday?
I’ll end by saying that Scream Factory has absolutely done this 1983 David Cronenberg film adaptation of the Stephen King story as much justice as possible with this 2021 Blu-ray “Collector’s Edition” release. It proves equally as impressive in all departments, video quality, audio quality, and even finally in terms of bonus materials. I have to say, perhaps a bit biased as a fan of the film, that this release comes as highly recommended.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.5 (out of 5) for audio quality
4.75 (out of 5) for bonus materials