Friday, 30 November 2012

Dead & Buried

1981, US, Directed by Gary Sherman
Colour, Running Time: 94 minutes
Review Source: Blu-ray, Region A, Blue Underground; Video: 1.78:1 1080p 24fps, Audio: DTS HD MA

If you haven’t seen the film before I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll summarise as follows: a prologue introduces a short-lived photographer as he captures images on a beach prior to being beguiled by an attractive female who's all too happy to expose her body for the camera.  The situation not quite panning out as he might have liked, he finds himself surrounded by goons, tied up, and burned alive. The place is a small town called Potter’s Bluff, and the man on the case, Sheriff Gills, is becoming increasingly concerned about the sudden rise in homicidal activity, as people are killed in an almost religiously brutal fashion. One thing that bores me slightly watching certain films is the plot being occupied by excesive periods of police investigation (with a few exceptions – Se7en being a notable one), and Gary Sherman’s dark chiller almost crosses the border into that kind of territory. What breaks it apart from the average policeman-hunting-killer(s) scenario is the fact that this does have a supernatural element behind the concept, but to explain it here would possibly be to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it. The other factor is that the deaths are rather nasty – indeed it earned a place on the DPP (banned in Britain) list in the early eighties. Probably the most grotesque death is that of the burned man in hospital – somebody wants him dead and because his eye is the only thing really exposed (due to the bandages), she jams a hypodermic needle into it! Dead & Buried was somewhat mis-marketed in my opinion – because the screenplay here was written by Ronald Shusett and Dan O’ Bannon, who also wrote the story for Alien, the marketers felt the need or desire to try to rope in the crowd who’d already seen that – ‘The Creators of ALIEN bring a new terror to Earth’ proclaimed the posters. Of course this implies extra-terrestrial presence in the film but there is nothing of the sort, and no doubt some viewers have been disappointed over the years if they’ve just watched it on the strength of the promotional material alone (which some will). Aside from possibly lacking in the excitement stakes, the movie is, however, a reasonably effective chiller with a nefarious edge to it along with some pretty nifty characters (the mortician/undertaker, wickedly played by Jack Albertson, being the number one on that list).
I first viewed this on UK videocassette after it was released years following the banning – fullscreen and censored. I didn’t particularly appreciate it, but later on gave the 2 disc DVD by Anchor Bay a shot. Slipcased, this was a nice release presenting the film uncut for the first time in Britain since the banning, widescreen, and with a variety of audio options (DD2.0, DD5.1, and DTS 5.1) and extras. It was also released around the same time by Blue Underground on a similar DVD set. More recently Blue Underground have remastered the film for this Blu-ray release. The image quality is much sharper than before, although grain is very prevalent in many shots, and the variety of cinematographic techniques can be fully appreciated at last. Audio is served up as lossy DD5.1 EX, and lossless Dolby True HD 7.1 plus DTS HD Master Audio 7.1. It’s questionable whether a film such as this will ever benefit from such overblown sound formats, the likes of which are very suited to modern day cinema’s more extreme, layered, and better quality soundtracks, but one shouldn’t knock Blue Underground for putting in this kind of effort. What is slightly disappointing is that they saw fit to drop the original mono track, which was accounted for on the former BU DVD. Given the similarity between the surround tracks available I think it would have made more sense to include the mono and drop one of those, but not to worry – downmixing to stereo via your equipment provides a fairly satisfying listen. A surprising quantity of extras is still a big bonus – three audio commentaries, an interesting featurette with effects master Stan Winston, a Robert Englund interview (who has a small part in the film prior to his explosion of fame as Freddy), plus a Dan O’ Bannon piece too (there are also a couple of trailers). This gives you around five hours of listening/viewing material, which is stellar considering the fact that this is hardly a massive film. The big sell for the Blu-ray though is the great image, although that itself will alienate some because it’s hardly a thing of beauty! But that isn’t the point – we can view Dead & Buried in a manner closely aping what it probably originally screened like, and the film is something that has held up over time.

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