DEAD & BURIED (1981)
Director: Gary Sherman
Blue Underground

While searching through the better, more memorable horror films of the 80s, I've heard many a fan bring up the title DEAD & BURIED, a creepy, homegrown effort with an unsual cast for a film of this sort. Some were lucky enough to catch it on cable or on its all too brief theatrical run, and others rented the long out-of-print video release, but the film has hence dipped into the "where are they now?" file. After a number of foreign DVD releases of varying quality, Blue Underground has finally given the film the justice it deserves with this 2-disc Special Edition set.

The plot involves a sheriff (James Farentino), now working in the small town that he originally came from ("the size of a postage stamp" as he labels it). New visitors to Potters Bluff are greeted with horrible deaths (with FX wizardry by Stan Winston), as they are mutilated by a group of locals who photograph these atrocities at the same time. But the same murder victims soon end up alive and as good as new, with a new identity and a new occupation within the town, causing total confusion for Farentino, but I don't want to give away too much more of the plot.

Although DEAD & BURIED takes a really grotesque approach to the proceedings, it indirectly owes a lot to other films like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, THE STEPFORD WIVES and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN. But director Sherman (RAW MEAT, VICE SQUAD) injects the film with an unsettling, atmospheric, twisted style that you just don't see anymore. Winston's prosthetics and makeup remain very impressive, more so than some of the unconvincing CGI stuff you see today. Farentino (a decent character actor mostly regulated to TV) is good as the no-nonsense cop, and Jack Albertson (in one of his final roles) is the old mortician who you just know is up to no good! There's also an abundance of familiar faces about, including Melody Anderson (FLASH GORDON), Michael Pataki (GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE), Lisa Blount (PRINCE OF DARKNESS), Barry Corbin (STIR CRAZY), and the future Mr. Krueger himself, Robert Englund.

Foreign DVDs of DEAD & BURIED were not up to par and looked dreadful for the most part. Blue Underground's release is by far the best the film has ever looked. Mind you, it's still plagued with occasional grain and murky picture darkness due to some low-lit and soft focus scenes, but colors look pleasing throughout and detail is always sharp. The film has been letterboxed in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with Anamorphic enhancement. Also note that this disc is fully uncut, reinstating some footage (during the murder of a hitchhiker) that is often missing from some prints. There are four different audio options included: a 6.1 DTS track, a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track, a Dolby Surround 2.0 track, and the film's original Mono track. All the options will render sound effects and music differently (and effectively), depending on your system and your choice of track.

Since this is a two-disc set, the supplements are pretty hefty. Disc one has three commentary tracks. The first is with director Gary Sherman, the second with co-writer/co-producer Ronald Shusett and actress Linda Turley (wife to Shusett who also appears in the film), and a third commentary with cinematographer Steve Poster. Each of the commentaries are moderated competently by David Gregory, and are all informative and worth a listen. The one with Sherman is the best. He explains things in great detail, and tells how his cut of the film was hampered by outside backers, and that he was called back to shoot additional scenes after the initial shoot. Sherman also shows a great fondness for his cast and crew, so it's a delight to hear him talk about them. Also, DEATHLINE (aka RAW MEAT) is discussed a bit, as are the director's favorite type of horror films. Also on disc one is the international trailer, the U.S. theatrical trailer, and a teaser trailer. A great still gallery of posters, lobby cards, stills, behind-the-scenes photos, and video art rounds out this first disc.

The second disc features three nicely-produced featurettes with solid interviews. The fist one is with FX man Stan Winston, who credits DEAD & BURIED with showcasing some of his finest work and explains all the major special effects to great detail. The second featurette features a cordial Robert Englund who talks about his role in the film, why he was cast, and his respect for Jack Albertson, among other topics. The final featurette has co-writer Dan O'Bannon who admits he did not contribute as much to the story as people think he did, but seems proud to have his name attached to the project. O'Bannon (in a bow tie) amusingly expresses his dislike of eyeball piercing scenes, in which DEAD & BURIED contains. The final supplement on disc two is a gallery of Steve Poster's black and white scouting/location stills.

Blue Underground has once again delivered an outstanding DVD release, a wonderfully-produced package celebrating one of the better 80s American horror flicks. (George R. Reis)