Drama, Horror, Supernatural, Thriller

Deathdream (1974)

Comments Off on Deathdream (1974) 29 January 2018

Deathdream blu-ray

Studio: Blue Underground

Theatrical Release: August 29, 1974

Blu Ray Release: November 28, 2017

Director: Bob Clark

PG (re-released as R) 

Review by James Klein

Please don’t let the blu ray cover art fool you. While Deathdream looks like a fast-paced exploitation film, it is in fact a very sad, touching and chilling tale of a Vietnam vet who has come home to his family. 

Before the opening credits begin, Andy (Richard Backus) is shot in combat during a fire fight in Vietnam. Filmed in excruciating slow motion, it appears that this may be the end of Andy. Once the credits are over, the viewer is introduced to Andy’s family sitting around the dinner table to only be interrupted by a knock at the door, as a serviceman tells the family that their son / brother Andy was killed in action. Devastated over the loss, the family mourns until in the middle of the night when Andy suddenly returns home. Over joyed that they were wrong and Andy is still alive, it soon becomes clear that the blank expression on Andy’s face and his quiet demeanor suggests that maybe he has PTS or something far worse.  

When family and friends come to visit Andy, they are only greeted by blank expressions until something sets him off like the local mailman making jokes about a WWII vet and asking Andy if he knew what happened to one of his friends during the war or when some of the local youngsters want to show off their hand to hand combat skills only to be startled by Andy demonstrating his own “special skills” on the family dog. When Andy’s father (played by John Marley of Framed) convinces the family doctor to see Andy, he eventually questions Andy on where he was at and how he got into town. Andy eventually snaps and it’s apparent that Andy is not who he seems to be. Is it even Andy or is it something else? Written by Alan Ormsby (he went on to direct Deranged) Deathdream mixes horror with drama ever so perfectly as viewers are given a very solemn and moving story about a family torn apart because of the war mixed with horror elements. The music even changes throughout the film as it can be quite sad and heartfelt to downright scary and unsettling. Clark’s intense and tight direction is also one for the books as he can make a movie both move and frighten the viewer all at once. The one question that does stick in my mind, after viewing Deathdream is why does Andy come home? Why does he put his loving family who do care for him under such horrific circumstances? Fans of downbeat endings will really like this one.

Deathdream pre-dates the Hollywood classic Coming Home by several years and I am kind of amazed that Deathdream has not been more discussed over the years as one of the better films about the Vietnam war. I can see at the time the war had just ended and maybe audiences were not up to seeing a film about a soldier returning home but it’s rather sad that Clark’s allegory seems to have mostly been forgotten. Thankfully Clark did gain some major success with the first two Porky’s films and his claim to fame, A Christmas Story in 1983. But Deathdream can hold it’s own against Clark’s more notable works. 

Blue Underground however has not forgotten and they give fans a blu ray package that is to die for. The gorgeous transfer looks pretty awesome and much more clear and crisp than their old DVD that was released over ten years ago. Sure the picture at times looks soft but that is because of the way it was shot due to the low budget, not because of the transfer. The blu-ray comes with two commentary tracks (an old one with the late Bob Clark and a new one with writer Alan Ormsby) and several interviews with Ormsby and co-star Anya Ormsby, production manager John Bud Cardos, composer Carl Zitter (who admits that he has forgotten a little of the main theme as he plays some pieces of the music off his piano), a screen test by Gary Swanson (who was switched out at the last minute for star Richard Backus) and an old student film by Ormsby. The new set even ports over the interviews with Backus and make-up legend Tom Savini (his first film) from the old DVD. Rounding out the special features is a still gallery, theatrical trailer and a small booklet with a short essay about the film, written by Travis Crawford. The disc even has a reversible cover, allowing fans to have Deathdream or the alternate title, Dead of Night on their blu ray shelf. 

A forgotten classic, Deathdream is a film much like The Dead Zone by mixing heartfelt drama with chills and suspense. It is a film that is not easily forgettable and one that should be viewed by any self appreciating horror fan. 

Movie and Blu Ray Rating: ★★★★½ 


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