PictureLand of the Dead rises from the grave onto our screens at 2.35:1 using the same VC-1 codec as was used for its earlier incarnation on HD and there's really no difference at all from that earlier presentation.
The print is in good shape with no blemishes that I could spot and the contrast holds up remarkably well for a film which is predominantly dark. Those darker scenes, the night time raids, the store in which they are initially attacked, the carnival where Pegg and Wright have their cameo all offer good enough shadow detail although the blacks themselves are not the darkest that we can usually expect from a very good BluRay release. They go deep but not quite that velvet level which adds depth and pop to the image. That lack of 3 dimensionality has to be another factor which sets this release apart from the the good and the excellent.
Colours, and especially those blood red hues, are wonderfully presented. They are firm, not quite eye popping, not quite as vibrant as seen in other features, but solid and well contained with no sign of bleed. A little muted in some of the scenes, again in the darker areas, in Dead Reckoning, or in the cells after Riley is arrested. The colours come to life in the carnival scenes and these scenes again offer perhaps the best detail and depth due to the myriad of characters and action to watch
The encoding is very well handled with no artefacts on show at all. I saw no signs of blocking, banding or even enhancement. As such this is a good enough premier release but its lack of depth and some scenes which could have been a little darker set this apart from those top shelf demo discs.
SoundThe earlier HD release had a good enough Dolby Digital Plus track which covered all of the bases and ticked all the right boxes. For this new release though we get a full whack DTS-HS Master Audio track and it has to be said that it's just a little more defined a little more detailed than the earlier version.
The frontal stage seems a little wider and there's more defined ambiance in the surrounds during the carnival setting and their excursions into the town to gain supplies. Surrounds kick in whenever the action comes on screen, gun-fire, motor cycles and the burst of fireworks. These shots and explosions also take your sub to a decent low level, allowing you to feel what's on screen not just hear it.
Dialogue is more than acceptable even through all of the mayhem, the spoken word always well defined and natural enough. The higher tones, again which suffered a little in the earlier release, do not seem to exhibit the same issues as these frequencies are more well defined with no apparent clipping at all. It seems as though this MA version of the track has ironed out a couple of the issues over the earlier DDPlus track, fits the nature of the film and the action on screen at the time. I've heard better ambient tracks, with more detail and better steerage but this, like the video, is more than good enough.
- Commentary with Director, Producer and Editor.
This unfortunately is not one of the better tracks out there and looks really to have been made on the rush to pad out the disc somewhat. So much can be said from any one of these participants, especially George of course, but really all that goes on here is a simple reiteration of the storyline as we see it unfold. It was becoming a little monotonous but does pick up a little towards the end as the theme of rich/poor divide is briefly touched upon. There are also some gaps in the chat and that's never a good sign.
PiP on BluRay much like Universal had on some of their HD-DVDs. Here at certain moments within the film a window will appear in the lower right hand portion of your screen and introduce us to some technical merits of the film such as effects used, storyboards, zombie mythology. This is the only addition over the earlier released HD edition and is a welcome one at that and perhaps in my own mind better than the thin commentary track. In my opinion even commentaries should used this pop up technique.
- The Remaining Bits. - 0:02:56 - 480i/MPEG-2
A collection of deleted scenes, most if not all are throwaway affairs however there's a rather gruesome snippet with a young man kissing a Zombie by mistake.
- When Shaun Met George. - 0:12:59 - 480i/MPEG-2
Shaun Pegg and Edgar Wright on their journey and eventual meeting with Gorge Romero. They had a cameo in this feature and this traces their steps in achieving one of their dreams. You can see the look of glee on both of their faces as they go from British TV/Film star to one of the undead and it really is a joy to watch them on their own little adventure. Simon and Edgar obviously recount their experiences throughout as do some members of the crew for Land of the Dead.
- Scenes of Carnage. - 0:01:43 - 480i/MPEG-2
Some additional pretty hair raising scenes of Zombies feasting on live humans. Certainly I would have to say that these cuts were more gory than most of the affairs within the film itself.
- Zombie Effects: From Green Screen to Finished Scene. - 0:03:18 - 480i/MPEG-2
A collection of scenes from the film interspersed with the actors on set usually in front of swathes of green or blue back drops and how the final image looked on the big screen. This is an interesting piece or at least would have been but for two things; it's not nearly long enough and secondly there's no voice over to guide you as to how the process evolved from those studio shots to the final CGI enhanced image. This is all set to a slightly melancholic musical score.
- Bringing Storyboards to Life. - 0:07:55 - 480i/MPEG-2
A collection of storyboards for certain scenes in the film and how these pieces of pre production eventually ended up on our screens. Occasionally the story board and the finished scene are on screen simultaneously allowing a direct comparison between the two. Again no voice over, just set to some music.
- Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call. - 0:01:04 - 480i/MPEG-2
A very rough pre production CGI animation of some generic Zombies doing the Thriller Video. Like all the other shorts here this is just set to some music, not the acclaimed Michael Jackson track though.
Not quite the same set of extras which appeared on the HD version some time ago and that in itself is a little baffling. The commentary is not the best I've heard and at times appears a little flat and the remaining additional features really don't add that much to the set as a whole. The U-Control function was the best with Pegg and Wright's coming a very close second.
VerdictAfter Night and Dawn of the Dead everyone looked forward to another Romero Zombie feature. The master tactician paved the way and wrote the rule book on what had to be said and done on screen. His earlier works had some biting satire and some excellent dark comedic moments but as the franchise has progressed this seems to have been watered down somewhat.
His first two Zombie flicks speak for themselves and really need no introduction. This is the fourth in the series following on from Day of the Dead and whilst that earlier picture had some interesting moments, which are extrapolated here somewhat, the whole doesn't really work and ultimately fails. It's too much Mad Max and Zombies with emerging intelligence I was left a little wanting.
The video and audio are fair enough examples of what this format is capable of but they're nothing stunning. Much the same can be said for the actors, including the hit or miss Denis Hopper; there's not enough flesh on his bones to really indulge himself in his character. There's a few additional extras but only a couple really grab you and why the complete set from the earlier HD release were not ported over I cannot say. For Dead fans then it's a must have of course and will be added to their collection. For lovers of the first two then give it a good watch first before deciding to add to your own collection or not.
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- Commentary with Director, Producer and Editor.