O.H.M.A.D. 11: Zombi: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

dawn of the dead

This is the Italian/European edit Argento made for that market after pitching a deal with Romero he could do that in exchange for helping to finance the film. And his cut, I have to say, is much better. What we have here is a film with a tighter pace, better music, and an important piece of dialogue missing from the theatrical version.  Argento really shows his chops as an editor and makes this feel like a different experience than Romero’s.

dawnThe difference in the films becomes apparent during the raid on the miniroty tenement.  In Romero’s version, there is a sense of gravitas that makes you feel bad for these people as the cops shoot them and the zombie’s up.  Argento is pretty much like “LOL this is awesome”, and gives us the action theme done by Goblin to make it more exciting, like an action film.  This is a tactic he uses throughout much of the films run time.

The circus music that annoys me so much in the other cuts is taken out completely and replaced by Goblin. This helps make the film feel like it’s moving faster, and it’s true that it is because Argento took out 11 minutes or so of exposition. However, oddly enough he allows one scene of dialogue that really adds a lot to the film. It’s right before the scene where Stephen reveals Fran is pregnant and Peter asks if he’d like to abort it. Before that takes place, they are sitting around passing a bottle of Jack Daniels and watching the pundits discuss the outbreak on TV. Stephen is high up on himself thinking that they survived their initial looting of the mall and that humanity should be able to fare the same. He says “They barely touched us…mostly”. Peter tells him “They touched us good man, don’t you forget that. Do you think you could kill your old lady if she turned?”

Dawn of the Dead2It’s a very important piece of dialogue that makes the entire case as to why Romero zombies are dangerous. Yeah they are slow, but there are more of them than there are of the people and one simple mishap can lead to death. Stephen almost got himself killed by going out to be part of the boys, left Fran weaponless, and inadvertently led the Hare Krishna zombie up to their hiding spot where it almost killed her. Even Roger almost got bit by the mannequin zombie. It’s a vital piece of dialogue that strengthens the film and it’s amazing to me Argento left it in the film and Romero didn’t.

If you have never seen this cut and are a fan of the film you should score the Ultimate Edition DVD Anchor Bay put out a few years ago so you can compare and contrast the different versions. For my money, I’d have to say this version is the best. The less choppy edits make it a smoother film than the theatrical cut. The exposition scenes that are cut are not essential to the story and shows Argento’s sense of pace and style. It’s too bad that is something he no longer has, but at this was the high point of his career and it shows.

Ken Foree is amazing.  If there was ever a zombie apocalypse, that’s the kind of guy who would actually be able to survive. The strength of Romero’s original zombie trilogy is that it feels like something that could actually happen, and Peter is the greatest of his protagonists. His practical approach, gun skills, athleticism, and natural leadership catapult him to one of horrors greatest heroes and cult figures.

The motorcycle assault on the mall is still one of the best set pieces in a horror movie ever. The gang lead by Tom Savini (who helped with the gore FX)  sieges the place in order to loot, pillage, plunder, have pie fights with zombies, and check their blood pressure. Argento’s editing and added Goblin rock score add quite a bit to this legendary scene.

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I watched this version a few years ago to listen to the commentary track but today is the first time I really sat down and actually paid attention to the differences.  A lot of what bothered me about the theatrical cut is taken out and replaced with better things. The Goblin soundtrack adds a lot to it, although it can be a bit over-used at times. Also, Argento gives us an extended scene of Gaylen Ross’s topless scene. This will probably be my go to version of Dawn of the Dead the next time I feel like watching it from here on out.

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7 Comments

  1. I think I will watch this tonight based on your recommendation. I always kind of thought the theatrical one dragged a bit, and what movie is not made more awesome by Goblin?

    • Did you watch it?!

      • Yeah I did! I was so into it. I don’t know if I could tell the difference, because I haven’t seen the movie in at least 15 years, but I was so excited I was cheering at the head shots like I was at a football game or something. I loved every bit of the time spent that movie. I wonder, did Romero send Argento all the raw footage and he made a whole new movie out of it, or did he get the finished product and cut it? Like, do the two movies use different takes in some spots?

      • I am not sure about any alternate shots, I believe it’s all just alternative footage. The only way to be sure though is to wade through the uncut version and see.

        Another new thing I noticed in the Zombie version is a shot where Peter is laughing at the pie fight. That was awesome!

  2. Amazing job in pointing out the differences in this cut. Great writeup!

  3. […] the family’s plans meet a snafu as a survivalist/weekend warrior Benny (Ken Foree of Dawn of the Dead fame) comes into the picture.  All the pieces are in place for an epic showdown, and that’s […]


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