Tag Archives: Tom Savini

Dawn of the Dead – Ultimate Edition


Dawn of the Dead – Ultimate Edition
Anchor Bay – 2004

Written and Directed by George A. Romero

David Emge
Ken Foree
Scott H. Reiniger
Gaylen Ross

Awesome! This 4-DVD box set is the best product I’ve ever seen Anchor Bay create. The box artwork, each DVD is so beautifully put together that it shines just from an outside appearance. Combine this with three different versions of the film, three audio commentaries, two documentaries, On Set Home Movie with audio commentary, a video tour of the Monroeville Mall, a commercial for Monroeville Mall, a 16 page booklet and a DOTD comic book. What are you waiting for? Go to your nearest store or get online now to purchase The Ultimate Edition.

I’m going to begin with an all-new 75-minute documentary called The Dead Will Walk. I have seen numerous documentaries; I’ve made two of them myself and have to say this one really impressed me. I like the way The Dead Will Walk is organized. Interviews, footage from the film, behind the scenes footage is presented pretty much the same order as it happens in DAWN OF THE DEAD. Beginning at the TV station, moving to the SWAT team in the low rent housing building, zombies in basement, the small airport…you get the picture. This works well as anyone who knows DAWN OF THE DEAD will enjoy this storytelling design. I was pretty flabbergasted at how many of the principal people (including George & Christine Romero, Tom Savini, DP Michael Gornick, co-producers Dario Argento & Claudio Argento, composer Claudio Simonetti, sound recordist Tony Buba to name a few) and even recognizable extra zombies are part of the documentary. To me this shows that Perry Martin and Anchor Bay have gone the distance to make this the most comprehensible behind the scenes film chronicling the making of DOTD. The picture quality, graphics and sound of The Dead Will Walk are all outstanding. This is not your average, politically correct gloss over electronic press kit featurette. The person behind this is passionate about DAWN OF THE DEAD; we benefit big time because of it.

DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD is also included on this DVD and we should thank Synapse Films for teaming up with Anchor Bay. Most folks have probably seen this 95-minute documentary but it’s cool that it’s part of The Ultimate Edition. To tell you the truth, I had not seen the parts added since the documentary was originally made. The footage shot on the DOTD set is invaluable and it was great to hear what George Romero, Tom Savini, Richard Rubinstein actually felt while they were making the film. It was a real added bonus to see the behind the scenes footage of TWO EVIL EYES.

On Set Home Movies with audio commentary by Zombie Extra Robert Langer is 13 minutes of 8mm film footage that any DOTD fan will enjoy. It doesn’t matter how rough the film looks, it is never before seen footage taken on the DOTD set and is priceless.

The digital video footage of Monroeville Mall Tour shot by Gregory Nicotero is much cleaner than the 8mm footage and you should enjoy seeing what the famous DOTD location looks like now. The stairways and boiler room still look the same. Actor Ken Foree acts as the host.

The opening of this film is dynamite and probably my favorite sequence of any George Romero film. Romero sets up that the world is in complete chaos as the living dead are taking over. Francine (Gaylen Ross) and her lover Stephen (David Emge), escape the television station they work for in a helicopter and end up bringing along Stephen’s friend Roger (Scott H. Reiniger), a SWAT officer, and another SWAT officer Peter (Ken Foree). The way Romero orchestrates this opening is impressive as he focuses on those characters inside the TV station while people scream and argue about what to do to survive. The sequence at the apartment full of zombies, where the SWAT team takes over is exciting and eerie. The editing of these sequences, paired with Michael Gornick’s cinematography make you feel like you are right there with the characters. Romero uses mostly a static camera, with realistic production design and backed by a probing score by Italian Rock composers Goblin.

The four characters leave the city and for the countryside and eventually land on top of a shopping mall. They figure everything they need is inside that mall. But things do not work out as easy as they start to bicker amongst themselves, Francine becomes pregnant and a big bad motorcycle gang comes to take over and ravage the mall.

DAWN OF THE DEAD has something distinctive about it. It’s a combination of all its ingredients that makes it stand out as one of America’s most original horror films. It’s not so much that this film is scary; it’s more because Romero felt the pulse of society and captured the way people live and interact within the confines of a shopping mall under siege. Tom Savini’s enthusiastic special make-up effects were ground breaking and certainly helped set the stage of all horrific films to follow. Romero almost made the film like a comic book, using bright colored blood, library music and sound effects to help offset the extreme violence.

Which version of Dawn of the Dead is the best?  This is not an easy question to answer because truthfully each version has its own qualities.

US Theatrical Version is probably the all around best version of the film. It moves quicker than the Extended Edition and has more character development than the European Edition. This is the version of the film George Romero prefers and I can see why. Goblin and the library music are used in tandem and give the film a soundtrack that works. George Romero, Christine Romero and Tom Savini speak on the audio commentary about how difficult; yet fun it was to make DOTD. It’s kind of sad to hear how difficult it is for them to get films made today and you have to hope that they can do it again soon.

Extended Version runs 12 minutes longer than the Theatrical Version and it is worth seeing because of this. But like most cases, the footage doesn’t necessarily make the movie better as it slows the film down and some of the performances in cut scenes are questionable at times. The added gore will wet the appetite of the bloodhounds. Audio commentary by Producer Richard Rubinstein is kind of a dry and blunt but what can you expect from a businessman. To his credit, you hear how Rubinstein stood by Romero and agreed to put the film out the way Romero wanted to release it. Rubinstein credits Romero as his creative film mentor and you do have to admit they made a great team.

European Version producer Dario Argento cut the film down, added dialogue parts and used Goblin music much more. The Goblin music does add atmosphere but the cuts took away some of the character development and made the movie feel more choppy (a problem I feel almost all Italian zombie movies have). Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, David Emge and Gaylen Ross provide Audio Commentary. These actors take a laid-back approach recounting their involvement and stating their opinions of what they think of the film now. They are proud of DOTD but don’t come across pretentious.

Anchor Bay has given every version a startling wide screen transfer, stellar Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0 sound, astonishing DVD menus that glitter with vibrant color and terrific music cues from the movie.

DAWN OF THE DEAD – Ultimate Edition is the Best DVD Release so far in 2004.


The Making of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead


The Making of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead

By Lee Karr

Foreword by Gregory Nicotero

Plexus Publishing – 2014
ISBN 978-0859655187
288 pages, $24.95

I really appreciate Lee Karr’s approach on this extensive chronicle of how George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead was made.  He uncovers literally everything about the production, good and bad.  Usually if there is something you revere as much as Karr feels about this film, you’d figure he’d just talk about the positive things.  Thankfully he doesn’t by digging deeper, much further down into the guts of making a movie on a limited budget with a director that had to cut down his vision, a cinematographer that didn’t want to work with the director and a wild loose cannon special make-up effects leader within a dank, cavernous mine.

Gregory Nicotero, who got his start on Day and has gone onto great heights as the co-founder of KNB EFX Group and now an executive producer of AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead writes the foreword.

George A. Romero had a grand vision for his third installment of the Living Dead trilogy.  His first draft of the screenplay ran over 200 pages.  When Romero wouldn’t agree on guaranteeing an R-Rated movie, it left Executive Producer Salah M. Hassanein no choice but to trim down the budget, since the movie wouldn’t be able to play everywhere and get all advertising.  This led to a lot of back forth between both sides before they could be of the same opinion on a draft of the script that would be acceptable to fit the money allotted.


Around this same time Romero got tired of Pittsburgh and decided to move down to Florida and in the process alienate some of his longtime co-workers & crew.  One of these people was his Director of Photography since Martin, Michael Gornick.  Apparently there were a couple reasons for this internal strife, which mostly came from Romero not properly saying goodbye to Gornick when he left Laurel Entertainment office in Pittsburgh and because Romero was pissed that Gornick continued to work on Laurel Productions outside of Romero.  This is the first time I’m ever hearing of these particular struggles, which makes this book even more worth reading.

Then there’s Tom Savini.  The celebrated, lauded special make-up effects artist, who became a star on Dawn of the Dead, is described as an uncontrolled person that likes to play around performing practical jokes or screwing any willing lady that comes his way.  Some of his crew members paint a very different person than you might expect, which mostly comes from his inflated ego and belief that he was someone special.  When bored, Savini’s crew, his team of make-up effects artists, at the encouragement of Savini himself would get in trouble by causing all kinds of mischief.

Karr goes into great detail about every single shooting day, including “the quote of the day” and commentary from every possible cast & crew member that worked on the film.

To go along with this you get a massive scale of never before seen photos (both color and black & white), drawing illustrations (including the infamous min-comic book about Tom Savini’s conceded behavior) and more. 

You don’t have to be a fan of the living dead or even horror to enjoy this fantastic book. 



Grande Illusions: The Art and Technique of Special Make-up Effects

Grande Illusions: The Art and Technique of Special Make-up Effects

Original Books I & II

From The Films of Tom Savini


AuthorMike Dark Ink – 2013
ISBN-13: 9780988446892
286 Pages, $24.99 

Back in 1983, there was one thing I wanted more than any other…Tom Savini’s book Grande Illusions.  It was the extraordinary autobiographical/how-to-do special make-up effects tome that every follower of his splatter had to have.

Believe it or not, I never read his follow-up book Grande Illusions II, but now that’s changed because AuthorMike Dark Ink has put the two books together as one.

If you are a fan of horror movies, especially the films that the Italian-American Pittsburgh based effects artist lent his artistry to, then you must get your copy of this book.

By reading Grande Illusions you will learn intimate details behind all of Savini’s films, with numerous behind the scenes photos.

Each movie becomes a chapter and for me I just dove into the text and priceless photographs from; Deathdream, Deranged, Martin, Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th, The Burning, The Prowler and Eyes of a Stranger.  Not only is this cool for fans of his movies but if you want to learn how the special make-up effects were achieved, Savini describes them in painstaking detail.

He talks about how he designed the inventive zombie mayhem for Dawn of the Dead, Mrs. Voorhees on screen retaliation in Friday the 13th, the hard-hitting carnage in Maniac (which I rate as the strongest impactful gore to this day), the burnt look of “Cropsy” in The Burning, his amazing monster featured in “The Crate” segment of Creepshow (whom he calls “Fluffy”).

In Grande Illusions II Savini breaks down his benchmark of extreme gore in Day of the Dead, his cannibalistic bloodshed for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the primates he contributed for Romero’s Monkey Shines, his creative skill to Romero & Dario Argento’s Two Evil Eyes and so much more. 

Grande Illusions comes as a coffee style book featuring both eye opening color and black and white pictures.  Stephen King and George A Romero write forwards that are incredibly revealing additions.

AuthorMike Dark Ink continues to deliver important published work that not only enriches the available content for fans of the genre but provides educational text for aspiring effect artists and filmmakers alike.