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Blu-ray review : The Dead Zone

This is one of the better Blu-ray releases of a Stephen King film in recent years.

Paramount Pictures

A pretty dated Stephen King adaptation with Christopher Walken looking ridiculously young as Johnny Smith has just been re-issued on Blu-ray in an extras-crammed offering from Via Vision’s Imprint label.

There’s little bloodshed or visual horror in the book, so David Cronenberg makes up for it by including the scissors in the bathtub suicide sequence (quite disturbing to watch) otherwise it’s not terribly scary. Like all screen versions of King stories, there’s a lot more to the book that they just can’t put on the screen, so which it’s not the worst effort at bringing one of his novels to life, it falls short of thew source material.

Awakening from a coma, Johnny has premonitions he can’t control and which ostracise him from society until he meets presidential hopeful Greg Stillson (Sheen) and sees a terrible future for the world. Alone in the knowledge of the damage Stillson will wreak, Johnny knows he’s the only one who can stop him.

The Blu-ray of “The Dead Zone” (which features a superlative support cast, look at those names! Tom Skerrit! Martin Sheen! Brooke Adams! Herbert Lom!) looks and sounds a treat. Not unusual for Via Vision, the processors have been worked to the tilt here, with the 1.78:1/MPEG-4 AVC/1080p transfer the best the film has – potentially ever – looked. There’s quite a bit of grain, but it only adds to the film’s atmospheric tone, and though there are some clarity issues, particularly in the close-ups, it’s nothing to petition about. Hopefully Imprint have a 4K down the road.

If you’re a fan of the score – by Michael Kamen of “Lethal Weapon” fame – you’ll definitely want to flick the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track on. It’s where, I feel, this release really delivers.

It took a few days to get through all the extras on this release, too – and they’re all very worthwhile.

There’s a commentary (film reviewers Stephen Jones and Kim Newman play hosts), which is both insightful and enlightening, a dated trailer for the film, some very interesting featurettes (‘Look Past the Future’, ‘From Coma to Coda’, ‘Dino in the Dark : Adapting the King of Horror- which will be of particular interest to movie buffs), and a brand-new featurette ‘Frank Dodd & The Cujo Connection’, which explores the little-known link between “The Dead Zone” and King’s “Cujo”.

There’s a few older extras added too, like several archival featurettes with David Cronenberg – the one where he critic Douglas E. Winter, editor Ronald Sanders, and Martin Sheen dissect the political themes of the film is quite intriguing. A lengthy, vintage interview with King is also on here.

All-in-all, this is one of the better Blu-ray releases of a Stephen King film in recent years.

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