I have a confession to make, I’ve never seen Dead & Buried until sitting down with this 4K. I think that made this viewing of this genre classic easily one of my favorite new-to-me watches in the last few months. Don’t get me wrong this is probably my 3rd time picking up this film with the intention of watching it, but taking it in now especially with my recent deep dive into the made for TV sub-genre from the 70s/80s, made it just that much better. The film hit 4K last week in another one of Blue Undergrounds patented deluxe limited special editions, that comes complete with a new 4K Restoration (from the 35mm Interpositive), a comprehensive collection of extras (both old and new), a lenticular slipcover (three different versions), and the soundtrack.
Transpiring in the coastal town of Potters Bluff, Dead & Buried follows Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) who is trying to figure out why his small town is suddenly besieged by grisly murders. Working with the eccentric undertaker William G. Dobbs (Jack Albertson), the sheriff slowly unravels a conspiracy that is festering just below the surface of the idealistic fishing village somehow involving grave robbing, ritual murder and since this was made in the late 70’s early 80’s — the black arts and Satan worship. After the opening’s jarringly brutal death of a photographer, the audience is then placed in the same predicament as Sheriff Dan, trying to figure out just what in the actual hell is going on here.
The film plays out very much like a teleplay and has director Gary Sherman doing his best to confuse and confound the audience at every turn. The mystery here is filled with dead ends and red herrings as we attempt to figure out the motive of the townspeople who we witness brutally murder every unfortunate traveler that happens to come into their town. While this is a bit of a thriller, it also leans into folk horror with a bit of slasher thrown in there for good measure. The spectacular gore effects here are thanks to a young Stan Winston, who was beginning to make a name for himself, having just come off the small screen genre classic Gargoyles. You have him to thank for the film’s famous eye gouging scene that no doubt sealed its fate on the video nasties list. (This scene is also captured on one of the available motion lenticular slipcovers!)
The picture’s biggest claim to fame however, would be the script was the follow up penned by Alien scribes Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. Later O’Bannon would disown the script claiming Shusett didn’t use any of his input, and simply used his name to get the project produced. This would be the last script by the pair, who were also responsible for Total Recall, a script written pre-Alien. Director Gary Sherman, who jumped from theatrical to made-for-TV fare depending on the project — would follow this up with the super gnarly Vice Squad that also had him taking on writing duties as well. Sherman cast quite a few TV actors here, with one of the big standouts for being Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, who was at the time making the rounds on the small screen in syndicated TV fare such as CHiPs, Charlie’s Angels and Soap.
The film is presented here in a gorgeous new 4K restoration that really highlights the work by cinematographer Steven Poster (Donnie Darko) and Winston. Films like these anticipated the degradation the image would endure in the dimly lit theaters and the eventual TV audience to sell their gore effects. That being said, some of these lower budget video nasties rarely held in the jump to HD, let alone 4K. Winston’s grisly set pieces hold up amazingly well and still had me cringing at that iconic eyeball gouge. The film feels like it was shot and lit for television with a brighter picture and higher contrast. But this all adds to the experience since you have that contrast of these made for TV tropes with the R-Rated violence, making it even more unsettling. The image here is just pristine and Blue Underground does a good job at making sure their transfers still feel “film like”, with little to no DNR. Dolby Vision HDR has been applied, but wisely its just to accentuate the established color palette.
Along with the previous extras, you get new behind the scenes footage, a new audio commentary with film historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, (which bring the commentary count to four on this release!) a new location tour piece, an new interview with director Gary Sherman and Composer Joe Renzetti. My favorite of the batch, an interview with novelization author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Given the recent surge in popularity and collectability of film novelizations it was fascinating to hear Chelsea discuss to the process of not only adapting any film, but one that relies so heavily on the visuals. Its definitely one of the more unique looks at the production of a film that I’ve seen on a recent release.
Dead & Buried was a bloody blast! The film’s narrative still works to keep you in the dark right up until that final reveal, which shocks, while it somehow manages to try to tie up most of those loose ends. It’s Dead & Buried’s ensemble however is what really makes this picture work, its patchwork cast of character and TV actors really bring the script to life and there isn’t a weak link among them. The film definitely set the stage for Vice Squad, which is another rough unrelenting picture that is definitely worth a watch. Blue Underground kills it again with this package, that definitely feels like a final and comprehensive edition of the film.
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Note: “Cover A” (poster art) has already sold through to retailers, so whatever stock is in the wild is apparently all that’s left. Don’t delay if that’s the one you want.