Deathdream 1974 movie poster

Deathdream (4K Edition Review)

There are many conflicting opinions of the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. A conflict that lasted nearly 20 years, the US entered the Southeast Asia region with ground troops beginning in 1965, and over the course of 8 years into 1973, many young Americans perished while the overall morale of the country was torn. Something that cannot be denied, no matter what side of the argument you sit, the history of it all has been turned into films for decades now with many striking a chord in the hearts of those who lost loved ones, but also those who served only to come up to an unwarm welcome.

Harsh realities of one of the modern world’s most controversial wars, an early entry into the Vietnam War cinema genre was made in 1974 with Deathdream. Originally entitled Dead of Night, the film was a bit different than anything that came before or after; because it took on a Horror approach to the content, and honestly, in quite an effective manner. The work of the highly creative, diverse Filmmaker Bob Clark (who is known for his 1974 Horror classic Black Christmas, as well as family holiday favorite, 1983’s A Christmas Story), handling the script was frequent co-collaborator Alan Ormsby (who penned the highly unrated 1974 film Deranged, 1983’s Porky’s II: The Next Day, among others). A great creative match, interestingly enough, Deathdream would also be the debut film for the legendary Tom Savini. Savini was nothing less than perfect for the job; considering the fact that he served as a combat photographer during the Vietnam War and knew carnage all too well. Factors to consider, he showcased his amazing artistic abilities with make-up effects, thus leading him onto other projects such as 1978’s Dawn of the Dead.

Deathdream movie 1974
Deathdream (1974)

Beyond the team behind the scenes, the cast put together for Deathdream was also nothing less than flawless; with the talented John Marley (known for 1968’s Faces and 1972’s The Godfather) assuming the role of heartbroken father Charles Brooks, Lynn Carlin (also known for Faces, as well as 1972’s Taking Off) as dedicated mother Christine Brooks, and Emmy nominated Richard Backus as returning home war vet Andy Brooks. All of this considered, the film received lukewarm to negative critical responses upon its theatrical debut in the summer of ’74, but set to celebrate a 50th anniversary, Deathdream remains a memorable viewing experience for many.

As mentioned, a film that tackles some heavy topics such as war, death, and the tragic casualties that not only affect those who were in combat, but those who love them, Deathdream starts as a bit of a slow burn in terms of understanding the direction. However, you quickly pick up on this midway through, and within the last 30 minutes you are fully enthralled in some very dark, emotional undertones. In short, Andy Brooks is reported to his family as haven fallen in battle, leaving them grieving. With mother Christine Brooks in denial, it seems like a miracle, but Andy returns home in the wee early hours of the morning a few nights later. What is felt to be a true blessing for Andy and his family, it is soon realized that he has returned home, but completely detached. A shell of himself, Andy might have come home… but he is not all there.

Deathdream 1974 movie
Deathdream (1974)

Metaphorically speaking, what transpires over the course of the film leading to the final scenes is truly a heart-wrenching and brutal reminder of what a soldier goes through on the battlefields abroad, as well as domestically. Intellectually thought-provoking, the messaging is open to your own interpretation and sits with you long after a first viewing. Thankfully, while the initial reactions to Deathdream may have not been too kind, the film has been preserved for home media video through the years; first as a VHS in the 80s, then as a DVD in 2004, before a 2K Blu-ray release in 2017. The DVD and Blu-ray put out there through the well-known Blue Underground, in 2024 they are back with their most compelling edition of Deathdream yet in the form of a 2-disc 4K set.

Released on May 21st, the set comes just shy of the film’s 50th anniversary this coming August and features the first ever 4K transfer of Deathdream. An upgrade from the 2K copy, this new edition is scanned in 4K 16-bit from the original 35mm negative. Something that offers you pristine image quality, making it even better is the use of Dolby Vision HDR technology; ensuring a great viewing no matter what television you own. Beyond these standout aspects, disc 2 of the set includes tons of audio commentaries, some from previous releases, but others new just for this set. Rather interesting, with all of these features you have the chance to get a deeper understanding of Deathdream from various perspectives. Lastly, the set includes a nice cardboard sleeve with a great theatrical painting, plus a reversible art that features the original poster of the film when titled Dead of Night.

All in all, Deathdream is an overlooked Horror gem with a feeling that sinks into you deeply. From a historical point of view, let us not forget it was made during the Vietnam War era… so the context is raw and real to life. Something worth checking out, and the best home video option ever to be offered, Cryptic Rock gives Blue Underground’s 4K 2-disc edition of Deathdream 5 out of 5 stars. 

Deathdream 1974 movie poster
Deathdream / Blue Underground (2024)

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