Deathdream (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Jun 10, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Deathdream (4K UHD Review)


Bob Clark

Release Date(s)

1974 (May 21, 2024)


Dead Walk Company/Quadrant Films/Impact Films (Blue Underground)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A-
  • Extras Grade: A+

Deathdream (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!


Bob Clark and Alan Ormsby made considerable impact upon the horror genre in the 1970s with Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, Deathdream (aka Dead of Night), Deranged, and Black Christmas. Clark would go on to make other kinds of films (Porky’s, A Christmas Story), while Ormsby would occasionally direct (Popcorn), but mostly make a living as a screenwriter (Cat People, Porky’s II: The Next Day, The Substitute). However, for deep-seated genre fans, their initial 70s output is among their most beloved, with strong cinematic ties to George Romero, and a penchant for layering social and political issues into their work. Nowhere is that more apparent than in 1974’s initially dismissed, but long-since championed, Deathdream.

Andy Brooks (Richard Backus) is killed in war and his family back home receives the devastating news soon thereafter. His father (John Marley) grows more and more concerned about Andy’s mother’s (Lynn Carlin) state of mind, never truly believing that Andy is really dead. In the middle of the night, Andy mysteriously re-appears at home, much to everybody’s happiness, including his sister (Anya Ormsby), all of them chalking the whole thing up to a military clerical error. However, it becomes apparent that something is wrong with Andy as he’s not the same, and those closest to him may soon come under harm. Requiring the blood of the living to sustain himself, Andy has returned from the grave as a supernatural being of sorts, but as his father realizes that Andy is a monster and must be stopped, his mother goes through severe denial, only wanting her son back.

Deathdream is a film that’s soaking in allegory and thematics, primarily dealing with the effects of war and what it does to those at home after their loved ones lose their lives defending their country. It’s also about the effects that it can have on those who actually make it home, meaning that they’re not the same people that left because of what they’ve been through. In Andy’s case, there’s no clear explanation as to how he re-materializes after being killed, perhaps drawing upon his obsessive mother’s need for him to come home; so much so that when she learns of his passing, she holds a candlelight vigil in solidarity. It reeks of something overtly supernatural, which it obviously is to some degree, but it’s never fully explained. Only inferred. Andy’s need to draw blood from his victims with syringes also touches on the many Vietnam veterans who either came home drug addicts or quickly became them to cope, never receiving the kind of support that they needed at the time.

For these reasons and more, Deathdream is clearly not your typical horror drive-in fodder, which is often looking only to exploit the genre. It has deeper meanings behind it, none of which were fully appreciated at the time. It’s also very grim, and more effective and disturbing than many initially gave it credit for. Unfortunately, its distribution left much to be desired as it wasn’t released until two years after it was completed, and never fully settled on a concrete title. It was scripted as The Veteran, filmed as The Night Walker, released theatrically under the titles Dead of Night and The Night Andy Came Home, and eventually released on home video as Deathdream. Truly, none of these titles really work, though it’s a difficult film to put a label on anyway, not unlike Bob Clark’s follow-up, Black Christmas, which shared a similar fate.

These many years later, Deathdream is seen by genre fans as one of the best and perhaps more undervalued horror films of its era. There are many layers to pull back, some very obvious, and others more subtle, but one can’t deny that it’s one of those films that lingers with you, long after the credits roll.

Deathdream was shot by cinematographer Jack McGowan on 35 mm film using Panavision R-200° cameras and spherical lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Blue Underground debuts the film on Ultra HD with a new 4K 16-Bit restoration of the original camera negative, graded for High Dynamic Range in HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and presented on a triple-layered BD-100 disc.

In truth, Deathdream has always been a difficult film to transfer to home video, with early VHS presentations appearing murky, to the point of unwatchability. As it made the jump to optical discs, it gradually improved from one format to the next. It’s still a very dark film with focus issues, even in a 4K-based container, but this is by far the finest presentation to date. Medium grain is present throughout with bitrates that peak well above 100Mbps at times, mostly sitting anywhere between 60 and 80Mbps—obviously dipping during darker scenes, of which there are many. And yes, it’s still very, very dark in places, but blacks are absolutely solid and it appears that all of the detail that can be squeezed out of them has. The color palette is somewhat muted to a degree, but flesh tones and various 70s-esque hues are well represented. Daytime scenes obviously fare better with higher levels of fine detail, but the film’s moody, shadowy environments are the main drive here. The new HDR grades push the gamut about as far as it can go, especially during the murky opening that’s always been gloomy by design. As with Blue Underground’s previous presentations, the extra bit of dialogue re-instituted at the end is still sourced from a lower generation element since the quality dips for a couple of seconds. There are also a couple of instances of mild damage that appear to have been repaired, but very faint traces of them remain. There’s also minor speckling and extremely thin scratches here and there, all of which are hard to spot. Stability is never an issue. Thankfully, the film’s gritty, low-light look has been preserved with all of its inherent flaws intact and on full display. It’s doubtful that it could look any better.

Audio is included in English mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish. There really isn’t much to say as it’s a solid single channel track with good support for dialogue, score, and sound effects. There are no major issues with hiss or distortion to be found either. Outside of a multi-channel remix, which I’m actually surprised wasn’t performed for this release, the audio is satisfying enough all on its own.

Deathdream on 2-Disc 4K Ultra HD sits in a black Amaray case alongside a 1080p Blu-ray of the film, as well as a double-sided insert featuring the Deathdream theatrical poster artwork on the front, and the Dead of Night blue and yellow theatrical poster artwork on the reverse (as opposed to the black and white-based artwork from the film’s pressbook used as the reverse artwork on the previous Blu-ray release). Everything is housed in an embossed slipcover featuring the same Deathdream theatrical poster artwork. The following extras are included on each disc:


  • Audio Commentary with Bob Clark, Moderated by David Gregory
  • Audio Commentary with Alan Ormsby, Moderated by David Gregory
  • Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Theatrical Trailer (4K w/HDR – 3:49)


  • Audio Commentary with Bob Clark, Moderated by David Gregory
  • Audio Commentary with Alan Ormsby, Moderated by David Gregory
  • Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Featurettes:
    • A Recollection with Anya Liffey and Alan Ormsby (HD – 29:29)
    • Notes for a Homecoming with Composer Carl Zittrer (HD – 19:08)
    • Flying Down to Brooksville (HD – 5:21)
    • Tom Savini: The Early Years (SD – 10:00)
    • Deathdreaming (SD – 11:43)
    • The First Andy with Gary Swanson (HD – 12:23)
    • Screen Test with Original Andy, Gary Swanson (HD – 12:31)
    • 3:45 P.M. Alan Ormsby Student Film (HD – 10:12)
  • Deathdream Alternate Opening Titles (SD – 3:28)
  • Dead of Night Theatrical Trailer (HD – 3:49)
  • Still Galleries:
    • Posters & Ads (HD – 9 in all)
    • U.S. Pressbook (HD – 25 in all)
    • Publicity Stills (HD – 29 in all)
    • Behind-the-Scenes (HD – 12 in all)
    • Make-Up Effects (HD – 48 in all)
    • Video (HD – 17 in all)
    • Alan Ormsby’s Movie Monsters (HD – 23 in all)
    • Alan Ormsby’s Creations (HD – 25 in all)
  • Easter Eggs:
    • Alan Ormsby Make-Up Outtake (SD – 1:37)
    • Orgy of the Living Dead TV Spot (HD – :54)
    • “Hugo” TV Spot (HD – 1:57)

This release carries over nearly all of the previous materials from Blue Underground’s terrific 2017 Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release. Ported over from the 2004 DVD release and beyond are a pair of audio commentaries, one with Bob Clark, and the other with Alan Ormsby, both moderated by David Gregory, who also produced some of the other extras. Both tracks are fairly low-key, but they provide a wealth of behind-the-scenes information, with each man talking about that period in their lives. The former track is invaluable since Clark is not represented elsewhere in the extras, and since he’s long gone, there’s no other way to hear his comments on the film.

New to this release is an audio commentary with the writer and film historian pairing of Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, who frequent a number of home video releases. The usual cast and crew overview is given throughout, but they also take the time to discuss how difficult it was for many years to see the film in any kind of decent quality; how the film doesn’t explicitly state that Andy came home from the Vietnam War, but everyone watching it at the time would have known it without it being said out loud; the fact that Andy isn’t a sympathetic character until the very end, citing the scene in which he kills a dog on screen as a prime example; how some of the film’s attempts at comedy are a little tasteless by today’s standards; how the film wasn’t seen by very many people at the time due to its complicated distribution history and varying titles; and the various material that this group of people produced throughout the 1970s.

Recollection speaks to Anya Liffey (formerly Ormsby) and Alan Ormsby about the different types of work they did together before working in films, working with Bob Clark on Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and Deathdream, and sharing their memories of their colleagues and friends from that period. Notes for a Homecoming speaks to Carl Zittrer about becoming a composer, working with Bob Clark, his music for the film, and how he feels about it in retrospect. Flying Down to Brooksville talks to production manager John ‘Bud’ Cardos who rapidly details his various duties on the film. Tom Savini: The Early Years speaks to the legendary make-up effects artist about his upbringing and his influences, leading into his memories of working on this film, as well as Deranged, Martin, and Dawn of the Dead. Deathdreaming features an interview with Richard Backus who talks about the audition process, the make-up effects, working with the cast and crew, various deleted scenes, and his reaction to the film many years later. The First Andy is a new interview with actor Gary Swanson who discusses his feelings on his screen test for the role of Andy, winding up in the film anyway, and his impressions of the final film. Next is the actual Screen Test, as well as Alan Ormsby’s 10-minute student film, 3:45 P.M. (sometimes referred to simply as 3:45), which further demonstrates how his own sociopolitical views influenced his work, including Deathdream.

Last is a set of Alternate Opening Titles featuring the title Deathdream, the theatrical trailer featuring the title Dead of Night, and a set of Still Galleries containing a total of 188 images of posters, newspaper clippings, the US pressbook, publicity stills, behind-the-scenes photos, sketches and photos of the film’s make-up effects, home video cover art, and photos of Alan Ormsby’s work outside of the film. The Easter Eggs can be found by pressing right when “Audio Commentaries” is selected, which reveals an arrow. Clicking it will reveal an outtake in which Alan Ormsby shows off a set of scleral contact lenses and false teeth used in the film, a TV spot that Ormsby directed for the 1972 triple feature presentation of Orgy of the Living Dead (Revenge of the Living Dead aka The Murder Clinic, Curse of the Living Dead aka Kill, Baby, Kill, and Fangs of the Living Dead aka Malenka), and an extended commercial for “Hugo,” a toy that Ormsby created.

Unfortunately, the 20-page insert booklet from Blue Underground’s previous Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release containing cast and crew information, the essay I Died for You Doc. Why Shouldn’t You Return the Favor?”: Revisiting Deathdream by the late Travis Crawford, and a set of chapter selections, has not been included with this release.

Blue Underground has continually improved upon Deathdream with every new release on DVD, Blu-ray, and now 4K UHD, and this is definitively the one to own. It may not have the holiday slasher vibe of Black Christmas, the tongue-in-cheek value of Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, or the true-to-life grisliness of Deranged, but it’s certainly one that deserves further attention. As such, it comes highly recommended.

- Tim Salmons

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