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Retromedia presents
Alien Dead: 25th Anniversary Edition (1980)

Tom: What do you think about, Shawn?
Shawn: I dunno, growing up, getting out of the swamp, eating hamburgers, stuff like that.

- Raymond Roberts, Linda Lewis

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: April 21, 2004

Stars: Buster Crabbe, Raymond Roberts
Other Stars: Linda Lewis, George Kelsey, Mike Bonavia, Dennis Underwood, Martin Nicholas, Shelley Youngren
Director: Fred Olen Ray

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (gore, brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:13m:56s
Release Date: April 13, 2004
UPC: 014381234022
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ C+C+C+ B+

DVD Review

Alien Dead was only B-movie director Fred Olen Ray's third film, shot for a measly $12,000 in Florida and released in 1980, and from a historical perspective served as the project that eventually helped secure the go-ahead for his sloppy Native American possession flick Scalps (1983) once he relocated to Los Angeles. This particular film was known by a few different names, and this 25th Anniversary DVD refers to the film as simply Alien Dead on the cover art, but the title card on the print calls it The Alien Dead, and to add some confusion it was also known briefly as It Fell From The Sky. Even with its cheap production values, it is ironic that Alien Dead is actually a more enjoyable film than Scalps.

Whatever you choose to call it, it's all about flesh-gnawing zombies chewing and eating their way through the unfortunate residents of a tiny backwoods town. Inquisitive newspaper reporter Tom Corman (Raymond Roberts) teams up with tough swamp girl Shawn (Linda Lewis) to get to the bottom of a series of disappearances among the townsfolk. What they don't know (but we the viewers do) is that a relentless batch of zombies are periodically rising up out of the swamp to dine on the locals, and they only seem to be getting hungrier as the film goes on.

Ray somehow lured Buster "Flash Gordon" Crabbe to join the film in a supporting role as the town's gruff sheriff, and he is really the only known actor in the whole production, but it was a marginally impressive feat regardless. Not that Crabbe was a particularly good actor, but he was at least a recognizable name, and considering that most of the cast never made any other films after this makes him as close to a marketable star as Ray could muster; his presence here is more of a curious marketing novelty than anything else.

The story, which manages to dabble in everything from the legend of giant possums to deadly meteorites to an unlucky houseboat, is sprinkled with sporadic zombie-induced gore in between scenes of our intrepid heroes working to uncover the truth. The shuffling zombies themselves are pretty low-rent, but they do seem to enjoy gorging themselves on fingers, entrails and assorted unidentified fleshy bits, and of course have the good sense to occasionally single out such required genre victims as the cute-topless-female-swimmer and the large-breasted-girl-in-the-wet-T-shirt before returning to the swamp.

Fun and campiness aside, this is a difficult recommendation unless you're a Fred Olen Ray fan, or at the very least an aficionado of low-budget horror.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Retromedia has issued Alien Dead in what appears to be a roughly 1.66:1 nonanamorphic widescreen transfer. Originally shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm, the transfer here reveals all of the inherent grain one might expect in a film with $12,000 budget. The print has some rough spots (including some resurrected opening footage not found on earlier prints), but overall is tolerable, considering the minimalistic production levels. Colors are faded, and black levels often appear more gray than anything else.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in basic, limited English mono, and though flat, the dialogue is always discernible. Tone quality is a bit harsh, and some hiss is evident.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Fred Olen Ray
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills Gallery
Extras Review: One of the things I love about these Retromedia releases are the Fred Olen Ray commentaries. Ray is a nonstop talker, and he's smart enough to know these films are not necessarily timeless classics, but rather low-budget, unintentionally funny experiments. The track here covers things like the hassles of shooting in a small Florida town, some law run-ins, possum cooking techniques, the varying film stocks used and even Buster Crabbe's incessant smoking, and Ray professes to having used what he calls "reverse dubbing", in which actors pre-recorded dialogue and then lip-synched during scenes where sound recording would have been difficult. If you've ever wondered about the "grocery store in a circus tent scene," Ray explains that away, too. The movie may not be particularly good, but the commentary is excellent.

There is also a short featurette called Actors Reunion (05m:47s), recorded in 1992, in which supporting cast Mike Bonavia, Shelley Youngren, and Dennis Underwood reminisce about the production, and there are a few funny remembrances, including one about Youngren's tube top misadventure.

In addition to a stills gallery, the disc is cut into six chapters.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

On the commentary track, director Fred Olen Ray calls this "almost a non-film" and "an example of people making a film who don't have any idea what they're doing". It is indeed a cheaply-made zombie flick set in a swamp, and is definitely rough around the edges, but there is a tacky charm to the whole thing.

Fun stuff, with a smattering of nudity and wet T-shirts, as well as some requisite bloody flesh eating.

 


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