THE DEAD ZONE (1983) Reviews and details of Scream Factory Collector’s Edition Blu-ray

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The Dead Zone Collector’s Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory will be released on July 2th 2021. Remastered from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative. The disc includes four new audio commentaries. The new cover artwork was designed by Hugh Fleming; the original poster will be on the reverse side. Special features:

Audio commentary by director of photography Mark Irwin (new)
Audio commentary by film historian Michael Gingold (new)
Audio commentary by film historians Dr Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr (new)
Audio commentary by film music historian Daniel Schweiger with isolated score selections (new)
Interview with actress Brooke Adams (new)
Interviews with production manager John M. Eckert and associate producer Jeffrey Chernov (new)
Trailers from Hell – Mick Garris on The Dead Zone
Memories from The Dead Zone featurette
The Look of The Dead Zone featurette
Visions of The Dead Zone featurette
The Politics of The Dead Zone featurette
Theatrical trailer
TV spots
Behind the scenes still gallery

Meanwhile, here is our previous coverage of the movie:

The Dead Zone is a 1983 American science fiction horror film based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Directed by David Cronenberg (Shivers; Rabid; Scanners) from a screenplay written by Jeffrey Boam (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Produced by Debra Hill and executive producer Dino De Laurentiis (uncredited).

The movie stars Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, Anthony Zerbe, Colleen Dewhurst and Martin Sheen.


Even I have to admit that The Dead Zone is one of Stephen King’s better books. First off, it’s less than 1,000 pages long.  Secondly, the hero isn’t a writer who spends all of his time whining about the political preferences of his neighbours. Third, it deals with all of the “big” issues of faith, destiny, and morality but it does so in a far less heavy-handed manner than most of King’s books.


The Dead Zone is also the basis for one of the better films to be adapted from a Stephen King novel.  Directed by David Cronenberg and starring Christopher Walken, the film’s plot closely follows the novel.  Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) is a high school teacher who, after a horrific car crash, spends five years in a coma.  When he finally wakes up, he discovers that his girlfriend, Sarah (Brooke Adams), has married another man. His mother has become a religious fanatic. And, perhaps most importantly, whenever Johnny touches anyone, there’s a good chance that he’ll see either the person’s past or a possible future.

Needless to say, Johnny struggles with how to deal with his new powers.  After he helps to catch a local serial killer, Johnny goes into seclusion.  However, when he discovers that Sarah is now volunteering for ambitious politician Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), Johnny goes to a Stillson rally, shakes the man’s hand, and has a vision.  Johnny discovers that, if Stillson is elected to the Senate, he’ll eventually become President and then he’ll destroy the world.

As was the case with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, The Dead Zone benefits from it being directed by a filmmaker who was both confident and strong enough to bring his own individual style to the material.  Usually, when a King adaptation fails, it’s because it followed the source material too closely as if the film’s producers were scared of upsetting any of King’s constant readers. Though the film’s plot may closely follow the novel, the movie itself is still definitely more of a product of David Cronenberg than Stephen King.

Whereas King’s novel devoted a good deal of time to Johnny and Sarah’s relationship, it’s treated as almost an afterthought in Cronenberg’s film.  Whereas King’s novel presented Johnny Smith as being an everyman sort of character, Cronenberg’s film gives us a Johnny who, from the start of the film, is a bit of an outsider even before he starts to see the future.  Whereas King put the reader straight into Johnny’s head, Cronenberg approach is a bit more detached and clinical.  Cronenberg’s Johnny is a bit more of an enigma than King’s version.

Fortunately, Cronenberg was fortunate enough to be able to cast Christopher Walken in the role of Johnny Smith. King’s preference for the role was Bill Murray.  As odd as it may sound, you can actually imagine Bill Murray in the role when you read King’s book.  But, for Cronenberg’s more detached vision, Walken was a perfect choice.  People tend to spend so much time focusing on Christopher Walken’s quirky screen presence that there’s a tendency to forget that he’s actually a very talented actor as well. He’s very likeable and sympathetic as Johnny and brings humanity and a sense of humour to the role, which provides a good balance to Cronenberg’s sense of detachment.

The Dead Zone is a good book and it was later turned into an occasionally good (and, just as often, not-so-good) television series. However, the film is still the best.

Lisa Marie Bowman, guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens

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Other reviews:

“Looking at the film history of Stephen King adaptations, The Dead Zone holds its head up high above the rest. Perhaps because the film deals more with sadness and the terror that comes from a loss than it does with pure blood and guts shock value, the film carries an unusual power.” DVD Verdict

The Dead Zone, a completely transitional film, is one of Cronenberg’s most emotionally warm films, even at the same time as its devastating sense of topographical isolation remains at absolute zero… it stands shoulder to shoulder with all the other masterpieces in King’s first round of film adaptations—a line stretching from Brian De Palma’s Carrie to John Carpenter’s Christine...” Slant Magazine

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Cast and characters:

Christopher Walken … Johnny Smith
Brooke Adams … Sarah Bracknell
Tom Skerritt … Sheriff Bannerman
Herbert Lom … Doctor Sam Weizak
Anthony Zerbe … Roger Stuart
Colleen Dewhurst … Henrietta Dodd
Martin Sheen … Greg Stillson
Nicholas Campbell … Frank Dodd
Sean Sullivan … Herb Smith
Jackie Burroughs … Vera Smith
Géza Kovács … Sonny Elliman (as Geza Kovacs)
Roberta Weiss … Alma Frechette
Simon Craig … Chris Stuart
Peter Dvorsky … Dardis
Julie-Ann Heathwood … Amy
Barry Flatman … Walt
Raffi Tchalikian … Denny #1
Ken Pogue … Vice President
Gordon Jocelyn … Five-Star General
Bill Copeland … Secretary of State
Jack Messinger … Therapist
Chapelle Jaffe … Nurse
Cindy Hinds … Natalie
Helene Udy … Weizak’s Mother
Ramon Estevez … Teenage Boy with Camera
Joseph Domenchini … Young Weizak
Leslie Carlson … Brenner

Fun facts:
Director David Cronenberg had to re-shoot the scene in which John Smith has his first premonition. It showed a little girl’s room burning and a small E.T. doll could be seen on one of the shelves. The scene had to be re-shot when Universal Pictures threatened to sue.


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