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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Psychic > The Dead Zone - Special Collector’s Edition (1983)

The Dead Zone - Special Collector’s Edition (1983)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: C+     Film: B+



The Dead Zone was the second of three film adaptations of best-selling Stephen King novels to reach the screen during the second half of 1983.  Coincidentally, they all did nearly the same amount of business domestically -- around $21 million.  Of the three, the others being the Lewis Teague-directed Cujo and the John Carpenter-helmed Christine, the David Cronenberg-directed The Dead Zone was the best received critically.


It is the strongest of those three released in 1983, and of the approximately 31 feature films to date based on King novels, novellas or short stories (and this doesn't count the numerous made-for-television films based on King's work), Cronenberg's interpretation of The Dead Zone ranks among the better ones, finishing, in my estimation, 8th best of those 31 feature films.


Set mostly during the dead of cold and snowy winter, The Dead Zone stars Christopher Walken as Johnny Smith, a school teacher who goes into a coma after an automobile accident.  When Johnny awakens five years later, he not only learns that his girlfriend (Brooke Adams) has married and had a child with another man, but that he also now possesses the "gift" of second sight.  Just by touching someone, Johnny can have visions of that person's past, present or future.


He can help save a little girl from a burning house, help a sheriff solve the case of an elusive serial killer and help prevent a boy from drowning beneath an icy lake, but the film ultimately asks the interesting question of whether or not Johnny will act to prevent a catastrophic event affecting all humanity, even if it means sacrificing himself.


The Dead Zone is a gripping thriller done with intelligence.  Director Cronenberg and screenwriter Jeffrey Boam do a marvelous job of capturing the gist of a novel with many characters and subplots, keeping things moving at a brisk clip while still allowing time for plenty of smaller human moments.  Cronenberg, a filmmaker with a tendency to become too self-indulgent in his own weirdness when directing his own screenplays, again proves he often does his best work (A History of Violence, Spider and this) when he's working from a script written by somebody else.


The Dead Zone also benefits from a terrific ensemble of actors.  In addition to a well cast Walken, Adams and Lom (minus the eye twitch), there's Anthony Zerbe as a man of wealth and power who hires Johnny as a tutor to help his shy, uncommunicative son; Tom Skerritt as a small-town sheriff desperate to catch a killer; Colleen Dewhurst as a mother covering up for her deranged son; and Martin Sheen as a populist, platitude-spouting politician running for the U.S. senate.


Paramount's new Special Collector's Edition of The Dead Zone offers a decent 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer with a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 Surround sound.  The extras include four segments with lots of newly-recorded retrospective interviews with Cronenberg and Adams and a few clips of a 1983 interview with Sheen.  The theatrical trailer is also included.  However, this Special Collector's Edition would be more deserving of the word "special" had it included an audio commentary and/or a few deleted scenes.



-   Chuck O'Leary


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