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