A young soldier (Richard Backus) , killed on the battlefield, nevertheless returns home in Deathdream (1974, but filmed two years before its release).
Director Bob Clark is the better remembered Black Christmas (1974) & one of the greatest of all family films A Christmas Story (1983). Clark does a Hitchockian cameo in Deathdream as a cop.
Deathdream was originally filmed with the title Dead of Night & has had a series of alternate or reissue titles, including Night Walk, The Veteran, Whispers, & The Night Andy Came Home.
This was the first film on which make-up FX artist Tom Savini worked, & the among the extras on the Blue Underground dvd release is a ten-minute featurette Tom Savini: The Early Years (2004), with Savini discussing his work on not only on Deathdream, but also his next two gigs, for Deranged (1974), & Martin (1977), his first three films. Apropos especially of Deathdream, Savini also speaks of his time in Viet Nam.
Also included on the Blue Underground release is the twelve-minute Deathdreaming: An Interview with Star Richard Backus (2004), this having been his feature film debut though he was already well known from soap operas.
The dvd also has two audio commentary tracks (by director Bob Clark, & screenwriter Alan Ormsby), plus sundry other extras of interest, vis, alternate opening titles, extended ending, trailer, posters & stills.
In the feature film, the young soldier is part ghost, part vampire, part zombie. He sits all day in his rocker barely functional. At night he tracks his prey.
His father (John Marley) knows there's something desparately wrong. The mother (Lynn Carli) refuses to see the madness in her son & fascilitates his gory killing sprees.
It may well be a trivial exploitation film, yet every scene has a little extra spark to it. The young soldier is genuinely creepy, & the support performances work
In days when this would have been seen outdoors with starlight framing the screen, it would have been the perfect drive-in movie experience.
It is also a subtle commentary on the horrors of the Viet Nam War, which films in 1974 just about never broached.
The fact that so many 'Nam vets returned home "changed" can't have been an accidental point to the film, & may account for it taking two years to find a distributor who didn't worry that a horror film with a political point might alienate someone.
It is dated to be sure, dated by its timing of scenes, the tentativeness of its gore, & its overall style which is recognizably 1970s. Yet Deathdream is nevertheless a treasure of its type & well worth a horror fan's attention.
Continue to the next zombie film:
Dead & Buried (1981)
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