A certain webmaster once joked "Pick any number
between 85 and 140mins and there's probably a version of Dawn of the Dead at that length". Whilst that may have been a slight
exaggeration, there have certainly been enough different versions of this film released to make the mind
There are in actuality 4 different cuts of the film in existence. But to confuse matters further, there
are also several different versions of some of these cuts owing to some countries censorship restrictions,
and the preferences of different distributors.
Having viewed several of these, and using information from other sources, I have tried to compare
these in an attempt to make sense of the numerous different variations there are out there. I've included
as much info as I can on run times and differences between prints, which are reviewed as follows.
Please note that celluloid films of this era ran at 24fps as did American NTSC format videos and DVDs,
whereas Europan PAL format videos and DVDs ran at 25fps. So when comparing home video releases, there can
often be a disparity between the run times of European home video releases their theatrical, or American home
video, counterparts. So I have used the cinema run times for this comparison.
The Directors Cut.
Although titled "The Directors Cut", this was actually an extended workprint, that George Romero had hastily
cut together for showing at the Cannes Film Festival.
This version runs about 139min at 24fps (cinema run time) and was not originally released commercially, with
it only surfacing onto the domestic home video market in the mid-late 90's.
The Director's cut is about 12 mins longer and slightly gorier than the version subsequently released
theatrically. Although most of the extra run time
is made up of additional/extended scenes of dialogue.
The soundtrack in this version was also comprised mostly of stock music from the DeWolf library as the
score by The Goblins hadn't been finished in time for completion to show at Cannes, so only a
couple of tracks are used, which play during the action scenes.
- The version released in the UK by BMG in 1999 was cut slightly by the BBFC, though less severely
than the previously released theatrical version. This cut the exploding head and an arm bite. Strangely,
it also trimmed the scene of zombie kids getting shot at the airfield, which had been left intact in
previous releases. Presumably in response to the Dunblane Primary school shootings of 1996. The 2003
re-release was fully uncut.
- The version released in Germany by X-rated Video claims to be 141mins, but is actually very heavily
censored by several minutes, missing out most of the blood and gore.
The Theatrical Cut.
This was actually Romero's second cut of the film, which was
the version released theatrically to all English speaking territories, and up until the late 90s was the
most common version available on home video.
This release ran about 127min at 24fps (cinema run time) and is actually his preffered version, being somewhat shorter than his extended "Director's" cut
The soundtrack for this version was comprised mostly of The Goblins music, but retained several of the
stock music cues used in the so-called "Director's" cut as Romero preffered them.
The original UK cinema release of this was titled "Zombies-Dawn of the Dead" as was the original
pre-VRA video release. But later releases reverted to the original US title.
- The original UK cinema version was quite heavily censored by the BBFC, cutting 3:45. Which removed the
exploding head and either shortened or completely removed most of the gore, particularly from the
end battle. This version was released onto video by Intervision, but withdrawn following the
introduction of the Video Recordings Act. The post-VRA release in 1989 by Entertainment in video was
cut by another 12s which shortened what little gore remained. In addition, the UK release of this
version showed the intro scene of Fran (Gaylen Ross) having a nightmare through a distorted blue
filter, up until the point where one of her colleagues wakes her.
- The US DVD by Anchor Bay released in 1999, sometimes referred to as the 20th anniversary edition,
featured some scenes that weren't in original theatrical cut. Most notably the extended scene where Roger
and Peter confront the bogus officers at the police dock. It seems that they were trying to put together a
new release from better source material, but edited some scenes together wrongly. The version re-issued in
2004 corrected these errors and is of the true theatrical version.
- The UK DVD released in 2004 by Anchor Bay was the same as the US 2004 release.
The European Cut.
This was a completely different cut of the film, edited together by Italian director Dario Argento
and was used for the films theatrical release in Mainland Europe and most other non-English speaking
Renamed "Zombi", this version runs at 119 mins at 24fps (cinema
run time) and is considerably shorter than
the other releases. Retaining most of the gore (with the exception of the zombie decapitation at the airfield),
but cutting down a lot of the dialogue.
This version is also paced differently, using different/alternate scenes and additional footage during
several key sequences. Such as the apartment raid, which showed more activity on the rooftops and additional
dialogue during the raid.
The soundtrack for this was comprised entirely of music from The Goblins, using none of the stock music
that featured in Romero's cuts. But uses different tracks for several key scenes
- This version was also used for the original Japanese theatrical release, but cut out most of
the violence by freeze framing on the preceding scene, whilst the sound continued, then jumped
back in once the gore had passed. In addition, the original Japanese release had a "typed up"
introduction, featuring white letters appearing on a black background to the sound of a typewriter
keyboard tapping away, explaining (in Japanese) about how the zombie menace started. The later
laserdisc and DVD releases were fully uncut and ommited the additional introduction.
- Some European releases of this film apparently had some scenes shown through a red filter.
The Ultimate Final Cut / Extended Mall Hours Cut.
There have been 2 attempts at releasing an extended composite version, that includes all known footage from
the three different releases.
The first of these was by Astro Filmworks of Germany, later
released by Red Edition/Laser Paradise, entitled
"The Ultimate Final Cut". Which was a semi-unnoficial version, though it did enjoy a seemingly
legitimate video and DVD release in Austria and Germany.
Clocking in at a whopping 156mins, this was basically Romero's Directors Cut, but with the
additional/alternate scenes from the Argento European version spliced into it. Though the soundtrack
appears to be from the Argento cut.
This was in German language only and the editing was not particularly good, as the difference in
colour between the two different film stocks was VERY apparent. The music also jump cuts whenever
switching between scenes from Romero's directors cut to Argento's European version.
The second version, entitled the "Extended Mall Hours" cut, was an unauthorised fan-edit and was essentially
the same as the Ultimate Final Cut, but in English language and appears to have been put togethor
using the versions from the 4-disc Anchor Bay box set from 2004
As a result, there's no real noticeable difference in picture quality when it switches between scenes
from the 2 different versions and extra effort seems to have been made in smoothing over the audio, so the
cuts between the 2 versions are less noticeable. But being essentially a "bootleg" is only available from
various "download" sites (I managed to find a version on YouTube).
Of the two, I'd say the Extended Hours Cut is better, due to its English soundtrack and smoother transitions
between scenes. Although in either case, this really is one for completists only.