Deathdream 4K Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Blue Underground

Directed by Bob Clark
Written by Alan Ormsby
1974, 88 minutes, Rated PG
Released on May 21st, 2024

John Marley as Charles Brooks
Lynn Carlin as Christine Brooks
Richard Backus as Andy
Henderson Forsythe as Doc Allman
Anya Ormsby as Cathy Brooks
Jane Daly as Joanne
Michael Mazes as Bob


Soldier Andy Brooks returns from combat to a reunion with his family in their small-town home. His parents Charlie and Christine and his sister Cathy are all relieved to see him, since earlier that evening the family received a telegram informing them Andy had been killed in action. Andy appears healthy and unharmed, but despite appearances he is different, changed somehow. He is silent and standoffish and extremely private. He sits in the rocking chair in his room in the dark and has apparently made an enemy of the family dog. It is not a spoiler to reveal Andy is in fact the walking dead, who maintains his healthy demeanor attacking victims and injecting himself with their blood to keep from decaying. What does he want, why is he back and how far will his parents go to protect him?

Deathdream (aka Dead of Night (as it appears on this release’s title card), aka The Night Andy Came Home) is the second mainstream feature from director Bob Clark (Black Christmas) and writer/producer Alan Ormsby (Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things). Vietnam is not specifically identified as the war Andy fought in, but it is the obvious touchstone in 1974. The film is an allegory of the challenges soldiers face returning from combat. Drug addiction is another theme, as Andy reaches a euphoric high when “shooting up” with his victim’s blood. Needles also played a large part in George A. Romero’s vampire picture Martin (1977) and vampirism as drug addiction was key in Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction (1995), among many others.

The main inspiration for Deathdream is W.W. Jacob’s classic short story The Monkey’s Paw (1902), which has itself been adapted countless times for film and television including The Simpsons Treehouse of Horrors II (1991), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Stephen King’s Pet Sematary (1988) and more recently The Monkey’s Paw (2014). Cursed wishes make great fodder for tales of terror, as the story still resonates more than 120 years on. Clark and Ormsby succeed with their updating of the material, filling it with biting social commentary.

Bob Clark started his directing career in horror with films like this, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and Black Christmas before moving on to thrillers like Murder by Decree. He reinvented himself as an acclaimed comedy director with titles like A Christmas Story and Porky’s. While make-up effects were primarily achieved by Ormsby, Deathdream marks the first credit to legendary artist Tom Savini (Friday the 13th, Creepshow, Day of the Dead), who served as his assistant. None of Clark’s films are particularly gory or bloody, but the rotting ghoul effects here are terrifying, Composer Carl Zittrer (Prom Night) delivers a chilling score mixing atonal chords with haunting sound design for an unsettling effect.

The cast is top-notch, led by the dynamic pairing of John Marley (The Godfather, It Lives Again) and Lynn Carlin (Faces, Superstition) as Andy’s parents Charles and Christine. They are so completely dedicated to their son, they are blind to his erratic behavior. When Charles grows suspicious, his pain is so overwhelming he lashes out irrationally. Christine is relentless in her defense of Andy, enabling him to the bitter end. Richard Backus (The First Deadly Sin) stars as Andy, a blank slate of a personality and possible ticking time bomb. His quiet demeanor is off-putting and pitch perfect. Supporting players Anya Ormsby (The Great Masquerade) as Cathy, Jane Daly (The Black Marble) as Andy’s unsuspecting girlfriend Joanne, and Henderson Forsythe (Species II) as Doc Allman are all terrific and ground the picture in reality. The examination scene between Andy and Doc Allman is particularly creepy.

Deathdream endures as an effective chiller fifty years after its debut. It is more a film about a ghoul than a zombie or vampire, but elements of all three are present. The film has inspired countless imitators and launched the career of Tom Savini. It is impressive to realize Clark went from directing this picture to the seminal Black Christmas within a matter of months. Released under a variety of titles before ending up on late night cable, Deathdream leaves a lasting mark that has terrified generations of genre fans and comes easily recommended to your collection.

Video and Audio:

The original camera negative has been given a 4K restoration yielding spectacular picture quality presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Vision and HDR grades. There is a lot to like about this transfer, as colors are brilliant and pop off the screen. Black levels are spot-on and nighttime scenes are crystal clear. Flesh tones appear natural throughout, and there is plenty of small-object detail in both close-ups and wide shots. This is the definitive release of this film, as it will in all likelihood never look better.

A DTS-HD MA 1.0 gets the job done with a perfect blend of music and effects tracks that impress without overstepping. Dialogue is clean and clear and free from any hiss, pops or other distortions. Optional English, French and Spanish subtitles are included for anyone in need.

Special Features:

Disc 1: 4K UHD

The new audio commentary from film historians Troy Howarth and Nathanial Thompson is an enjoyable and entertaining study of the making of the picture. A wealth of information is shared about the production and members of the cast and crew. This is a solid track well worth checking out.

There are two archival commentaries from the filmmakers: one with director Bob Clark, the other with writer Alan Ormsby. Both tracks are must-listen for genre fans looking for information on making low-budget movies. There is a general overlap of content, as both gentlemen share interesting facts and trivia as well as glorious production stories about the cast and crew.

The original theatrical trailer is also included.

Disc 2: Blu-ray

The same three audio commentaries and trailer from Disc 1 are included here.

The featurette The First Andy (2024, 12 minutes) catches up with actor Gary Swanson, who played the character in the opening Vietnam sequence. He recalls his audition and working with Clark in Florida. Footage from his audition is also included.

A more complete look at Gary Swanson’s screen test is included (13 minutes).

Composer Carl Zittrer sits for the segment Notes for a Homecoming (2017, 19 minutes) and shares his memories of meeting Bob Clark and their working relationship. He talks about composing the score for this picture and his work in the genre.

A Recollection with Star Anya Liffey and Writer/Makeup Artist Alan Ormsby (2017, 29 minutes) finds the two reflecting on their professional work together and with Clark. They discuss their contributions to this film as well as their follow-up Deranged.

In Flying Down to Brooksville (2017, 5 minutes), production manager John “Bud” Cardos details where the film was shot and shares some interesting stories from the shoot. He talks about working with the director and stars John Marley and Lynn Carlin.

Tom Savini: The Early Years (2004, 10 minutes) is an engaging conversation with the artist, who looks back on his time as a combat photographer in Vietnam and how it affected his work as an artist. He shares his memories of childhood influences and performances that led to his work in film.

In the featurette Deathdreaming (2004, 12 minutes), actor Richard Backus remembers his time on set as Andy. He shares his thoughts on the character, the script and the director. He also shares his thoughts on the make-up effects.

An alternate opening titles sequence for the picture as Deathdream is also included (4 minutes).

Fans are also treated to an early, untitled student film directed by Alan Ormsby (10 minutes).

An extensive series of photo galleries offers a collection of international poster art (12 images), the US pressbook (28 images), publicity shots (32 images), behind-the-scenes stills (15 images), make-up effects (51 images), international video artwork (20 images), stills from Alan Ormsby’s Movie Monsters (26 images) and Alan Ormsby’s Creations (28 images).


Movie: Cover
Overall: 4.5 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
Other articles by this writer


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