Saturday, July 27

A Dawn of the Dead '78 That You Probably Never Knew Existed...

And the Japanese do it again, or at least on one evening in 1980. It was then, on October 16th, that Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) featured Romero's Dawn of the Dead, retitled Zombie: Earth SOS Dead Rising, on their weekly "Thursday Night Movie" program with movie critic Tetsuya Fukazawa hosting and providing some insight about the film. As customary with films on Japanese television (yet not on home video), the movie was dubbed into the country's native language.

The one hundred and fifteen minute Argento version was utilized as the base with cuts reducing the runtime to about ninety-two minutes for the sake of violence and the program's timeslot. Some of the content cuts include SWAT member Wooley being shot after going "apeshit", the woman attacked after hugging an undead relative, the airport zombie decapitation, and most heinously the trademark "When there's no more room in hell..." line along with the rest of Foree's monologue being entirely jettisoned. A line was even added early on spoiling Francine's pregnancy urging that the group need suitable lodging for a child. Yet these extensive changes are the least of it.

In presenting the movie for TV, the distributor, Herald Films, felt that an explanation was needed for the rise of the dead. A short introduction was attached stating gamma rays from a massive explosion far off in space two weeks prior caused the outbreak (in both English and Japanese text). This is the most well known change; however, Herald went further and not only performed a language dub but actually redubbed everything with sound effects replaced and even the soundtrack altered. This is where things get really interesting with the birth of what's known as the "Suspiria Cut".

Goblin's famous soundtrack, especially prominent in the Argento version, was cast aside in favor of other Goblin soundtracks and artists. Goblin's score for La via della droga (The Heroin Busters) (1977) was used along with many tracks from Jean Michel Jarre's Equinoxe (1978). The opening theme of the movie was replaced with a piece of Yes's The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn) from their 1973 album, Tales from Topographic Oceans. In an odd twist, Goblin's main theme for Suspiria isn't used and only four tracks from Dario Argento's 1977 masterpiece are heard.  

In 2010, distributor Happinet Pictures released what was essentially Japan's release of Anchor Bay's Ultimate Edition DVD box set. On the full Argento cut disc ( listing), this TBS television version is included as a Japanese dub track with newly created dubbing (featuring some of the original voice actors) for the scissored scenes. Before this set, the "Suspiria Cut" was never aired again, but across Japan VCRs were recording and bootlegs circulated for years among diehard fans. As for the rest of the country, a few short years later saw complete, official VHS releases in English. No explanation has ever surfaced as to why Herald felt the need to so thoroughly change the film. Below are three clips from the Suspiria Cut and several samples of the soundtrack substitutions.

*UPDATE: I was chatting with a Japanese friend who happens to be a Dawn acifionado and he claims the reason Herald redubbed the entire film is because they weren't provided high quality sound material and dubbing just the language would have resulted in very uneven quality. So the decision was made to also replace the foley and music tracks. I'm assuming they didn't have time to track down and sync the original Goblin score, hence the new soundtrack.     


Richard of DM said...

Fascinating post, duder. Wow, this is pretty awesome. They sure put a lot of work into screwing around with Dawn of the Dead just for a TV broadcast.

Dymon Enlow said...

Awesome find! I've never bought anything from Amazon Japan. Do they ship to America?

Jayson K said...

Yes, they do ship internationally, but it's fairly expensive and I haven't got around to ordering the disc myself yet.

Anonymous said...

that explosion video is my theatrical version of dawn in jap. I got this copy and that's my youtube clip.

Starchy said...

To clarify, The "Explosion in Space" explanation was only utilized during the first Theatrical run and was never shown again as a part of the later Television "Suspiria Soundtrack" version. you dare tread upon the staircase?
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