September 12, 2015

Double Feature: Dying Day and Dark Night

These are the alternate versions of Raiders of the Living Dead, surprisingly the original version makes the most sense, but it was too short to be releasable as a feature, so International International Picture decided to fix that...

Back story: In the 70s, Independent International Picture was notorious for buying “unreleasable” films for cheap, reworking them and then releasing them for a tidy profit. Studio head Same Sherman was pretty confident that with enough work, any picture could be flipped using this method. But when he bought Dying Day from director Brett Piper for a cool $25,000 (at a $7,500 profit to Piper) Sherman might have bit off more than he could chew. Apparently unaware his purchase was only an hour long, he took on reworking it himself. He hired the original cast to shoot additional footage and added some plot points, and edited it into something he called Dark Night. Upon viewing Dark Night, Sam's business partner dubbed this version better, though still not good enough. So they re-re-hired the cast, beefed up the plot up some more, added even more characters, and made Raiders of the Living Dead.

Dying Day:

This is the original incarnation of all these movies and the thing it has going for it over the others is that it mostly makes sense from beginning to end.

The plot unfolds something like this: Morgan's ancestor brought a curse upon his blood line a hundred years ago and he's being hunted by zombies because of it. As the last of the blood line he and his new girlfriend won't be off the hook as mercifully as his ancestors...

How it relates to Raiders of the Living Dead: The reporter (Morgan) and the girlfriend are mostly the same in both pictures. Many scenes from Raiders come from this version, but those scenes in Raiders don't make much sense.

Reasons to watch: It's fun and ridiculous enough (and the plot has a friggin' through line). It's also interesting to see the cannibalized footage being used with it's original intent.

Reasons not to watch: Much of Raiders of the Living Dead is taken from this version so if you've just watched one, give it some time before you watch the other.

Related movies: Raiders of the Living Dead (third incarnation) and Dark Night (second incarnation).

Dark Night:

This version has almost nothing going for it. They give an asinine amount of screen time to things like walking around a prison, driving to a prison, holding on the sign outside of a prison...

The plot unfolds something like this: This one also has no plot [LINK]. Basically the movie starts with a man raising a zombie from a grave and then cuts to two men at a desk reading a letter aloud. Then it cuts to our reporter wandering around NYC where he stumbles into the doorstep of a kindly doctor [Dr Grandpa from Raiders]. The reporter starts to tell the doctor his sad story and we are flashed back to when the reporter's photographer was killed by a zombie, when he was picked up by a local woman, and when he called the doctor even though I was certain this was a flash back.

How this version relates to the others: Turns out in this version Dr Grandpa is the father of the truck hijacker from Raiders (though the hijacking scene is not in this version) and after his son is electrocuted, he raises him from the dead. The rest of this one plays out more or less like the other two, but without the laser gun building grandson or family curse.

What the filmmakers were thinking: You know that movie we just bought that has a story that makes sense and has action most of the way through? I know how we can fix it...

Hard to watch on many levels: I don't really recommend watching this version, it's a working print and there's not sound most of the time.

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