VCI 4K UHD RELEASE: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally on the site on August 14, 2018. It’s back — with edits and new writing — because VCI has released the fiftieth anniversary 4K UHD release of this movie. You can get it on UHD, blu ray or DVD from MVD by clicking the line for each format.

Each edition has the following extras: a new introduction and Q&A with Alan Ormsby; a ninety-minute documentary Dreaming of Death: Bob Clark’s Horror Films; a commentary track with Alan Ormsby, Jane Daly and Anya Cronin; a Q&A filmed at. the Los Angeles Grindhouse Festival; an interview with Ken Goch; photo and poster gallery; two music videos by The Deadthings “Dead Girls Don’t Say No” and “Cemetery Mary;” liner notes by Patrick McCabe; the original trailer; radio spots and a slipcover for the initial release. 

The same Bob Clark that did Porky’s did A Christmas Story and also made Black Christmas and Deathdream. He even produced the film Moonrunners, which inspired TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard. He also made Turk 182! (if you had HBO back in the day, you saw it), Rhinestone and the Baby Geniuses series. Yep. Bob Clark pretty much did it all. And here’s one more completely great thing he created.

Alan (Alan Ormsby, who would go on to write DeathdreamDerangedMy Bodyguard and direct Popcorn) leads a group of actors who have all gone to an island together for a night of shenanigans. Sure, the island is a cemetery for criminals. And of course, he’s going to do a seance to raise the dead. And while the whole thing is a joke, Alan is genuinely upset that the dead aren’t walking the swamp.

They do find a corpse — Orville — and Alan uses it to continually harass his actors. And the ritual really did work, as the dead begin killing everyone off one by one.

The shift from comedy to drama to horror in this film is startling. The cast is amateur, but the terror feels real. The dread and doom at the end, as the zombies board a boat as the lights of Miami are in the background and atonal music plays are as perfect as film can be.

Clark shot this movie at the same time as Deathdream, using some of the same cast. A surprising moment in the film is that while there are two gay men — and they stereotypically lisp — they play an integral role in the film. That’s pretty incredible for 1972.

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