Import Week, Day 5: Braindead/ Alive

I've had my eye on this one for a long time, mostly with the hope that Peter Jackson's long awaited restorations would come and render this whole mess obsolete.  But I finally gave in and rolled the dice on the Spanish blu-ray of 1992's Braindead, a.k.a. Dead/ Alive.  Information about this disc online is pretty wrong, so I'm glad to be able to correct the record.  But that isn't to say it's everything fans have hoped for.  So let's get into it.
Braindead is a zombie comedy, made before such things had played themselves out, where Jackson essentially set out to make the goriest movie of all time.  It's arguable if he succeeded, but he's definitely in the running.  By the final set-piece, this film is literally crawling in blood and guts.  But this film has a lot more to offer, too, from fun characters to wild stop motion creatures.  I guess this movie has gone down as a box office flop, but this was clearly never made for mainstream audiences.  It's a zany gorefest that's constantly striving to go further and further over the top.  It's a bit of a miracle that this film opened wide in theaters at all.
A moment only in the full, original Braindead cut.
And now you can't talk about this film without talking about cuts.  As far as I can tell, besides issues of opening logos bootlegs and fan edits with weird NTSC/ PAL run times confusing things, there are essentially three cuts of this film.  The original is the full-length cut, released as Braindead in the UK.  Then Peter Jackson himself cut the film down for its US release, where it was also retitled Dead/ Alive, where it was released unrated.  We then also got an even shorter R-rated cut in the US.  According to, Italy has a differently censored cut of Dead/ Alive, essentially an alternate R-rated edit.  But for most intents and purposes, we can essentially refer to the film as either the longest Braindead cut, the medium-length unrated cut and the shortest R-rated cut.  Thankfully, none of the discs we're looking at today are the R-rated cut.
So Dead/ Alive was first released on DVD here in the US in 1998 by Trimark.  It's an anamorphic widescreen, barebones presentation of the unrated cut.  The Trimark was originally a single-sided flipper disc, reissued as a traditionally labeled disc in 2001, which is what I've got.  But I believe the contents of the disc are identical.  Meanwhile, in the UK, Universal released the complete Braindead cut in 2002.  Unfortunately, it's non-anamorphic and also barebones.  Really, just to save time, every release of this film is barebones.  There have been plenty of other DVDs around the world, but it's always been a choice of a crappy Braindead cut or a nicer unrated cut.  On blu, it's largely the same story.  There is a long out of print, now quite pricey blu of the unrated cut released by Lions Gate in 2015, but I've curious about the Spanish Braindead blu-ray for years.

According to, it's 104 minutes and 1080i, but English friendly.  It's also released by Llamentol, who are notorious for releasing grey market BDRs.  So, I figure, worst case, it's an upscale of the UK DVD, which would at least fix the non-anamorphic issue.  But it turned out not to be what I expected.
1) 2001 US Trimark DVD; 2) 2002 Universal UK DVD; 3) 2015 ES Llamentol BD.
First off, happily, it's a properly pressed blu-ray, not a BDR.  And yes it's 1080i, but it doesn't have any interlacing/ combing issues, it's just playing at PAL speed.  I don't know how it compares to the US blu, but it's a clear improvement over the DVDs.  I've left the negative space around the first set of shots to illustrate some of what's going on with the framing.  Trimark's DVD is anamorphic 1.85:1, while Universal's is non-anamorphic 1.54:1; but the latter is largely open matte, revealing more on the top and bottom, while cropping just a little off the sides.  Llamentol's blu is 1.78:1, but it's not just Trimark's framing with the slim mattes lifted.  It reveals more along all four edges, revealing more than either disc shows on the side while roughly (not precisely) matching Universal vertically.  And, of course, it's a whole lot clearer than either of them, with more natural colors and clearer detail.  So far: better than expected.
Can't say I saw that coming.
But here's where the down side steps in.  First of all, the audio is lossy.  Well, I anticipated that.  At least it's back to stereo (the UK was mono).  But worse, it's actually not 104 minutes, but 93.  So it's not the Braindead cut but the unrated one, albeit with the word "Braindead" plopped on top of the Dead/ Alive title card.  It's basically just a wonky version of the Lions Gate BD.  It's playing at PAL speed and exchanges Trimark's optional English subtitles for Spanish ones (Universal has none).  But on the other hand, it isn't currently selling for $158 on Amazon (which, even then, is out of stock).  Oh, and for the record, every disc except the UK DVD includes the theatrical trailer.
Obviously, this just emphasizes the desperate need for Peter Jackson to finally deliver on his promise of restoring his back catalog, but until that distant dream comes true, this could be an affordable and only slightly inferior substitute for the unrated cut, which in theory is Jackson's preferred cut anyway.  But the complete Braindead cut remains as frustratingly elusive as ever.


  1. After seeing his work on The Beatles: Get Back, I'm absolutely terrified of how these "restorations" will look. I'm expecting a DNR'd mess.

  2. glad I found your website as info on this disc is a bit sparse. is it truly Region A playable or Region Free as indicated on

    1. It's region free, so it plays in all regions, including region A. =)