DEADBEAT AT DAWN Arrow Blu-ray Review


Film Pulse Score

DEADBEAT AT DAWN Arrow Blu-ray Review 1
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Blu-ray Release Date: October 23, 2018
Director: Jim Van Bebber
MPAA Rating: NR
Run Time: 80 Minutes
Purchase: Amazon

This product was provided by Arrow for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own, score reflects the product as a whole, not the film itself.

Thirty years ago, director Jim VanDebber released his long-in-development feature debut, Deadbeat At Dawn, almost instantly solidifying it as a cult classic with its over-the-top characters and ridiculous moments of violence. VanDebber worked on the project for four years, dropping out of film school and pulling money from everywhere he could think of, including selling his own plasma. What we’re left with is Dayton, Ohio’s, first feature film, a Warriors-esque gang flick about a man hellbent on revenge after the love of his life is taken from him.

VanDebber stars as Goose, the leader of The Ravens, a ruthless gang of hoodlums roaming the gritty streets of Dayton who enter into a turf war with The Spyders, a rival and more sadistic gang. After a life-threatening tussle, Goose’s girlfriend, Christy (Megan Murphy), gives him an ultimatum: it’s her or the gang. Goose chooses love over violence and leaves the gang but not before carrying out one last job to gain some seed money to start a new life.

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While he’s out selling crank to some rich yuppie-type, The Spiders send two of their craziest members to kill Goose, only to have them instead kill Christy. After unceremoniously dumping her body in a trash compactor, Goose sets out on a bloody road to revenge, killing every Spider he crosses paths with, working his way up the chain of command until he has a final showdown with their leader, Danny (Paul Harper).

It’s poorly acted, looks way older than 1988 and features a ridiculous cast of characters making frequently nonsensical life choices, all adding to the scrappy indie vibe of what would otherwise be considered a mediocre-to-poor film. The gratuitous level of violence and gore that occurs in the latter moments of the film also make Deadbeat at Dawn the perfect kind of midnight movie to watch and enjoy with a large group of friends. The cemetery-nunchuck-training scene doesn’t hurt either.

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VanDebber truly captures the indie spirit with this film, and while it’s undoubtedly rough around the edges, the passion for the project is always present on screen, with VanDebber and the entire cast and crew putting everything they have into this thing. Make no mistake, this isn’t a movie that I would recommend to ironically watch, like Miami Connection. It’s a genuinely entertaining little cult thriller that carries with it a little bite of social commentary for good measure.

For this 30th-anniversary Arrow Video Blu-ray, they’ve pulled out all the stops, making this the most complete version of the film possible, jam-packed with supplements that even gives Criterion a run for its money. The film itself is presented in a brand-new, 2K restoration, supervised and approved by VanDebber, and features the original uncompressed PCM mono audio, along with an audio commentary track.

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On the disc there’s a full-length retrospective of the work of Jim VanDebber, taking a look at his life and career, including the short films he made as a kid and his current projects, as well as his work on music videos, short films and the much-anticipated sequel to Deadbeat at Dawn, currently titled Day of the Deadbeat.  

There are four newly restored short films from VanDebber, along with director’s cuts of the music videos he directed, a promo trailer for an unfinished feature film, an archival 1986 behind-the-scenes documentary, newly transferred outtakes, and an extensive image gallery. There are so many supplements packed into this thing it’s a wonder how everything fit on one disc, but for fans of this film – especially those who first saw it on VHS, this product is a must-buy.


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