Deadbeat at Dawn (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review + Screenshots


Studio: Arrow Video

Release Date: 1988 (theatrical) / October 23rd, 2018 (blu-ray)

Run Time: 80 mins

Region Code: REGION FREE

Picture: 1080p (1.33:1 Aspect Ratio)

Sound: English LPCM 1.0

Subtitles: English

Starring: Paul Harper, Jim Van Bebber, Megan Murphy

Written by Jim Van Bebber

Directed by Jim Van Bebber

Rating: Not Rated (graphic violence and gore, language, drug use, and some nudity)

Deadbeat at Dawn title card

THE FILM
Deadbeat follows the story of Goose – a gang leader whose girlfriend is brutally slaughtered when he attempts to leave the thug life behind. Pulled back into the gang, who’ve now formed an uneasy alliance with the thugs that butchered his girl, Goose sees an opportunity to exact his brutal, deadly revenge. 

I had never heard of Deadbeat at Dawn until Arrow Video announced this very blu-ray release. I didn’t know what to expect when I got the blu-ray in the mail. I purposely did not read anything about the film as I wanted to go into it as green as I could. Nothing could have prepared me for what I got myself into.

If you read the film’s plot synopsis you would think that the film would be very straightforward. Biker leaves gang because he wants to start a new life with his girlfriend. The opposing gang doesn’t like this and kills his girlfriend. When he goes out to get this revenge, he finds out his gang and the opposing gang have joined forces to rob an armored car and they force him to join them.

That is really all I will say about the plot because it is better to go in with as little information as possible. The film is straightforward in terms of its plot. It goes from scene to scene, advancing the plot and developing the characters. What isn’t so straightforward is the way that writer/director/actor Jim Van Bebber directs the film. Not one scene goes by without something added to it that makes it different from other scenes. Sometimes it is the way that scene unfolds. There are a number of scenes in the film that do not go the way you think they will. The scene where the gang member is forced back into the gang is a scene that did not play out the way you would think it would go. From the acting to the shot composition, everything is a bit different and feels off at first. Once you get the sense of what VanBebber is going for then you understand what his method is.

The film is also edited differently than most films. Sometimes it feels sloppy. The armored car scene makes almost no sense when you think about it. Everyone is coming from everywhere and there is no establishing shot so we have to piece together where we are in terms of location and where we are within that location. This is something that a lot of first-time directors don’t do. They sacrifice the establishing shots and just expect the audience to know where everything important to the scene is.

Van Bebber also does not set up his shots in a convention way. A straight on shot of the hero will be off center or angled in a way that makes us feel uneasy. We are not used to films being shot like this and we are not sure if we like it or not. Again, once we get used to the way Van Bebber shoots that is when we accept the film.

One last thing: a review of Deadbeat at Dawn would not be complete without talking about the film’s gore. While this is not a horror film, Van Bebber shoots the film like it is. The gore in this film is impressively disgusting. Every time gore comes onscreen it feels very real. For a film that was shot on a budget in the lower thousands, this is impressive. Anything that would have been handled “normally” in a mainstream film is amped up to eleven here. Blood pours very freely here and I don’t think that there is a violent act in the film that isn’t accompanied by gallons of blood being spilled.

Deadbeat at Dawn is a grungy, dirty film that belongs in the same grouping of films as Street Trash and Brain Damage, even though it isn’t a horror film. The film is sleazy and bloody and a really good time. It isn’t a film for everyone, but who really cares about that? This is the film that you show your friends to see if they really are your friends. Deadbeat by Dawn is one of the best Troma films that Troma didn’t make.

guy wakes up to find that his girlfriend is into witchcraft

THE PICTURE AND SOUND

Deadbeat by Dawn was shot on 16mm film and is 30 years old, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the film didn’t look all that great, but Arrow has done an incredible job with this transfer. Sourced from the original camera negative and remastered in 2K, Deadbeat at Dawn looks amazing. Film grain is heavy and consistent throughout the entire film and that’s the way it should be. The film-like feel is a happy reminder of what film feels like. Arrow, as usual, hasn’t touched the film so there is no digital manipulation at all here. Colors look great (Van Bebber uses a lot of green and red lights and the colors just pop off the screen) and skin tones are accurate. The film just has that “shot in the 80’s” feel that we have seen on other films too. (I know that sounds weird because of course it was shot in the 80’s, but there is a feel that low budget 80’s films have that was lost when the decade was over. Watch the blu-rays for Street Trash, Basket Case, and C.H.U.D. for further proof of what I am talking about.)

The sound comes to us in the form of an English LPCM 1.0 track. VanBebber uses sound very well in the film and this comes through wonderfully here. The gore sounds great as well and there is a moment in the film when someone screams in pain that makes the scene all too real.  Dialogue is also crisp and clear.

man with meat cleaver goes after man without one

THE PACKAGING

Deadbeat by Dawn comes to us from Arrow Video. This blu-ray was sent to us from the company and is a screener. All I have are the disc and nothing else, so I can’t talk about the packaging at all. What we do know is that this will be the usual package from Arrow: commissioned artwork on one side with the film’s theatrical poster on the other along with a booklet with writings on the film as well as information about the film’s transfer and sound.

Jim Van Bebber

Gator Green title card

THE FEATURES

Deadbeat Forever (1h 19m, HD) Here we have a feature-length documentary, directed by Victor Bonacore, that takes a look at Deadbeat at Dawn, the making of the film, and its legacy. We also get a look at Van Bebber’s other works, including The Manson Family and My Sweet Satan. The one surprising thing about this doc is that Van Bebber isn’t really interviewed. He is miked up and everything, but he is hardly interviewed. Other than that, this is a great doc and a love letter to Van Bebber.

Behind the Scenes Documentary (18m 41s, HD, 1.33:1) Archival documentary on a failed Deadbeat shoot.

Outtakes (2m 59s, HD, 1.33:1) Silent alternative and unused shots for Deadbeat.

in the black title card

The Legend of Damien Storm title card

Short Films (All of the films are accompanied by optional director and company commentary)
  • Into the Black (1983) (34m 42s, HD, 1.33:1) 
  • My Sweet Satan (1993) (19m 3s, HD, 1.33:1)
  • Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin (1994) (14m 17s, HD, 1.33:1)
  • Gator Green (2013) (15m 48s, HD)
Music Videos 
  • Pantera: “Revolution is My Name”: Director’s Cut (long version) (5m, HD, 1.33:1)
  • Damien Storm: “The Legend of Damien Storm” (27m 41s, HD, 1.33:1)
  • Superjoint: “Fuck Your Enemy” (1m 46s, HD, 1.33:1)
  • Superjoint: “The Alchoholik” (2m 35s, HD, 1.33:1)

My sweet satan title card

roadkill title card

Chunk Blower (3m 59s, HD, 1.33:1) (Accompanied by optional director and company commentary)

Jim Van Bebber directed promotional trailer for an unfinished Gary Blair Smith produced gore-soaked feature film. This looks great. I wish that they would have finished this because it has all of the makings of being a good film and a cult classic.

Image Galleries
  • Deadbeat at Dawn (186 images)
  • Deadbeat Ephemera (15 images)
  • My Sweet Satan (28 images)
  • Roadkill (19 images)
  • Roadkill Concept Art (11 images)
  • Gator Green (329 images)

man rocks out on television

chunk blower title card

man and his friends rock out in cheap looking set

Audio Commentary by Jim Van Bebber, Paul Harper, Victor Bonacore, and Cody Lee Harding

man bleeds his own blood as he is choked with nunchucks

This is a great set of features. Arrow has really gone out of their way to make this set really something special. I mentioned that the doc Deadbeat Forever was a love letter to Van Bebber, but this whole set is. There are a bunch of Van Bebber’s short films and music videos that really show the kind of talent the man possesses. The only glaring omission from this set is a trailer for Deadbeat at Dawn. This is one of the first blu-rays from Arrow that does not include the main film’s trailer. I would have loved to have seen how the film was advertised. Other than that this is a great set that everyone who loves cult films or even low budget films needs to own.

MORE SCREENSHOTS

man and woman stare at each other in bed

man goes on date in a forest. who does that?

drugs are bad mkay?

topless man checks in on his son.

man cries on tear of blood

there is no way this scene wasn't inspired by dario argento

gang sets mattress on fire in the middle of the street

man hides behind brick pillar like no one will see him there.

no idea what is happening here

man runs like he is trying to break the world record

this is what happens when you let your friends do dumb things to you

man bites another man's fingers off like there is no bone inside them

man stands in an alley with only half a shirt on. there is a dead body there too