THE DEAD ZONE (1983) is a true rarity -- a movie based on the writings of Stephen King that is actually good! While several of King's "non-horror" novels (The Shawshank Redemption, Dolores Claiborne, Stand By Me) resulted in excellent films, his horror output has usually received lackluster treatment on the big screen. Often, compacting his horror novels into a feature film yields mediocre results at best, with a few notable exceptions (such as Misery). Television movies of his material have fared a little better and allow more time to explore his characters and themes, but many of them unfortunately have a hokey, made-for-TV feel to them. Thankfully, when talented director David Cronenberg decided to try his hand at a King movie in the early 1980s, he gave us a film that lives up to the source novel.
Christoper Walken (in a wonderful, restrained performance) plays Johnny Smith, a schoolteacher who suffers a near-fatal car accident. After emerging from an extended coma, he finds that he has been blessed (or cursed?) with amazing psychic powers -- he can tell a person's future simply by touching their hand. While trying to deal with his new abilities and put his life back together, he shakes hands with an up-and-coming politician (Martin Sheen) and sees a terrible vision of the future. Smith now finds himself asking a question that is no longer theoretical: "If you could go back in time before Hitler came to power, would you kill him?"
The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is anamorphically-enhanced. Cronenberg often films his movies full-frame and crops to various aspect ratios for theatrical presentation, and the framing on this DVD seems fine.
This isn't a modern mix with sound flying at you from all directions, but it is a subtle, spacious soundtrack that is very appropriate for the story. Most of the action is anchored to the front of the soundstage, although there is some occasional action in the surrounds. Dialog is always understandable and other sounds (like footsteps on snow) are always crisp and clean. Michael Kamen's wonderful music also has a strong presence on this disc.
In addition to the 5.1 track, there is also a 2.0 surround track and a French mono track provided.