Welcome to my column dedicated to the appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things from VCI Entertainment.
As a disclaimer of transparency, I was provided a review copy of Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things for this episode of Feature Presentations. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Bob Clark is a director with a filmography like no other. Starting his career with regional filmmaking, pioneering slasher tropes, moving to juvenile comedy, directing A Christmas Story and Rhinestone back-to-back, and ending his career with Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, he did it all. While not known as a horror maestro like Wes Craven or John Carpenter, he is a trailblazer within the horror community. And that horror work began with 1972’s Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things.
Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is a unique movie. The film starts as a mostly-failed attempt at comedy, following a theater troupe heading to an island off the coast of Florida for some ’70s shenanigans. The fun wears off as a sense of dread takes hold of the film when the dead rise from the grave and attack the troupe. While I wouldn’t say the movie is outstanding, as it takes a while to get to its point, there is an undeniable mood that few cinematic offerings can match.
Coming with a slipcover, the artwork for the 4K case features reversible art with two different designs. Both designs are solid and advertise Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things well. Inside the package is a booklet with a brief write-up from film historian and home video columnist Patrick McCabe. McCabe’s comments discuss the diversity of Bob Clark’s filmography, his early life and unfortunate passing. While not essential, booklets are appreciated, and this was an unexpected bonus.
The three-disc set includes one 4K UHD disc, one Blu-ray disc, and an additional Blu-ray disc, housing the bulk of the features. The 4K UHD and first Blu-ray disc mirror each other; both include the disc’s audio commentary, documentary, and the original theatrical trailer.
As previously mentioned, VCI Entertainment included a 2007 feature-length audio commentary with moderator David Gregory, writer/actor Alan Ormsby and actresses Jane Daly and Anya Cronin. While this commentary is 15 years old, it’s still an entertaining listen, as Ormsby, Daly, and Cronin joke back and forth while telling stories from the film. As you will read throughout this article, some yarns are found elsewhere on the disc, but as a gathering of actors reminiscing about making a low-budget feature, this is a warm and welcoming track.
Along with the commentary, on both the 4K UHD and the first Blu-ray, you get the film’s theatrical trailer plus a feature-length documentary, “Dreaming of Death: Bob Clark’s Horror Films.” This documentary is a thoroughly engaging one from 101 Films discussing, as the title suggests, Bob Clark’s horror films. What you get with this 90-minute feature is a look back at the early work of Bob Clark’s career. “Dreaming of Death” brings in contributors from these productions and others to discuss: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, 1974’s Deathdream and Black Christmas, along with 1979’s Murder by Decree.
Bringing together associates from these films with others to discuss Bob Clark and these particular films is one of this disc’s highlights. As someone who knows of Bob Clark but lacks in-depth knowledge, I found this documentary to be a well put together production for those interested in film or wanting more detailed knowledge about Bob Clark and his earlier works. “Dreaming of Death” works well as a production breakdown and a summation of Bob Clark’s foray and groundbreaking time in the horror genre.
The bulk of these three discs’ extras lies on the second Blu-ray disc. The first feature is a 2022 interview with Alan Ormsby. Before the interview begins, a caption reads, “Technically speaking, we blew it…subtitles are available to compensate for the audio quality.” The interview features Ormsby discussing his career over Zoom. While the technical quality may not be pristine, many of Ormsby’s answers are. He discusses Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, his other films, working with Bob Fosse, and other factoids. One noteworthy aspect finds Ormsby discussing how and why his relationship with Bob Clark ended. Even with the subpar audio quality, there’s a lot of detail here, and Ormsby offers plenty of tantalizing tidbits throughout this discussion.
Next up, “Confessions of a Grave Digger,” is a 2007 interview with Ken Goch. Goch details his time working in the art department on Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and his career afterward. Goch has fond memories of working with Bob Clark, even though his paycheck lacked proper payment. He recounts tales of digging the graves for the film, a funny story about being pulled over, and how Bob Clark ascended him and his career into first assistant director. It’s a light interview with some insightful production nuggets that make for a worthy inclusion.
The next feature is a Grindhouse Q&A shot in 2007 during a double bill of Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and Deathdream. The participants include writer Alan Ormsby, composer Carl Zittrer and construction chief Ken Goch. Ormsby and Goch discuss stories mentioned elsewhere on the Blu-ray, while Zittrer discusses how the music compositions came together (sort of). Later in the Q&A, the group is joined by Albert Fisher, set decorator for Deathdream; each shares stories about working on a Bob Clark production. While seeing these guys get together is splendid, the Q&A is not essential viewing.
“Memories of Bob Clark: A Tribute to the Late Director” is a brief retrospective of Clark’s directing career, followed by comments from Alan Ormsby, Anya Ormsby, and Jane Daly, offering remembrances of the late director. There isn’t much here that isn’t located elsewhere on this release, but it’s a short and sweet feature.
VCI Entertainment also includes an animated photo gallery featuring behind-the-scenes photos and marketing shots.
Two music videos by The Deadthings, “Dead Girls Don’t Say No” and “Cemetery Mary,” come with the disc. Neither video did anything for me, but if you’re a fan of the band or their brand of rock music, these should be right up your alley.
A brief tribute video featuring blurry and grainy stills from the movie plays with accompanying music. Not really sure why this is part of the package, but it’s here.
The disc concludes with multiple radio spots. I enjoyed these as they play slightly differently than what is usually played on the radio for movie marketing and provide bits of trivia overlaying the audio.
And there you have it! Bob Clark’s Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is a film unlike most other movies. Is that good or bad? That’s up to you to decide. What I can say is that VCI Entertainment has compiled the most comprehensive assembly of supplemental material one could fathom for such a film. Even if many of the features are old and ported over from previous releases, the amount of material is staggering. Some of the bonus features are fluffy and pad out the disc, but the audio commentary and 90-minute documentary on Bob Clark’s horror films more than makeup for the rest of the disc’s shortcomings.