Night Of The Living Dead

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
Elite Entertainment
Cast: Marilyn Eastman, Duane Jones, Bill Hinzman,
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Interviews, Parody Short Film, Photo Gallery, Shooting Script, TV Spots, Trailers and much more

There are certainly many horror films that justify the use of the term "seminal, " but if there has ever been a film that has had a profound impact on how the horror film genre has developed as a whole, George A. Romero’s "Night Of The Living Dead" is that film. By countless fans and critics, it still ranks as one of the best horror films ever created and it is really hard to argue with that. After seeing umpteen different version of the film on DVD, Elite Entertainment has decided to start their new line of Special Editions, called "Millenium Edition," with this remarkable horror shocker. It offers us a look at the film itself in its original 1968 version – not the 1999 watered-down re-edit – and spices up the release with some incredible bonus features that were not part of any previous release of the movie in any format.

When the dead come alive, feeding on human flesh, a group of people find themselves barricaded inside a small rural house while outside an army of zombies begins to gather, sensing the presence of live human flesh. The people inside couldn’t be more different and quickly fights erupt that distract the refugees from their main objective, to stay alive and sane. As the shambling corpses closes in on the house, pressure rises inside and all attempts to break free from the house are either sabotaged from the inside, or the outside. The situation is hopeless!

Before "Night Of The Living Dead" horror was basically defined as the gothic, atmospheric delivery of scares. Fantastic villains, like Dracula, the Werewolf, vampires and other were mostly the extent of what the genre encompassed. While good for suspenseful entertainment shocks on a true, psychological, visceral and graphic level had not been explored much. And along came the young filmmaker George A. Romero with his black and white budget film that he shot outside his hometown Pittsburg. It should make horror history. Here, there are no sexual innuendo. There is no knight in shining armor to save the world. The film doesn’t even have a single villain, as hordes of zombies take over that part, and the movies heroine collapses within the first minutes. All stereotypes of the time had been broken and catapulted "Night Of The Living Dead" at the forefront of horror. It must have been considered a new-age film at the time although much of its graphic display has become commonplace in movies, and even makes it straight onto TV broadcasts. The image of flesheating undead must have been profound on audiences in 1968, as some of the shots are indeed gory and extremely graphic, especially for the time, and even when seen today, the film creates a tension that is impossible to escape.

Underneath all the seemingly mindless gore however, George A. Romero inserted something that also set this film apart form the rest of the crop, and something that even sets him apart in today’s world of horror films. "Night Of The Living Dead" is an eloquent commentary on our society working with visual metaphors to illustrate how humans are inescapably being shaped by their environments and the world they live in. Romero took this approach further and further with the movie’s sequels, "Dawn Of The Dead" and "Day Of The Dead," all of which are a far cry from the truly mindless horror served up all too often in this genre. The ending of "Night Of The Living Dead" alone is about as powerful and telling for Romero’s skills and mastery, making it an exemplary showcase for everything he stated during the film’s previous 95 minutes.

Elite Entertainment is bringing "Night Of The Living Dead" to this DVD in a completely new, remastered transfer that has been <$THX,THX>-certified. The black and white image is beautifully clean and stable. What once was a grainy looking film, has no been turned into a fine and detailed picture thanks to digital technology – although it does appear a bit soft at times. It is clear, the film has never looked this good before, ever! Contrast is very good, perfectly reproducing Romero’s original stark vision of very deep blacks and extremely bright highlights with a harsh shadow fall-off. It gives the film almost a documentary feel at times, which his exactly what the director had in mind. No edge-enhancement or compression artifacts are evident, making this a very fine transfer and the best-looking "Night Of The Living Dead" ever!

The DVD also contains a remastered <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio mix of the film, as well as the original mono presentation. Although the <$5.1,5.1 mix> adds some more sonic depth and dimension to the track, it is very restrained. It is a nice remix that adds a bit more body to the audio elements to create a more contemporary experience.

Two audio commentaries accompany this DVD. The first one features director/writer George Romero, actress Marilyn Eastman, co-writer Jack Russo, and producer Karl Hardman as they remember the film. It is a new and very exciting track full of information and details about the production, the thoughts and ambitions behind it, as well as elaborations on the world view that created this film in particular. Especially Romero is a very good commentator and it is always great to listen to his thoughts.

The second track features all the key cast members from the film as they go over their thoughts and anecdotes. While also an interesting track I found it not nearly as insightful or informative as a whole than the previous one. The track also has a strong nasal quality, which makes it a bit hard to concentrate on it for long periods of time, I’m afraid.

The DVD contains a wealth of bonus features, like George Romero’s original treatment of the material, combined with comments and annotations. Personal scrapbooks created by Marilyn Eastman and Vince Survinski are also found here. They are a collection of memorabilia and clippings regarding the movie that both have collected over the years. Telegrams, hand-written letters and notes, photographs, invoices and advertisements, all are neatly presented here for you to behold.

The 8-minute parody "Night Of The Living Bread" has also been included. It is a great homage to Romero’s film that condenses some of the film’s most memorable moments with screaming hilarity.

You will also have the chance to listen to actor Duane Jones’ last interview before his passing in 1988. Running for 15-minutes it is a great addition to the DVD which helps us remember the key character of this movie. A 10-minute video interview with actress Judith Ridley has also been included, offering more first-hand insight into the movie’s production.

"Beginnings: The Latent Image / Hardman Eastman Studios" is a feature that sheds a lot of light on George Romero’s company. Presented in chapters, we get textual information as well as a look at the commercials Romero shot with this company before entering the movie business. Outtakes form "The Derelict" and an exploration how Romero made the transition to movies are also included here.
5-minutes worth of scenes from "There’s Always Vanilla," one of George Romero’s "lost" films, is also included on this DVD, together with posters and stills from the film.

To round out this release, you will also find the TV Spot and theatrical trailer for "Night Of The Living Dead" on this DVD, and some great printed liner notes by Stephen King and George Romero inside the packaging.

This is the ultimate version of "Night Of The Living Dead," there can be no doubt. It is a flawless presentation of the movie that certainly improves on all previous versions. The countless extras that accompany this disc however, make it an indispensable must-have for any horror fan! Do not miss "Night Of The Living Dead!"