909 Night of the Living Dead

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Michael
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909 Night of the Living Dead

#1 Post by Michael » Wed Dec 24, 2008 9:35 am

Night of the Living Dead

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Shot outside Pittsburgh on a shoestring budget by a band of filmmakers determined to make their mark, Night of the Living Dead, directed by horror master George A. Romero, is one of the great stories of independent cinema: a midnight hit turned box-office smash that became one of the most influential films of all time. A deceptively simple tale of a group of strangers trapped in a farmhouse who find themselves fending off a horde of recently dead, flesh-eating ghouls, Romero's claustrophobic vision of a late-1960s America literally tearing itself apart rewrote the rules of the horror genre, combined gruesome gore with acute social commentary, and quietly broke ground by casting a black actor (Duane Jones) in its lead role. Stark, haunting, and more relevant than ever, Night of the Living Dead is back, in a new 4K restoration.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• New 4K digital restoration, supervised by director George A. Romero, coscreenwriter John A. Russo, sound engineer Gary R. Streiner, and producer Russell W. Streiner
• New restoration of the monaural soundtrack, supervised by Romero and Gary R. Streiner, and presented uncompressed on the Blu-ray
Night of Anubis, a never-before-presented work-print edit of the film
• New program featuring filmmakers Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro, and Robert Rodriguez
• Never-before-seen 16 mm dailies reel
• New piece featuring Russo about the commercial and industrial-film production company where key Night of the Living Dead filmmakers got their start
• Two audio commentaries from 1994, featuring Romero, Russo, producer Karl Hardman, actor Judith O'Dea, and more
• Archival interviews with Romero and actors Duane Jones and Judith Ridley
• New programs about the editing, the score, and directing ghouls
• New interviews with Gary R. Streiner and Russel W. Streiner
• Trailer, radio spots, and TV spots
• More!
• PLUS: An essay by critic Stuart Klawans
Last edited by Michael on Wed Dec 24, 2008 10:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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LQ
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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#2 Post by LQ » Wed Dec 24, 2008 10:00 am

Michael wrote:Not feeling so Christmas these days, I just felt like settling down with zombies last night. It was decades since I saw Night of the Living Dead and I happened to win the 40th Anniversary disc at a recent holiday party. This film and The Exorcist were the films that actually ruined my childhood, thanks to my mom for not wanting to pay for a babysitter and instead threw me in the back of a station wagon and parked at a drive-in. Peeking at horrible images splashing on the screen between the dark figures of my mom and her boyfriend from the back, me all wrapped up in blankets, not knowing what to do or say about what I saw. And the sounds. The music. Blasting from the drive-in radio. What was my mom thinking!?

The past couple of weeks, I was all ga-ga over Breathless as you can find over there on its thread. Calling it super cool and revolutionary, blah blah. Reading materials about the film and Godard, I got somehow submitted to believe the "miracle" of Breathless and its god. :? Moving forward, sitting down with NotLD last night, another low-budget film, I couldn't believe what I saw. My jaws dropped to the floor by its glorious brilliance. I didn't even read anything about it, it doesn't need it. I can't remember who said that about Godard but I think it was HerrScheck - something about being a born filmmaker. There is unquestionably a born filmmaker in Romero. His attention to every fucking detail, shot by shot - including feelings and humor coming from all angles and of course, as a whole. Not once in the film I got the impression from Romero: "Looky, what I can do with cinema!". He seemed to snatch out a camera from his pocket and just filmed right from his guts. It's a very intuitively (and I should add, exquisitely-) made film.

The morning after, on this Christmas eve, as people going around at work and home saying Merry Christmas to me, all I'm thinking is: Romero is fucking awesome and I want to watch his virtuoso work again! It really left me dazed and awed.
Right now, I can't recall or comment on any artistic merits of this film or something like Nightmare on Elm Street because they're just lodged in my childhood memories as Films that Scared Me Shitless, and nothing more. Your post is inspiring me to order the dvd, and re-visit it!


You do still like Breathless....right? :cry:

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Michael
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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#3 Post by Michael » Wed Dec 24, 2008 10:17 am

LQ wrote:You do still like Breathless....right? :cry:
Of course. It's still my favorite Godard film. I got burned out from venturing too much into Godard's post-Breathless ouevre and reading so much materials on him in a short period of time. Like I said elsewhere, I still remain unconvinced by the greatness of JLG as a filmmaker, I'm getting to agree more and more with Schreck's thoughts on JLG. Little things JLG did put me off like one of the opening credits of Band of Outsiders reveals" Jean-Luc Cinema Godard". Bleccch. But that's me.

LQ, I think you might get surprised by Night of the Living Dead. Make sure to get the 40th Anniversary edition, it's pretty cheap.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#4 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Dec 24, 2008 2:29 pm

I still have my decade-or-more old EP-mode VHS I got when I was eleven (it's grainy, washed out, bit murky, and the only way to watch it). Before this the only horror movies I watched were the old Universals and a few Hammers. This thing traumatized me; I have never felt such sinking fear and helplessness as when I watched this movie, as when I still watch this movie. It's awful the way each seperate horror is slowly revealed as normal reality is peeled away. First the anonymous, clumsy, motiveless attacks; then the revelation of it being country-wide; then you're told the motivation: they eat their victims. And every time the people look out the windows there are more and more of them, and they're becoming slowly more rotten and decomposed (an accidental effect of the make-up crew becoming more sophisticated and inventive as the shoot went on). Then everyone turns on each other, zombies eat the nice couple, family members eat each other, and everyone's dead at the end and we get those awful images of bodies being hooked and burned. I still, to this day, have recurring nightmares about this movie, which is why it's a permanant top ten favourite.

Michael, if you ever get a chance, watch Roy Frumkes Document of the Dead (it comes with the Anchor Bay four-disc Dawn of the Dead, but I think there's also a stand-alone release), it has a short but fascinating section on Romero's use of space in NOLTD to accentuate the horror. It shows just how good a filmmaker he was.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#5 Post by exte » Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:13 pm

I think even from an early age I haven't been able to get into this movie. It's too low budget. I wish I could better articulate it, but it just seems like some guy with a camera made a movie somewhere. I respect it, have the best edition of it, but even now it seems more historic than visceral or frightening. I've heard the movie described and how haunting the cumulative effect is, but I just never got it. Sorry.
Last edited by exte on Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#6 Post by Antoine Doinel » Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:17 pm

I'm in the same boat as exte, though for me budget has nothing to do with it. I just find the pacing does the film a great disservice. I find it plodding at best, and the acting certainly doesn't help matters. I too recognize the importance of the film, but I don't think it has aged well at all.

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Michael
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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#7 Post by Michael » Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:24 pm

Really? Wow I definitely saw a different film than exte and Antoine.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#8 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:33 pm

Mr_sausage wrote:Michael, if you ever get a chance, watch Roy Frumkes Document of the Dead (it comes with the Anchor Bay four-disc Dawn of the Dead, but I think there's also a stand-alone release), it has a short but fascinating section on Romero's use of space in NOLTD to accentuate the horror. It shows just how good a filmmaker he was.
The Synapse disc also has an excellent commentary by Frumkes, one of the reasons why I've kept the disc despite picking up the Anchor Bay set, even if he does end by lambasting the listener for not turning out to support Romero's Knightriders at the theatres driving the director back to the horror genre after its failure!

(I was only a year old at the time! Don't hold it against me!)

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#9 Post by Peacock » Wed Dec 24, 2008 7:12 pm

I'm unfortunately still region locked so haven't the luxury of the region 1 disk, however has anyone at all on here own the recent Arrow release The Dead Trilogy, which i'm hoping doesn't have a shocking transfer for NotLD like all the other region 2s. sorry this is worded crazily, first post! merry christmas everyone!

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#10 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Dec 24, 2008 7:21 pm

I find the roughness of the film is part of what makes it stick in my mind - compare it to Tom Savini's 1990 remake. It is a slick production, with much better gore and special effects and yet fails completely in generating any tension. It even plays more conventionally as all the transgressive elements of the original are dropped for a standard action horror.

Night of the Living Dead is one of my favourite horror films because of the way we join the characters in finding shelter and trying to barricade themselves against the massing hordes. It is wonderfully claustrophobic as after the initial attack and the occasional moments when they appear you can almost forget the zombies are the threat, especially when the bickering starts among the survivors! The radio and television hold the terrible events at a comfortable distance and it seems as if the situation can be controlled, at least while the electricity is still running. Ben can keep busy doing the practical things to keep them safe, and later on making plans with the others to escape.

But Barbara is always sitting catatonic in the corner, only reviving for the final siege, much as Harry and Helen's daughter lies in the basement like a ticking bomb. I've spoken with people who were very critical of Barbara's catatonic state for the majority of the film but think it is both an understandable reaction as well as fitting in with the structure of the film as she adds a sense of futility set against the ultimately futile actions of the other characters. As the remake proved, turning Barbara into an action heroine does not really work.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the trowel scene yet! Truly transgressive, as are all the scenes - the hope the young lovers represent being lost as they are incinerated, the sanctity of the home being invaded, the zombie brother coming for his sister and of course the final horror of violence of the living on the living - the white militia men shooting the black survivor. All horrors are played out, and I think the end credit sequence is a masterstroke, breaking down into still images until the fire is lit.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Wed Dec 24, 2008 7:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#11 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Dec 24, 2008 7:32 pm

colin wrote:Night of the Living Dead is one of my favourite horror films because of the way we join the characters in finding shelter and trying to barricade themselves against the massing hordes.
Absolutely. One of the successes of both Night and Dawn is the way they ground their narratives in the practical details of survival, and how these details elicit audience participation. See, for example, the numerous zombie apocalypse survival guides being published. This is why Romero's zombie movies are so sucessful, and why most other zombie movies fail: zombies in and of themselves are not interesting monsters like, say, werewolves or vampires, and they cannot carry a movie on their own no matter how many people they mutilate. It's the focus Romero places on the human element and the step-by-step pragmatic reactions of his people to the zombie threat that keeps his movies from falling flat. Although oddly enough as the humans in his movies became more banal and more like stock types (Day and Land) the zombies became more interesting and colourful (Bub in Day, Big Daddy in Land).

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#12 Post by Murdoch » Thu Dec 25, 2008 1:09 am

It's been sometime since I last saw Night, but it remains my favorite of the Dead movies largely because the film uses the zombies as a backdrop; the characters aren't constantly fighting zombies off as they attempt to break into the house, but instead the film focuses on the tension between the primary characters as they deal with being trapped. The ending remains particularly horrific, Ben being mistaken for another zombie and killed off as if his survival of entrapment meant nothing, which makes the film distinct from the other Dead movies since it displays such a pessimistic final scene. With all the others there is a feeling of hope for the main characters when several of them survive and leave the zombies behind in search of safety, even escaping to a tropical paradise in Day. I haven't seen Diary though, so I don't know how that one ends.
Last edited by Murdoch on Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#13 Post by HarryLong » Fri Dec 26, 2008 5:31 pm

I find the roughness of the film is part of what makes it stick in my mind
It's certainly part of what made it so effective back in the summer of 1969 when I went to see it with a friend. The fairly grainy black & white image, the very un-sweetened sound and a cast you never heard of (and in most cases never saw again) gave it the impact of a documentary. And the film broke so many horror movie rules of the time: the first appearance of the monster & the first death within minutes of the movie's start, killing off the young lovers & finally killing off the hero (who, in another very unusual move at the time, was black) ... such things just weren't done in horror films then. My friend & I were expecting a nice, sub-Hammer, enjoyable film, but this thing was like a sledge-hammer attack & we both left the theater shaken by the experience; this film took no prisoners (by the way, this was the summer after we'd graduated from high school, so we were hardly youngsters). I've seen the film many more times over the years & while it may not have quite the impact it still impresses me as a very well-made film with very few mis-steps in execution. And Romero has made few films as good since (though I am fond of MARTIN and MONKEY SHINES).

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#14 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Dec 27, 2008 11:14 pm

Perhaps the move towards more polished film with bigger crews added the technique but lost some of the passion and fun of making a film with a group of like minded people? I do not really see any particular engagement with the material in a film like The Dark Half or Bruiser, which just seem like confused and half hearted attempts at making a 'popular' horror film. Even Land of the Dead, which I like, seems slick but relatively emotionless, which might be what Mr Sausage means when he talks about there seeming more engagement with the zombies than the human characters - it may be easier to outfit zombies with interesting clothes that suggest a backstory than to give the humans real feeling relationships with each other? While I love Day of the Dead as much as the previous two films, it is interesting to contrast the time spent with Bub against the other soldiers who are presented as so unremittingly awful that you cannot wait for them to be eaten by the zombies!

Though could there also be a pessimism being expressed about people, moving from sadness at the way people mess things up through misunderstandings in Night, through impotent anger as attempts to hold tenuous groups together in Dawn and Day fall apart, to tired indifference in Land, when there is no interest in the characters, and they themselves do not really care about mounting a defence any more? I still find that group of scenes in Land where our heroes first seem to be in good time to be able to come to the rescue of a group of survivors from the city and then find they are too late to do anything but incinerate them quite powerful. That the particular group are just nameless extras sort of makes it more poignant than having characters who we have previously been introduced to be placed in the group which would be the classical way of generating sympathy in the viewer for the fate of the entire group. We aren't allowed even that, and instead have to respond to the deaths of characters who are total strangers to us.

I thought that was quite daring step to take!
HarryLong wrote:And Romero has made few films as good since (though I am fond of MARTIN and MONKEY SHINES).
I do think Romero showed with Night of the Living Dead a good grasp of filming in black and white. Sometimes I am disappointed that he did not get the chance to film more in that format before moving to colour. I agree on Martin and of course particularly like the black and white flashbacks/fantasies!

I would also perhaps be one of the few defenders of The Crazies, though the film seems even more roughly hewn than Night of the Living Dead, with the grainy colour film and haphazard editing (I have kind of a crush on Lynn Lowry from her tragic performances in this film and Cronenberg's Shivers! She also plays the prostitute who gets mauled in the seedy hotel room at the beginning of Paul Schrader's Cat People remake, though the role is so small it is difficult to recognise her)

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#15 Post by NexAmery » Sun Dec 28, 2008 8:22 am

I rented Dawn Of The Dead on VHS in the early 80's at the height of the Zombie craze. I cant say that 'i got it' It just gave me a headache. At the end of the video they had a trailer for Night Of The Living Dead and for the minute and a half it was on ,it blew me away. It took me a few more weeks to track it down but wow ,what great landmark movie. There's something ethereal about Black and White films. My only other favourite zombie film is 'I Walked With A Zombie'

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#16 Post by HarryLong » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:13 am

I would also perhaps be one of the few defenders of The Crazies
I like the idea behind THE CRAZIES and some of the scenes (the old woman stabbing the soldier with her knitting needles then going back to her knitting, for instance), but it seems for all the world like an earlier film in the director's CV than NOTLD. Where the low budget gave NOTLD a documemntary realism, THE CRAZIES just seems home-made. I think part of that may be due to some less than believable performances (it's been a few years since I last watched it).

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#17 Post by eltopo » Thu Jan 01, 2009 2:21 pm

Comparison:

Elite Special Collectors Edition - Region 0 - NTSC (DVD) / Optimum Home Entertainment - Region 'B' (Blu-ray)

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Gregory
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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#18 Post by Gregory » Thu Jan 01, 2009 4:01 pm

What's going on? Why is there so much zooming in apparent in those last two captures of the DVD Beaver review but not in the first two (the two shot and Barbra on the phone)?
Gary doesn't even mention this problem. (I also love the way he said he doesn't condone colorization but still called the colorization on the Fox release "impressive" and "intriguing" and generally a real plus for die-hard fans of the film.)

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#19 Post by HarryLong » Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:04 am

I have yet to see any colorization job that doesn't blow dead goats. Within the past several months I've reviewed several of Legend's products. SHE had some interesting moments, THINGS TO COME was awful, PRELUDE TO MURDER wasn't bad and MISSILE TO THE MOON actually had a very good palette (not the usual drab green, blue and brown colors), but it still looks "applied," not natural - like those hand-colored photos from your parents' (or grandparents') wedding. The frame grabs from NOTLD don't much impress me, either. The shot of Barbara on the phone looks pretty good, but in the shot with the torch, the flames look totally fake. And notice in the shot of the car interior, details that are obvious in the b&w grabs are obliterated in the colorized grab.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#20 Post by domino harvey » Sun May 06, 2012 1:50 am

There are just too many to choose from, so what is the best available home video release of this film (Blu-ray or DVD)?

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#21 Post by JPJ » Sun May 06, 2012 1:57 am

domino harvey wrote:There are just too many to choose from, so what is the best available home video release of this film (Blu-ray or DVD)?
Best dvd release is still Elite Entertainment's from 2001 or 2002.It's actually THX certified!

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#22 Post by Minkin » Sun May 06, 2012 2:55 am

Get the Elite for the extras and the Optimum Blu for the picture quality. That or Tooze will lay it out for you.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#23 Post by cdnchris » Sun May 06, 2012 2:55 am

The Elite is the one I have as well and it's great picture wise and extras wise.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#24 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun May 06, 2012 12:09 pm

This is a movie that actually benefits from low quality sources. When I want to rewatch this one, I dig out my decades old EP mode VHS tape. Otherwise, the Elite is the best option.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#25 Post by JamesF » Fri May 11, 2012 7:54 am

I've heard some very complimentary things about the Forgotten Films public domain Blu-Ray of the film, which apparently uses a unique transfer compared to either the Optimum or Network BDs commonly reviewed, though I can't verify this personally. Regardless, this film will likely have a dozen other Blu releases in the next five years, so I'm hanging on for the moment.

http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Night-of- ... ray/12228/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

(Oh, and +1 on Martin being Romero's finest achievement.)

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