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Night Of The Living Dead:
Special Edition (Elite)

review by Anthony D.

 

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Russell Streiner, Karl Hardman, Keith Wayne, Marilyn Eastman.

Written by John A. Russo

Directed by George A. Romero

Retail Price: 29.98

Studio: Elite Entertainment

Features: Commentaries by George Romero, John Russo, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Judith O'Dea, S. William Hinzman, Keith Wayne, Kyra Schon, Russell Streiner and Vincent Survinski, Theatrical Trailer and TV Spot, Night of the Living Bread, Original Commercials by Image Ten, inc.

Disc Specs: Full Screen, Black and White, Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono English

"They're coming to get you, Barbara," uttered jokingly in a cemetery far from the city of Pittsburgh, sets the tone for George A. Romero 's shockingly original, independently made classic, macabre tale of zombies on a rampage. What follows is an intense hour and a half as the living seek refuge from the living dead in an abandoned farm house - - strangers trapped together by fate must bond together to survive the onslaught of rising corpses set on eating the flesh of the living.

Barbara (Judith O'Dea) and her brother Johnny are visiting the graves of their relatives one Autumn day, when a man approaches them with a disjointed gait. Johnny jokingly declares that the man is coming to get Barbara, but instead finds himself being attacked and killed by this stranger. Barely escaping the same fate, Barbara hurriedly drives away from the cemetery, and finds herself at a desolate, seemingly abandoned farmhouse. The house holds surprises of its own for our terror-possessed heroine: a black man with a take-charge attitude, a decaying corpse in the upstairs hallway as well as five other people hiding out in the basement. As darkness falls, hordes of flesh-eating zombies attack the farmhouse - -including the now living-dead Johnny! Thus the stage is set for one of the most horrifying films of any age. George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead," although shot on a shoestring budget, still manages to pack quite a wallop after thirty years and countless imitations. Filmed in the remotest rural areas surrounding the city of Pittsburgh, and using local unknown talents, Romero's black and white film has the look and feel of a documentary while retaining its chilling aspects. Taking his cues from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock and his film of "The Birds," Romero successfully creates a world of shockingly random violence and offers no explanation for the events surrounding the rise of the dead, but rather dwells on the effect upon these seven stranded strangers. At times, Romero dramatically "borrows" from "The Birds" with shots of zombies attacking the secluded house much as the birds attacked the seaside house in Hitchcock's 1963 genre masterpiece.

 

Elite Entertainment's dvd opens with the credit sequence for "Night of the Living Dead" as we are used to seeing it: scratchy, muddied and riddled with aritfacts before the screen grinds to a halt to display the THX-approved log. What follows is a revelation! Sharp images in a highly detailed black and white print, no grain nor blurriness. The starkness of the cemetery is positively frightening on its own, but when the first zombie lops his way toward Johnny and Barbara the viewer knows that he is in for a delightful presentation of this classic film. If there is a flaw, it is inherent in the film itself: there is a slight freeze/jitter accompanying shifts in camera angles; it is not a troublesome problem, being barely perceptable, and I believe it is lodged within the camera's negative. Also unfortunate is the fact that the film is defaulted to play immediately following the THX logo, rather than going to an onscreen menu.

"Night of the Living Dead" is presented with a fairly clean Dolby Digital 1.0 channel mono.

Fans of "Night of the Living Dead" will certainly not be disappointed by the special features Elite has gathered for their Special Edition DVD. I really liked the short film spoof, "Night of the Living Bread," - - the title says it all. (Of course one's sense of humor is subjective, and the short is silly beyond belief). The television commercials from Image Ten, directed by George Romero, will mean virtually nothing to viewers outside of the Pittsburgh area, but it's nice to see them. The theatrical trailers are in terrible shape and bill the film, with sonorous voice-over, as a bizarre adventure in fear, and surprisingly enough contain the one shot of nudity from the film itself. Under the Main Menu's "Audio Bites," viewers may chose from two very fine audio commentaries:
Zombie Masters which features George Romero and John Russo, the director and screen writer or Zombie Party featuring nearly the entire cast, Duane Jones had since died, and his contributions to the film are recognized by both audio commentaries.

I couldn't possibly recommend the Elite Entertainment "Night of the Living Dead" highly enough. "Night of the Living Dead" is a seminal work in the annals of cinema horror and has finally received a stunning transfer worthy of its reputation. This is a full and richly textured film, cinematically and thematically, which somehow has not lost its power to chill the viewer. Perhaps because most of the violence is left to the viewer's vivid imagination, rather than graphically presented, the film will hold a place in the pantheon of horror films. With Elite's presentation, viewers lucky enough to track one down will be able to enjoy many more nights with "Night of the Living Dead." A true American classic.

(5/5, NOT included in final score)

(4/5)

(3/5)

(4.5/5)

(5/5, NOT an average)

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