The five star rating I gave Night of the Living Dead is, of course, for the original, uncut, unadulterated edition. The original is, quite simply, the most terrifying movie I've ever seen, even when compared to horror classics like Diabolique (the original French version), Psycho, Rosemary's Baby, Halloween and The Shining. I saw NOTLD when I was 9 years old on Creature Features at midnight after a funeral. I had nightmares for the next two nights. The film still gives me the chills whenever I see it (usually at Halloween).
When the 30th Anniversary Edition came out, I bought it on VHS as I was curious to see what they termed as "new footage." What I got was a horrible mess that butchered the original film, removed the original music for a terrible synthesizer score and added pointless footage that makes the viewer want to grind his teeth down to the gums. One of the additions is a new character: a fire and brimstone preacher. While the acting in the original is amateurish, at best, the "actor" who plays the preacher makes the original cast look like Oscar winners by comparison. He snarls, and howls and gnashes his teeth like he has rabies. Even more ridiculous is the extra footage of Bill Hinzman -- the "cemetary zombie" in the original. The extra footage shows Hinzman's character emerging from the grave, then cuts to the original 1968 opening footage with Judith O'Dea and Russell Streiner. It's absolutely ridiculous as Hinzman looks 30 years older in the new footage. In addition, there are more zombies and a new ending to the film that makes no sense whatsoever. This "new" version is a piece of trash that desecrates the most frightening film of all time. Avoid it like the plague!
ORIGINAL VERSION: *****
30 Anniversary version: No Stars
on July 14, 2002
This review pertains only to the Millennium Edition DVD of Night of the Living Dead.
Okay...as I'd feared, my negative review of the John Russo-massacred "30th Anniversary Edition" of Night of the Living Dead has been lumped unwittingly into this product's review, so I' m writing this one to clarify.
This DVD edition is the best edition I've seen of the film yet. Anchor Bay may have raised the ires of legions of Living Dead fans by releasing the sacrilegious 30th Anniversary Edition, but Elite Entertainment did right by this new edition.
George A. Romero's personal appreciation appears in the back of this DVD -- this immediately restores our faith. And the contents don't disappoint -- the picture and sound are good, and though this doesn't exactly contain the richest batch of bonus materials (sets like the excellent 3-disc edition of Dario Argento's Suspiria and the recent double-disc Re-Animator both feature loads of extras), it is a nice solid collection. You get a Duane Jones interview (sadly with only audio and no image, but still great); an on-camera chat between Judith Ridley (Judy) and Marilyn Eastman (Helen); the hilarious student-film spoof "Night of the Living Bread" by Kevin S. O'Brien (which also appeared in the double-cassette VHS edition); two commentary tracks with Romero, Russo, Russ Streiner, Eastman, Karl Hardman and others. One very illuminating portion of this DVD for non-film-scholars is visually boring but informative -- several histories outlining the beginning of Romero's Latent Image company, on Hardman and Eastman's company, and how the two were married to produce Night of the Living Dead.
THIS is the right edition of Night of the Living Dead, the one to get for both fans and non-fans alike. It includes all the necessary people (notice that Russo, Streiner and Bill Hinzman were included in this release, despite their criminal participation in the 30th Anniversary Edition), and it presents the film the way it wants to be seen.
Now I'm waiting for a deluxe release of Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead...
on January 13, 2000
When I first saw the packaging for this Special Edition of Night of the Living Dead it said there was 15 minutes of new footage and a new score. Well, GREAT I thought. 15 minutes of new footage that must've been cut out from the original release! New score, well, that could be a good thing too!
Until I opened the box to see the little booklet that revealed the ugly truth... There are new scenes alright. New scenes made by new people TWO YEARS AGO! The new scenes are badly acted, badly written, and badly edited. Scenes that subtract from the overall impact of the film and do nothing but taint a true horror classic. The new music is a cheesy synthesizer score that does nothing but irritate and distract throughout the film. (Cheesy synthesizer is good for other horror films, but it does NOT work well here.)
I originally bought this at a store, got it home and didn't even sit through the whole thing. I zipped through various chapters to see the HORRIBLE new additions in all their glory. The next day I took it back and told them it skipped because I was so determined to get rid of it.
on July 4, 2002
This review pertains only to the "30th Anniversary Edition".
I had been collecting George A. Romero's "Living Dead" trilogy on DVD and had purchased this without paying enough attention. Big mistake.
Night of the Living Dead has had some colossally confusing release patterns thanks to a copyright gaffe which had enabled every company under the sun to release the film and profit from it. But of the 'rogue editions' I've seen, nothing is worse than this one.
Notice the list of personnel involved in this project: John Russo, Russ Streiner, Bill Hinzman...anybody missing? That's right: George A. Romero himself. This "30th Anniversary" edition is a collaborated effort by Romero's former colleagues in the Night of the Living Dead crew to rip off Romero's work and make a profit from it.
The result is disastrous indeed. The new footage written and directed by John Russo serve to butcher the original film. Not only do the new scenes not contribute to the story, they look amateurish, mostly due to horrible writing. Russo had always wanted to claim more credit for the success of Night of the Living Dead than was due him; this attempt at appropriating credit for the original film only shows that Romero is the only one who understands the concept of the Living Dead films. Russo's heinous, childish writing and direction -- which are no better than that of the tongue-in-cheek soft-core videographers of, say, Seduction Cinema -- barely rise above the level of beginner film students. And his claim that the new footage matches the old is just ludicrous. Basically Streiner, Russo, Hinzman et al. have raped Romero's film, trying to use their involvement in the original to steal credit from Romero's work, desperately trying to put as much of their handprint onto the original as possible with this 'new footage'. Well, one minute watching Dawn of the Dead will show you that Romero was the filmmaker, and the others were the hacks.
Yet another guilty party in this whole enterprise is Scott Vladimir Licina, who had composed a new score for the film and plays a priest in the new scenes. The new score jars terribly with the old footage, and Licina's acting is atrocious -- reflective of the all-around low quality of the Russo footage.
Skip this one, crucify it, and leave it out for the zombies to chew on. This edition is a disgrace to Romero's legacy. Night of the Living Dead is one of the greatest horror films ever made; don't allow this sacrilegious edition to mislead your perception on the original film.
on December 31, 2004
Yes, Night of the Living Dead is an excellent, classic zombie movie, but the 30th anniversary edition is a sham with new footage, sound effects, and music haphazardly sandwiched in along with the original film. I have no problem with remaking a good movie. The 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead was fantastic. Remakes or remasters are one thing, but adding brand new scenes to such a beloved film makes no sense. The producers of this final product (George Romero was not involved) should be ashamed of ruining a classic movie.
The new footage, and when I say new, I mean new, shot 30 years after the original, has little to do with the original and really disturbs the flow. New sound effects and score are so heavy handed that they distract you from actually enjoying the movie.
Please be aware that you are not buying a remastered Night of the Living Dead, but a remastered Night of the Living Dead with several new unrelated scenes, music, and sound effects. I just don't want anybody else to get burned on this like I did.
on July 14, 2000
There are plenty of DVDs out there for George Romero's original classic "Night of the Living Dead," most of which are just as nasty as those VHS versions you used to find in the discount bin at your local video store: scratchy, grainy, unfocused video with muddy, muffled audio. There is also the now-infamous "30th Anniversary" DVD, which needlessly jams new scenes into the original movie (kind of like George Lucas's "Star Wars Special Editions," but with more flesh-eating).
But the only--I repeat, ONLY--DVD of "Night" worth touching is one released by Elite Entertainment. This gorgeous DVD is essentially the same package as the one Elite released on VHS through Anchor Bay a few years back: a pristine print of "Night," along with trailers & an amusing parody film called "Night of the Living Bread" (get it? get it?). This DVD also includes two audio commentary tracks featuring various members of the cast & crew & commercials that George Romero directed back in the '60s! All in all, this is far superior to anything else on the market. Seek it out--it's well worth the effort!
There are ump-teen versions of Night of the Living Dead floating around on DVD, so do we really need another edition of it? Not really, but this 40th Anniversary Edition from the Weinstein Company's Dimension Extreme (who released Romero's recent Diary of the Dead) is a pretty good release of the landmark horror film. Since we already know just how great, influential, and legendary Night of the Living Dead is, I won't bother going into the film's storyline, but will instead focus on the DVD itself. Featured here are two commentary tracks that contain George Romero, John Russo, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman, and more besides, as well as an excellent hour and a half long documentary on the film's creation and legacy. There is also an interesting video Q&A with Romero, and the final interview with Duane Jones. There is also a still gallery, the film's trailer, and the ability to view the film's script via DVD-ROM to boot. The special features alone are good enough for this single-disc release, and are worth the price of admission. However, if you already own the superior Milennium Edition of the film, there really is no reason to pick this up. If you don't though, then by all means pick up this new edition of Night of the Living Dead; it's a horror classic that even 40 years later can still scare the daylights out of you, and still proves ever effective.
on December 29, 1999
I have had some pretty awful experiences in my life. As well as quite a few wonderful ones. The worst, I always thought, would be having to stand in the room while the authorities pulled the melted jewelrey from my mother's burnt corpse. That was a bad experience.
Then there were the two rusty nails that slammed into my knee to the hilt.
Oh yeah... and not being able to move my legs.
I always thought that nothing I could see in film could even approach the misery of these personal moments.
But then, I could never in a thousand years imagine the creative still-birth of the 30th Anniversary NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD DVD.
Now I know what you are thinking, or at least I think I do. You may be thinking that I have grossly overstated the level of personal offense with which I take this DVD, but I swear to you I am having to control myself sooo much right now from merely ranting... How can I tell you exactly how they pissed on this film?
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of my first favorite movies. Every week, for the first 6 years of my life, I watched NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD projected in 16mm. It was the first film that I had memorized.
It scared me away from wanting to ever frequent cemeteries. And it made me ask my Dad how they make movies. And he handed me my first Famous Monsters of Filmland, along with a book on LON CHANEY... a little thin blue book.
And that is how it began. Also at the time I was addicted to KING KONG, GORGO and THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. I was seeing each of those... constantly alongside LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Corman version) and REEFER MADNESS.
In fact earlier this day I had watched the Alamo Drafthouse's last night of the Cannibal fest where they screened NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. I was in a great mood. I'd been saving watching this 30th Anniversary edition till after I saw this screening at the Drafthouse.
Quint came over to watch it with Father Geek and I... and my god... the horror.
I feel as though I have just watched a personal family member gang-raped by a pack of super sodomites.
If you love NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD don't even pick up the box that encases this dung heap.
First off, John Russo should be buried alive and fed through an IV and given adequate oxygen for the next 30 years. He has butchered, defaced and ruined one of the greatest horror films of all time. From his additions (as well as subtractions) to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, I can say with the utmost confidence that talent does not in any way reside within this shell of a so-called writer.
He has created something that at it's best moments perhaps achieves the utter stupidity of `GREEDO FIRED FIRST', but mostly resides with floating turds in a city sewer system.
There is not one instance in the entirety of the DVD that even begins to be good. And I'm even talking about the original footage. They have ruined every single second of the film through laughably awful sound effects and mixing, through a HORRENDOUS new bit of noise shat out by talentless hack, Scott Vladimir Ligina. They have erased all grain from the film, making it stark and crisp and in focus where it was once gloriously creepy and atmospheric.
Sigh... Perhaps I should just begin... at the beginning.
Gone are the opening shots of the film. Instead we begin upon the Chevy truck, that we later see Ben driving. But for now, it is driven by two redneck types hauling the body of the `cemetery ghoul' in a coffin in the back of their truck. Terrible dialogue about how he was a child murderer has been created as if to give some sort of backstory to the first zombie we ever see.
This is HORRIBLE. REALLY REALLY HORRIBLE. The dialogue and acting between the two corpse handlers is terribly written and delivered with all the subtlety and nuance of a kindergarten play about butterflies and toast.
When we finally arrive at the cemetery we get a look at this abominable tone deaf synthesizer addicted skinhead, Scott Vladimir Licina. Not only did he piss on the entire film with the single most offensive score I have ever listened to in my life, he and his gigantic teeth, have decided to bookend this film with an overbearing and painfully awful portrayal of a Reverend.
They have the cemetery zombie attack the two drivers and then we cut straight to Barbara and Johnny parked at the cemetery. All the foreboding shots of the drive... gone. Now, new thunder sounds pounding the entire scene. Drowning out their dialogue. This is... awful. I really have never known the meaning of that word till I witnessed this atrocity.
Let's cut forward a bit.
Remember where Ben and Barbara have first gone into the house together? When he tells her to go turn on all the lights, and then he begins searching for nails and hammer and wood? Well... we see him find the toolboxes. We no longer see him put the screwdriver in his back pocket, gone is the search for wood... he no longer looks under the sink, the initial nailing of wood is gone.... Oh yeah... as a matter of fact... When Barbara leaves the room here, it instantly cuts straight to her at the music box. All of the in-between and dialogue has been cut.
Remember Ben relating to Barbara what happened to him? Remember him talking about a tanker truck... describing that? GONE. Remember Barbara telling the story of Johnny and her? Well, they got to the cemetery... but all of her fantastic hysterical fits... GONE!
Gone. So much character development. Gone gone gone. Remember the scene between Harry and Helen in the basement where Harry talks about the Radio up stairs and Helen begins screaming at him about that. About how they don't like one another.
Well now... Harry goes down in the basement. Does his initial bit about , "We'll see who's right. We'll see when they come pleading for me to let them in" And then... cut to our all around swell guy, Tom pleading with Harry to come on back up... a mere minute and a half after he's entered the cellar... there by making it seem as if... Tom instantly had a change of heart. Gone is the development between Harry and Helen about their marriage problems, the issues with Harry's superiority complex.
If fact... throughout the entire film all of this basic fundamentally important to the story work is GONE, to be replaced with Reverend Wide Teeth and his bunch of morons.
Also... all the radio broadcasts are now different. It no longer feels like a radio broadcast from the period, but now feels like someone trying to impersonate a radio broadcast. Gone is most of the Venus probe stuff. Gone is the information about the Rescue Centers. Gone Gone Gone.
They hacked the hell out of this film. Remember the naked zombie? GONE!
Instead we have additional stumblers. No useful or even
on March 22, 2002
Elite's new "Millennium Edition" DVD of the 1968 horror classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD includes all of the material from Elite's 1997 DVD edition, plus a few more extras from Elite's '94 laserdisc edition. Both Elite DVDs contain the original unedited version of the film.
The video transfer of the Millennium Edition (ME) looks to be identical to that of the '97 DVD version. To those who haven't seen either edition, the THX-certified video transfer is simply immaculate. Made from original negatives, the transfer has a kind of sharpness, clarity, and contrast that are, according to director George Romero himself, superior even to the print used for the film's original theatrical release. The mono audio is clean and strong, and it sounds identical in both editions except it's in Dolby Digital 1.0 on the '97 edition, but 2.0 on the ME. There is also a mildly effective Dolby Digital 5.1 track on the ME.
The two audio commentary tracks (recorded circa '94) from the LD edition have been duplicated on the '97 and ME DVDs. All the principals except Duane Jones are featured, with the actors on one track and the director/producers on the other. Although the commentaries resemble a jovial get-together for the most part, they do provide considerable details about the making of the film -- the casting of Duane Jones was strictly color-blind, the Barbara character was originally to survive, the filmmakers managed to obtain a helicopter for free for some of the scenes, etc. The commentators also provide many insights to their crafts. For instance, co-producer/actor Karl Hardman says he decided he should play Mr. Cooper in a more demonstrative manner after seeing Jones' calmer portrayal of Ben.
Compensating for the lack of Duane Jones in the commentaries, the ME DVD includes a 16-minute audio excerpt of a 1988 interview of him. In it, he expresses his gratitude for associating with the film, but stresses his need for privacy and anonymity. He recalls an amusing anecdote in which two people who sat next to him argued whether he was really Duane Jones. When they concluded that he WASN'T, he wasn't the least bit inclined to correct them. This interview was to be Jones' last, and he would pass away later that year.
The ME DVD also includes a 10-minute video segment of an interview of Judy Ridley (who played Judy), who provides more anecdotes from the film as well as her experiences before, during and after the making of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The interviewer is co-producer Marilyn Eastman.
The other extras on the ME DVD include eight TV commercials made by Romero and company (the '97 DVD has only four), a 5-minute clip of Romero's followup film THERE'S ALWAYS VANILLA that features then-couple Judy Ridley and Russ Streiner, a few production photos from VANILLA, the hilarious 8-minute 1990 parody film "Night of the Living Bread" (in which Barbara is a brunette, Ben is shorter and chubbier, and hundreds of slices of what could truly be called "wonder bread" are used) that is also on the '97 DVD, text material on the history of the filmmakers, and the original shooting script (which spans over 300 frames). The shooting script is preceded by a brief rough draft which indicates the film was originally intended to be a comedy. Rounding out the extras is a "Scrapbook" section containing 100 or so still frames of memorabilia collected by the filmmakers, including correspondences, photos, newspaper clippings, etc.
Both the '97 and ME DVDs are all-region and without subtitles and closed captioning.
on January 24, 2001
There are many versions of "Night of the Living Dead" on DVD but there is only one that you should buy! The Special Collectors Edition put out by Elite is the ONLY version of this film that's worth anything. The transfer to DVD is so sharp and clear that you'll feel like you're watching it for the first time. One word of warning to anyone out there shopping for this DVD, there are many online auction sites and online stores claiming that this DVD is "rare and out of print"...DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT! This DVD is still being produced by Elite but not many online stores keep it in stock. Go ahead and order it...you'll get it. Don't be fooled into paying double for something that you could buy right here at Amazon.com. Oh ...and another thing...stay away from the 30th Annivesary Edition. This DVD is a shameful attempt by the "other half" of the folks who made this movie, to milk more money off it. I think that everyone who bought this horrible thing should break it in half, mail it to John Russo and write a note telling him that this is what you think of his and others attempt at desecrating a horror masterpiece. Russo, Hardman, and Striener need to understand that if they we're really as talented as George Romero then they wouldn't have to keep trying to make money off this film. Romero moved on to bigger and better things (Martin,Dawn of the Dead,Creepshow,Bruiser) but these other guys are still trying to nickel and dime everybody off thier ONE claim to fame.