"50 Years Old & Looking Better Than Ever"
Oh yes, George A Romero's seminal nihilistic social commentary (that just happens to use flesh-hungry zombies as a major component in its conveyance of allegory) gets the posh Blu-ray treatment with an amazing whistles-and-bells package courtesy of Criterion.
With seemingly every 'cult' movie over thirty years old getting either the 2K or 4K scan treatment these days, it's perhaps not surprising that arguably the cultiest of cult horror movies would end up getting a splendid double disc edition eventually. Still, to those of us old enough to still be marvelling at the existence of DVD let alone Blu-ray, the presence of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in such a beautiful transfer and with so many extras really is a cause for celebration.
Is there anyone out there who doesn't know the plot? The recently deceased come back to life and start attacking and eating the living. There's mention of radiation from a returning Venus probe being the cause, but we all know that what sets the dead off doesn't actually matter. What does matter is that George A Romero was (and remains) one of that elite and treasured group of film-makers whose movies were strong on social conscience while still delivering the necessary thrills such that his horror projects, while filled with important and relevant subtext, were never overly preachy.
Trapped in a farmhouse, a socially disparate group of people fight for survival, but, as is so often the case with Romero's projects, it's the humans who are each other's worst enemies, far more than the shambling threat lurking outside.
Reams and books (and reams of books, if there is such a thing) have been written about NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, so instead I'll just tell you all about Criterion's package, which consists of two Blu-rays. The first presents the film in a sparkling 4K transfer with uncompressed monoaural soundtrack. There are two audio commentaries as extras, both recorded in 1994 and featuring Romero, co-writer John Russo and actor Karl Hardman. Also on disc one is a never-before-presented work print edit of the film with the title NIGHT OF ANUBIS accompanied by a six minute introduction from Russell Streiner.
Disc two has lots of new stuff recorded for this Criterion release, which includes: Light in the Darkness features Guillermo del Toro, Frank Darabont and Robert Rodriguez discussing the movie's cinematic importance. There's a never-before-seen 16mm reel of dailies featuring alternate takes not used in the film. Learning from Scratch is a new talking head piece with John Russo remembers the Latent Image, the company that made the movie. Walking Like the Dead features cast and crew talking about what it was like to be zombies in the film. Tones of Terror is a fascinating piece on the library music that was used in the film. Limitations into Virtues is a new video essay on the style of the film.
There are also a number of archive interviews with Romero and actors Duane Jones and Judith Ridley, trailers, TV and radio spots. Also included in the package is a poster of an iconic image from the film, and on the reverse an essay entitled Mere Anarchy is Loosed by critic Stuart Klawans. Like so many of Criterion's releases, this is an essential package for any movie enthusiast's collection.
George A Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is out in a two-disc Blu-ray set from Criterion on
Monday 26th February