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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Zombie > Night Of The Living Dead (1990/21st Century Pictures/Columbia/Sony/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)

Night Of The Living Dead (1990/21st Century Pictures/Columbia/Sony/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)


Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: B-     Film: C+



PLEASE NOTE:  This Blu-ray is limited to 3,000 copies and is usually available exclusively at the Screen Archives website, which can be reached at the link at the end of this review.  We included the link, but this title sold out immediately on pre-order, so this coverage is for those who might still want to put out the much higher prices the disc is going for now.

Before Hollywood and many others decided to go into permanent recycle mode, you could do a remake that respected the original and people might like it.  That happened with the Robert De Niro remake of Night & The City and definitely happened when Tom Savini decided to do a color remake of George Romero’s classic Night Of The Living Dead in 1990.  With Romero having said all he had to say with the genre by the time he finished Day Of The Dead (1985, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) and few zombie productions around, Savini and Romero decided to remake the classic in color with some fun variations.


With a decent cast, the film tells the same story as the 1968 original until the last reel and has its moments, but the results are sometimes mixed and I always thought it only worked so well, yet it still respected the original unlike the thousands of bad rip-offs since and especially recently.  Tony Todd takes over the role of the African American hero (leading to an interesting genre career since), but years after the Civil Rights movement ended, there still were not many such characters and the rollback Reagan 1980s stopped this, so his role and work here is still timely enough if not having the shock, surprise or edge the first time around.  Patricia Tallman becomes a somewhat more assertive Barbara, but the variations update her without making her fake and apply dynamics of Romero’s female characters in his Dead sequels here, which lead to the final reel being like said sequels.


The film has been remade badly several times since and we expect more since the original is public domain, but this is still made in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas, is a pure Pittsburgh zombie product and will always have that over the lame imitators that we see issued almost weekly (and weakly at that) if not at least monthly.  Savini was really trying and his love of the original is here, even if the result does not offer much new.  It is a curio worth your time, apparent by selling out as fast as it did.



The big controversy with this release has actually been criticism of the HD master used for the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer, which seems to have used a filter for at least part of the time and has fans fired up about the image being too dark.  As compared to the previous DVD and trailer here, there is some detail and depth missing at times and Video Black can be crushed as well as overdone, but this is not the first time we ran into this.


The same criticism was leveled at the Blu-ray for Coppola’s Dracula and U.S. DVD release of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (both reviewed elsewhere on this site) with the former apparently done to cover up aged latex make-up work, though fans were defending Coppola’s artist honor saying it was his deep artistic choice, a hard argument to make when the Criterion 12” LaserDisc edition (still highly collectible, especially with extras never seen since) was approved by him and was not as dark.  In the case of Kolchak, the transfers seem to try to make grain go away present on VHS copies and DVD sets from the U.K. and Australia, so that case offers a purely technical choice and it did not bother me as much as it did some who reviewed it.


In this case, Savini has released a statement that he is fine with the look of the transfer and it is a horror film, so why not have it so dark?  The best thing would be to have the Director of Photography Frank Prinzi tell us what he thinks and he should have supervised the transfer with Savini to begin with.  Either way, there are still plenty of fine shots here and as flawed as the master might be, it is not a disaster and being sold out, it will stay this way without reissue.  If you must, get the old DVD, but it did not bother me as much.


The big surprise for me was how good the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix was due to the age and low budget of the film (21st Century Pictures did the infamous Captain America film from 1990 (reviewed on DVD elsewhere on this site) and almost botched Spider-Man the same way before they imploded) plus this was originally issued in the infamous analog Ultra-Stereo format.  A cheap version of old Dolby System, it tended to be harsher, more distorted and rough, but the original elements have been brought together and the film has been remarkably remixed for a decent presentation throughout that has to be one of the best Ultra Stereo upgrades ever, even if that is by default.  Some audio shows its age, but the music, sound effects and other sound elements are in good shape and that makes this disc even more collectible.


Extras include a nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and another essay by Julie Kirgo about the film, while the Blu-ray disc adds a vintage feature length audio commentary track (with too many spoilers) by Savini, Original Theatrical Trailer and Isolated Music Score Track of some good work by composer Paul McCollough.


For more on the original Romero Zombie films, try these Blu-ray links:


Dead trilogy Australian Blu-rays



Night Of The Living Dead 1968 U.K./Network Blu-ray



Day Of The Living Dead 1985 U.S. Blu-ray





As noted above, this Blu-ray instantly sold out, but plenty of other Screen Archive releases can still be ordered while supplies last at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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