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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Zombie > Political > Night Of The Living Dead (1968/George Romero/DVD reissue) + Diary Of The Dead (2007/Weinstein DVD)

Night Of The Living Dead (1968/George Romero/DVD reissue) + Diary Of The Dead (2007/Weinstein DVD)


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



This is hands down the best transfer I’ve ever seen of this movie.  For years and years I’ve been searching for a quality copy of Romero’s original 1968 version of Night of the Living Dead, but until now I’ve felt unsatisfied, but more on that later.  Everyone knows the premise of Romero’s first zombie flick – a group of people trapped in a farmhouse, struggling to survive the zombie outbreak in western Pennsylvania, struggling to survive with each other in a racially unfair and imbalanced society.  The film holds up and, though he’s equally awesome, Romero’s version is easily preferred to Tom Savini’s remake from 1991 though the Savini version has its cult following.


We have covered the film in detail previously with the now out-of-print Elite Millennium Edition, which this new Weinstein version makes obsolete.





That includes links to the other Romero Dead films in various formats we have covered, plus The Omega Man with Charlton Heston, the second of three official versions of Richard Matheson’s book I Am Legend.  Romero’s film is the most successful take-off of that book and took its look to a great extent from that 1964 film.  You’ll find both reviewed in the same text, plus we have this coverage of the Will Smith 2007 hit version of I Am Legend on Blu-ray:





With that settled, the writer of the Elite Dead review decided to skip discussing certain aspects of the film because that would be both a spoiler and constitute a separate essay, but it was made in the midst of the heated racial climate of the ‘50s and ‘60s, Romero’s choice to not only have a black hero, but *SPOILER*…




…to have him shot by a group of redneck cops was such a ballsy move for the time.  The many aspects of that is just too much to go into and only one aspect of why this film is a classic and one I hope we cover in a future work here.  However, one thing the film does do well is suggest (inspired in part by Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, if you think about it) a challenge to what we see as reality.  That theme continued in Rosemary’s Baby, which arrived the same year as this film. 





He’s able to bridge the gap between the end of one world and the end of the world in a way that exemplifies one of the many things wrong with the country at the time.


The extras on this DVD are fantastic.  Even if I was not looking for a better quality copy of the film, these extras make the release worth it.  The documentary on the film is fantastic, covering everything from Romero’s days at Carnegie Mellon University to the release of Night and its nightmare with copyright laws.


Do yourself a favor – go buy this DVD. Now.  If you’re still here reading this, you’re making a big mistake.




Fast forward 39 years and you get Romero’s fifth installment in his zombie saga.  It could have been much worse, but wasn’t as well done as I’d have liked.  All in all, it was a very enjoyable zombie flick that employed a new visual style for Romero.  With Cloverfield having come out weeks before, this was unjustifiably labeled “Cloverfield with zombies,” which it’s not, and instead holds its own well enough to rest comfortably between the first three films and the fourth film.


The film follows a film student named Jason Creed and his friends that need to ditch Pittsburgh to head to their families out in Eastern PA (Harrisburg, Philly, and what have you).  The reason for this - the zombie outbreak that seems to happen every couple of years.  As a documentary film maker, Creed takes it upon himself to keep a record of everything that happens to him and to his friends on the road trip that should take them around 5 hours, but inevitably takes longer due to zombie infestation.  The zombie kills are mostly standard fare, though take note of the blind Amish man in the film and his demise (not an important plot point, so don’t worry).


What the film lacks in outstanding quality, it makes up for in interesting camera tricks and cheats.  As this is supposed to be a documentary shot by one or two people, the camera is supposed to keep rolling most of the time, but Romero is able to mask camera cuts very well and sneakily that only the trained eye can see (or one that listens to the commentary track).



Both films are presented in 1.85 X 1 anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfers.  The original Dead has never looked this good and looks pretty nice for the standard release DVD, while Diary is obviously the newer shoot, but lacks some of the character of the original.  Would watching this film on Blu-ray would ruin the experience, as it’s meant to be a film uploaded to MySpace-type website?  Maybe, but we never see it presented that way and there is enough degrading (even if we watched it in Blu-ray) to get the point.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the original film is as clean as it has ever sounded, with the combination surpassing all previous (and many bootleg/public domain) copies, making them obsolete.  The Dolby on Diary is nice, but often dialogue based in between the big scenes, so you can only expect so much.  It is supposed to sound like location audio often, after all.  Diary’s extras, particularly the commentary, are definitely enjoyable enough, though not nearly as good as the documentary included on the Night DVD, which imports only a few of the Elite extras and includes a DVD-ROM printable version of the original screenplay, stills, a trailer for this restored edition, Speak Of The Dead interview Romero, the last interview with Dwayne Jones, One For The Fire documentary and the two now-vintage audio commentary tracks.

Now, it is easier than ever to see why the 1968 classic is a classic, being given a presentation finally worthy of the film.  It needs some more work, but looks incredibly good here.  Diary of the Dead makes for an interesting zombie flick, one that works in more ways than it doesn’t (the acting’s kind of crappy and the effects are mostly digital, but that can be overlooked), and definitely is a recommended piece of viewing, if for no other reason than it’s Romero returning to form.



-   Jordan Paley


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