Night Of The Living Dead (1968/Region Free/Network U.K. Blu-ray)
Sound: C+ Extras: C- Film: B+
NOTE: This Blu-ray edition is only available in the U.K. from our friends at Network U.K. and can be
ordered exclusively from them at the links below. Our copy was not Region B, but Free like the
final editions, so it should play on all Blu-ray drives.
When a film has been imitated to death and bad prints have
been circulating about it for so long that you wonder if you will ever see a
good copy of that film again, it is especially great to see such a key film
with the impact that made it a success in the first place. Two such films that become victims of this
kind of fate are either independent productions or black and white films. When they are both and fall into public
domain, like George Romero’s original 1968 Night
Of The Living Dead, people will start to think they are seeing the best
copies left and call the film “old” and the like.
So when Network U.K. announced they would issue a
High Definition Blu-ray of the film, the big question was one of getting a good
print for starters. The Weinstein
Company issued a restored copy on DVD and even made it widescreen, but it was
still lacking in detail and the monochrome was lacking in rich Video
Black. Somehow, they have found a really
good print someone did not play to death (no pun intended) and you can read
more about its performance below.
Not as happy with Romero’s newer trilogy of zombie films
(using Canada as Pittsburgh is among what does not work in them), but this
remains the only one in black and white and that is one of the ways it gets its
power. Romero and company cared about
what they were doing and it was a bold film for its time. It could have been an all-exploitation film,
but walks a fine line between such works (of which were new and many) a grasp
of the entire genre from it connections to Richard Matheson’s book I Am Legend, to the official first 1964
adaptation of the book into the film The
Last Man On Earth with Vincent Price to what Alfred Hitchcock achieved in Psycho (1960) and everything worked.
Most imitators are barely imitating the sequels and not
even this film, which is why most are just so very bad. Pittsburgh had always been a sort of joke in
Classical Hollywood films (including several of Hitchcock’s) and the Steel
Industry was alive and well when he made the film, but was almost gone from the
city by the time Day Of The Dead (1985,
reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) when it arrived. Products of industry (radios, TVs, cars,
etc.) play unusual roles in the film in ways not always considered and in that
context. Arriving the same year as
Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, many
have tried to site it success in connection to the Vietnam conflict, yet Rosemary’s Baby is never connected to
that, so such critics are off-base.
Instead, the film finds a ground zero in Horror Cinema to
seen since German Expressionism and with its coy references to Universal
Monsters and Sci-Fi/Horror of the 1950s, has a love of all of it and knows how
to take the next step. The film suggests
Science Fiction and even supernatural reasons for the zombies, but with
everyone dying so brutally, it never matters.
They may move slowly, but the zombies are on the kill and cannot be
stopped, making all the theories unimportant if you are about to be killed.
It is that immediacy that is lost on the last two
generations of would-be filmmakers, especially when it comes to being mostly
original, generating suspense, being realistic and knowing how to be dark. With this Blu-ray, anyone serious about film
and this kind in particular are in for a surprise in just how powerful this
film really is when you see a copy as good as this as we have here.
The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black and white digital High Definition
image is a surprise, centered in the 16 X 9 HD frame (unlike the Weinstein DVD,
which is anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1) and though there might be skipped
frames here and there, this is easily the best the film has ever looked. That is not easy considering the film is
public domain and tracking down a good print is very difficult, especially
considering its popularity over the years, but Network has found a print that
looks like it has real silver content and the result is often very revealing of
the film in ways no previous copy on DVD or otherwise has shown.
Rough shots notwithstanding, Video White is on the ivory
side, Video Black are rich and deep as the filmmakers always intended and you
will definitely see details here only audiences who have seen better film
prints experienced in its 41-years and counting history. You can really relax and enjoy the great
canted shots, classic moments and other movements and moments of menace. Though not perfect, I would be very surprised
to see a better Blu-ray of the film anytime soon.
The PCM 2.0 Mono is a little uneven and the soundtrack can
sound rough, but this too is still the best I have ever heard the sound, though
the Weinstein DVD cleaned its sound up, it was in lesser Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
and cannot compete with the warmth of this PCM at its best. The only extra is the original theatrical
trailer in HD.
For more on the original, start with this link:
above, you can order this British Blu-ray import exclusively from Network U.K.
- Nicholas Sheffo