Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Phil's Horror Watch: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) from The Criterion Collection - February 27, 2018

Today's horror film needs no introduction. It is regarded as one the most important films in not just the horror genre, but within cinema history. I have lost track of how many times I have seen this movie, and it just keeps getting better and better thought the decades. And now, the fine folks over at the Criterion Collection has just released the definitive version of the movie. Now, let us bask in the moonlight of George A. Romero's iconic 1968 horror movie masterpiece NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Original Theatrical Poster (1968)
The film's official synopsis: Shot outside Pittsburgh on a shoestring budget, by a band of filmmakers determined to make their mark, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, directed by horror master George A. Romero, is a great story of independent cinema: a midnight hit turned box-office smash that became one of the most influential films of all time. A deceptively simple tale of a group of strangers trapped in a farmhouse who find themselves fending off a horde of recently dead, flesh-eating ghouls, Romero’s claustrophobic vision of a late-1960s America literally tearing itself apart rewrote the rules of the horror genre, combined gruesome gore with acute social commentary, and quietly broke ground by casting a black actor (Duane Jones) in its lead role. Stark, haunting, and more relevant than ever, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is back.

There isn't anything I can say that hasn't been said before. There isn't anything I can write that hasn't already been written before. This is the definition of DIY independent filmmaking at its finest. It truly doesn't get more perfect than this!

The Criterion Collection has once again outdone themselves with this release. Listed below are the special features that are on this jammed packed 2-Disc Blu-Ray Set:

New 4K digital restoration, supervised by director George A. Romero, co-screenwriter John A. Russo, sound engineer Gary R. Streiner, and producer Russell W. Streiner, New restoration of the monaural soundtrack, supervised by Romero and Gary Streiner and presented uncompressed, NIGHT OF ANUBIS, a never-before-presented work-print edit of the film, New program featuring filmmakers Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro, and Robert Rodriguez, Never-before-seen 16 mm dailies reel, New program featuring Russo on the commercial and industrial-film production company where key NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD filmmakers got their start, Two audio commentaries from 1994 featuring Romero, Russo, producer Karl Hardman, actor Judith O'Dea, and others, Archival interviews with Romero and actors Duane Jones and Judith Ridley, New programs about the film's style and score, New interview program about the direction of ghouls, featuring members of the cast and crew, New interviews with Gary Streiner and Russell Streiner, Newsreels from 1967, Trailer, radio spots, and TV spots, PLUS: An essay by critic Stuart Klawans.

Back in October 2017, Mill Creek Entertainment released a sub par, poorly transferred, bare bones Blu-Ray of the film. This caused no end of rage among fans of the not only the film, but its beloved director. So do yourself a favor and ignore that piece of crap. THIS is the version of the film you want in your film library!

While it is amazing to see the film in a brand new, crisp and clear 4K digital restoration, part of me felt guilty because Romero never got the chance so see it. Granted, he helped supervised with the transfer, but George Romero passed away from lung cancer in Toronto, Canada on July 16, 2017. He was only 77 years old. His passing left a vast void in the cinema world that will never, ever be filled.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of the greatest, timeless, and trailblazing film ever made! Romero created an entire sub-genre within the horror world, and will forever be known as the Godfather of the Zombie genre. From movies like SHAUN OF THE DEAD and 28 DAYS LATER to television shows like The Walking Dead and Z Nation, Romero's influence stretches far and wide, across generations and time itself. This was his gift to us, and for that, I thank you George A. Romero!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is available on both Blu-Ray and DVD at your local retailer as well as on iTunes. The film is also available on the Criterion Collection website. To purchase a copy for yourself, visit www.criterion.com.

Thanks for reading, and long live George A. Romero!

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