Night of the Living Dead (Umbrella) (1968)

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Released 10-May-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Featurette-Reflections On The Living Dead
TV Spots
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Black Sunday, Deep Red, Devil Doll, Blood On Satan's Claw
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1968
Running Time 96:02
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By George A. Romero
Studio
Distributor
Image Ten
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Duane Jones
Judith O'Dea
Karl Hardman
Marilyn Eastman
Keith Wayne
Judith Ridley
Kyra Schon
Charles Craig
S. William Hinzman
George Kosana
Frank Doak
Bill 'Chilly Billy' Cardille
A.C. McDonald
Case ?
RPI Box Music Scott Vladimir Licina


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead is a masterpiece. The grandaddy of all zombie films is the very best, a black-and-white independent horror film from 1968 that remains just as potent, important and intelligent as when it was first released.

Siblings Barbra (Judith O'Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) visit a Pennsylvania cemetery to place a wreath on their father's grave, but are attacked by a lifeless tall, pale man, who murders Johnny, leaving a screaming Barbra running into the night. She escapes to an abandoned house, and when stranger Ben (Duane Jones) finds her, it soon becomes clear that all around America the dead are returning to life to attack the living. Barricaded inside the house with a young couple and a family, and with little communication to the outside world, these strangers must fight to survive the onslaught that is the Night of the Living Dead.

Beyond the sociological issues and themes always mentioned in reviews of this film, there's a lot of particularly interesting things rarely discussed. For one, having a black character as the protagonist is unusual, and still seems unusual today, despite how far we've come and the fact that Romero et al. only hired him because he was the best actor they could get on their budget. (Jones is superb, by the way.) The nihilism and gruesomeness of the film is also raw, with the nasty corpse close-ups, the lengthy eating of two major characters, and the final scenes involving the child murdering her parents are all indeed unsettling, which is unexpected for a film of the era. (Next decade's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is renowned for gruesomeness even though it features very little, particularly compared to this.) But none of it is exploitative or gratuitous, it all serves the plot and delivers the expected impact. The effects and soundtrack are all excellent, as are the slowly rotting zombies that appear human at first and get considerably nastier as the film goes on.

This is simply a fantastic film, a classic that lives up to the title. I don't want to say too much about it - if you have not seen it and you're a horror buff, you owe it to yourself to see it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   The video is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

   This is an excellent transfer, although not flawless, it definitely does the source material justice. It's a very strong, detailed video transfer of the film, retaining sharpness across the entire film as well as keeping high levels of detail in all scenes, including darkness. The only better version I have come across is the restored 30th Anniversary Edition, which is a terrible cut of the film and really only slightly better than this, with a slightly sharper transfer.

   There are some film artefacts, usually around scene changes where the original negative was scratched (one example is at 36:25). Otherwise, the film is very clear, with only a few interlacing issues that don't distract from viewing (see 51:20). I am extremely impressed, and glad this is the way I got to view this classic for the first time.

   There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

   The audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)

   Like the video, the audio is a very strong mix that, despite lacking surround, is full of life and atmosphere. The phenomenal soundtrack sounds wonderful here, and fits alongside all the lovely zombie moans and lurches and eating.

   The dialogue is all perfectly synced and audible, never missing a beat. Everything works together and sounds fantastic, despite the simplicity and age of the film. I know the age of the film shouldn't make any difference, but consider how good this film sounds and looks compared to something state-of-the-art that was made recently and ended up on a terrible DVD, like War of the Worlds - incredible.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Reflections of the Living Dead (80:00)

   An alternative to a commentary track, this exclusive feature-length documentary directed by Thomas Brown includes an ongoing discussion between four of the main players behind the film - George A. Romero, the co-writer and director; John A. Russo, the co-writer; Russell W. Streiner, the producer and actor playing "Johnny"; and Karl Hardman, the producer, makeup, sound and actor playing "Harry Cooper"- as well as exclusive footage and interviews with other people behind the classic. It begins talking about how the film came about, and then proceeds into production and post-production, also including interview footage with famous horror directors (Raimi, Craven and Carpenter are some) and some talks with the SFX gurus, the composer for the score, and others who had a part to play in creating this film. It's reasonably informative and entertaining, but for some reason the discussion with the creators of the film isn't as captivating as I'd like; like the commentary tracks seen on the other DVDs of this film, it's more like friends watching a home movie than filmmakers commenting on a feature. Still, there's lots of valuable information in here, and it'll appeal to fans and filmmakers alike. Presented in 1.33:1.

TV Spot (0:57) and Theatrical Trailer (1:47)

   The original TV spot and Theatrical Trailer for the film are unfortunately cheesy, reminiscent of the Ed Wood series of films, but are fun to watch for nostalgia. Particularly interesting is that the end of the TV spot uses a montage of stills in a way that is clever and unnerving, and yet unseen in today's trailers. The transfer here also isn't as nice as the actual film. In 1.33:1.

Umbrella Trailers - Blood on Satan's Claw (2:53), Black Sunday (3:25), Deep Red (2:43), Devil Doll (2:01)

   Theatrical trailers for more Umbrella releases, these are exactly what you'd expect. I'm very fond of the disgusting Deep Red trailer, which is lovingly violent and gives away nothing of the film's plot.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   Unfortunately, because this film is in the public domain there are so many DVD releases of it it's difficult to tell what to get. Although this release by Umbrella is very good, it cannot hold a candle to the R0 US Elite Entertainment "Millenium Edition" which includes two commentary tracks, a 5.1 audio track, and a variety of additional extras. However, that doesn't include the documentary we get on this disc, and has more of the image issues expected with NTSC transfers, including interlacing. Ultimately, though, the R0 wins out, with the audio and extras.

   I must make additional mention here not to buy the aforementioned 30th Anniversary Edition DVD of the film, which despite including a slightly better transfer, has 15 horrible minutes of horrible new footage shot in the horrible 1990's and not by Romero, as well as a horrible new score that could bring the dead back to life. Never, ever buy this. It is sacrilege.

Summary

   Night of the Living Dead is an amazing movie, that gave birth to a subgenre of horror and has legions of imitators. It is the first entry in one of the greatest film trilogies ever.

   The video and audio are excellent.

   Although there are few extras, the main event is a feature length documentary that fans will find worth the asking price.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ryan Aston (Bioshock)
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDLG LH-D6230, using Component output
DisplayBenq PE7700. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationLG
Speakers B&W LCR 600 S3 (Front & Centre); B&W DM 600 (Rears); B&W ASW500 (Sub)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
cut of film - Anonymous
darker blacks - Neil
new local Blu ray release - Anonymous