Night of the Living Dead: 40th Anniversary Edition (1968)

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Released 8-Dec-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Audio Commentary-with the crew
Audio Commentary-with the cast
Featurette-One For the Fire: Feature length documentary
Interviews-Cast-The last interview with actor Duane Jones
Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo
Screenplay
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1968
Running Time 92:32 (Case: 96)
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Audio Format Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By George A. Romero
Studio
Distributor
Image Ten
Beyond Home 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 Gatefold
RPI $29.95 Music Scott Vladimir Licina


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (128Kb/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 No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero was made on a paltry budget of just over $US100,000. Is it really now 40 years old? Since its release in 1968 it has become a cult horror-genre classic, the film that started it all for zombie movies and now it has been released in Australia in a 40th Anniversary edition. In that time there have been multiple releases of this film due to confusion surrounding its copyright under the original title of Night of the Flesh Eaters. Subsequently, we fans have had to endure (or possibly enjoy) a colourised re-make, a 30th anniversary release which included re-shot scenes done 30 years later and added into the original and of course, a 1990 re-make, which really didn't need to be remade (unlike Zack Snyder's 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, now that was really well done!)

    Johnny (Russell Streiner) and Barbara (Judith O'Dea) open the film by driving to the cemetery to visit their father's grave. Johnny is ambushed by a zombie and dies, Barbara escapes to a farmhouse where she meets Ben (Duane Jones) who has also escaped a pack of zombies by killing them and setting them on fire. In the farmhouse, in the cellar, are another five people who have sought refuge from the zombies, Harry and Helen Cooper (Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman) and their daughter Karen (Kyra Schon) and young couple Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Ridley). The group have an argument about barricading themselves in the house or the cellar, eventually they barricade the house. However, Karen has been recently bitten by a zombie and this is where the film takes a turn.

    Casting Duane Jones as the lead actor and main protagonist was a bold move for 1968, especially due to the fact that Jones was black. There can be no doubt that Romero was making a social, political and cultural point here, even if he has repeatedly maintained, in the ensuing years, that Jones was the best actor for the part during auditions.

    This is an exciting release by Australian distributor, Beyond Home Entertainment. The film, despite being a cult classic and seminal part of cinematic history, has had many poor releases on DVD due to the aforementioned copyright issues. Does this latest release give Australian fans the version they deserve?

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer has been restored and it looks immaculate. Contrast and sharpness are wonderful for a black-and-white film.

    The aspect ratio of the film is 1:33:1 fullscreen which is the original cinematic aspect ratio.

    As stated, the video transfer looks detailed and sharp, even if the film has been presented on this DVD release on a single-layered DVD, the running time is only 92 minutes and the average bitrate is 6.17 Mb/s, which is quite good for DVD. There are no compression issues. There is slight grain in the transfer, this is no doubt due to the budgetary limitations of the original cinematography.

    The black-and-white transfer of this DVD release has a good range of tones to distinguish the video image.

    The restoration has also cleaned up any film artefacts, it is free of dirt, dust and scratches which are commonplace in DVD transfers of this age.

    Unfortunately, there have been no subtitles provided with this release.

    There is no RSDL change due to the film been presented on a single-layered DVD disc.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer has also been restored, resulting in a crisp and clear soundtrack.

    There are three audio tracks. The main audio track and first commentary by the crew, George A. Romero, John Russo, Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman are both encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 kbps, the second audio commentary by the cast, Bill Hinzman, Judith O'Dea, Keith Wayne, Kyra Schon, Russell Streiner and Vince Survinski is encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 128 kbps.

    Dialogue is clear and the audio is synchronised.

    Background Music is distinct and clear. It is ominous and quite frankly, creepy most of the time, as you would expect for a zombie film. There are however long scenes of dialogue in the film between the main characters where there is no background score.

There is no discrete surround channel mix as the main audio track is essentially the original Mono soundtrack.

    The Subwoofer is not utilised either.

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

Extras

Audio Commentary - director George A. Romero, actor and producer Karl Hardman, actress Marilyn Eastman and writer John Russo

This commentary has been ported from previous releases. It is quite nostalgic and anecdotal, yet informative and entertaining. There are some interesting details about the production of the film and its distribution, so not all of it is scene-specific in nature.

Audio Commentary - producer Russell Streiner, production manager Vince Survinski and cast members Bill Hinzman, Judith O'Dea, Kyra Schon and Keith Wayne

This commentary is similar to the other one. Both share similar anecdotes about the production of the film, although this commentary is not as factually informative as the crew commentary.

Featurette - One For The Fire: The Legacy of Night of the Living Dead (83 mins)

This isn't really a documentary, rather a series of recollections of the film from the original crew and cast. Details of the tight budget, shooting schedules, distribution and marketing are included here, even the loss of original reels of film due to flooding. The copyright issue is also discussed. The main cast and crew are quite nostalgic about the film, and all speak highly of Duane Jones' role as Ben and his influence on the film.

Interviews-Cast-Ben Speaks: The Last Interview with Duane Jones (16 mins)

Duane Jones was a deeply intelligent and generous man who inspired others to perform, both in his role in this film and in his teaching of drama students later on in his career. Interestingly, he is not nostalgic about the film at all, unlike the main cast and crew, for him the role of Ben was purely a professional role, he did not want to be typecast as a result of the role. Sadly he died at 52 due to a heart condition, but he did manage to continue his academic career and lecture and teach acting, drama and theatre.

Theatrical Trailer

The original theatrical trailer is purposeful for the sole reason of comparing its video quality to the restoration done on the film. Of course, there is no comparison really!

Gallery-Photo

There are approximately 70 stills from the production of the film.

Screenplay

The 91 page scanned and typed screenplay can be accessed via a DVD-Rom PC. You will also require Adobe PDF reader (or something similar) to read it.

R4 vs R1

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

    Night of the Living Dead has been released in so many variations on DVD, including colourised versions and 30th anniversary editions with post-production scenes added, that it is only necessary to inform you of the versions that really compare to this Australian release by Beyond Home Entertainment. According to dvdcompare.net, the only releases that compare with this region-free version is the region-free Elite Entertainment edition for its short movie and original mono and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and the 40th anniversary Region 1 Genius Products release which is identical to the Australian version, bar the George A.Romero interview. The Region 2 Italian release also has a unique documentary and interview and the original mono and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks.

    Therefore, I wouldn't hesitate to conclude that the Australian release is as good a release of the film onto DVD as the editions mentioned above.

Summary

    You've come this far with the review because you are a real fan, so what are you waiting for? This is the best release of Night of the Living Dead available for the Australian home video market. Distributor Beyond Home Entertainment needs to be lauded for the wonderful video and audio transfer and the quality extras. Well done!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Monday, February 01, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

Other Reviews NONE
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