‘They won’t stay dead!’
Night of the Living Dead is a 1968 American science fiction horror film directed by George A. Romero from a screenplay co-written with John Russo. They both later acknowledged that Richard Matheson’s 1954 novella I Am Legend was an inspiration for their script.
The movie stars Duane Jones (Ganja & Hess), Judith O’Dea and Karl Hardman.
Originally titled Monster Flick, filming took place between June and December 1967 under the working titles Night of Anubis and later Night of the Flesh Eaters. The film premiered on October 1, 1968.
After decades of cinematic re-releases, the film was a massive financial success, grossing $12 million domestically and $18 million internationally.
Night of the Living Dead was heavily criticised during its release because of its explicit content, but eventually received critical acclaim and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as a film deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
In November 2016, the Museum of Modern Art and The Film Institute completed a 4K restoration of the film. In an interview with The Verge, film producer Russ Streiner remarked:
“The intention of the restoration was not to vacuum up all the dust particles. More than the images themselves, we wanted to restore what the images were trying to tell. It shouldn’t be clean and pristine. It should look how it felt 48 years ago, and the professionals did exactly that.”
“What we have now, for good or for bad, is exactly what I shot,” Romero added. “This is closer than anything we’ve seen to the definitive version of the film. It’s in the right format, 1.33:1, and that’s never been seen before either.”
On February 19, 2018, The Criterion Collection released the restored 4K version on Blu-ray.
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 R. 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 about 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 more
Archival interviews with Romero and actors Duane Jones and Judith Ridley
New programs about the editing, the score, and directing ghouls
New interviews with Gary R. Streiner and Russel W. Streiner
Trailer, radio spots, and TV spots
An essay by critic Stuart Klawans
” …an influential, milestone ‘splatter’ film. The ultra-low-budget film was shot in grainy 35 mm black-and-white with natural lighting and hand-held cameras to accentuate the fear facing the besieged farmhouse occupants. It featured an unknown cast – and reinvented the genre with its crude “drawbacks” which actually improved the film since they lent a documentary feel and reality that made the film all the more horrific.” AMC Filmsite
“Romero’s genius lies in the way he builds up tension throughout the film – as the zombies grow in number, seemingly unstoppable – until the sense of terror becomes all-consuming, intensified by the speed with which his characters collapse under the stress of their new-found situation.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“I supposed the idea was to make a fast buck before movies like this are off-limits to children. Maybe that’s why Night of the Living Dead was scheduled for the lucrative holiday season when the kids are on vacation. Maybe that’s it, but I don’t know how I could explain it to the kids who left the theater with tears in their eyes.” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Reader, 1969
“Night of the Living Dead generates seat-clutching tension and a surprising amount of intentional humour by playing around with the audience’s idea of what to expect from a cheap, ordinary horror movie.” Kim Newman, Nightmare Movies
The soundtrack score was culled from Capitol’s Hi-“Q” stock music library and had previously been used in Teenagers from Outer Space (1958).
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