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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/10/02

Night of the Living Dead
Millennium Edition - 1968 (2001) - Elite Entertainment

review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

Night of the Living Dead: Millennium Edition Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/A+

Specs and Features

96 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (layer switch at 1:14:14 between chapters 8 and 9), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary track (with George A. Romero, John Russo, Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman), audio commentary track (with Bill Hinzman, Judith O'Dea, Keith Wayne, Kyra Schon, Russ Streiner and Vince Survinski), THX Optimizer, treatment and original shooting script, personal scrapbooks and memorabilia, Night of the Living Bread short, audio interview with Duane Jones, video interview with Judith Ridley, Latent Image/Hardman Eastman Studios history, 8 original Latent Image commercials, scenes from There's Always Vanilla, theatrical poster and stills from There's Always Vanilla, theatrical trailer, TV spot, liner notes by Stephen King, film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (12 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & DD mono), subtitles: none.

Y'know, it just wouldn't seem like a new year without at least one new DVD version of George Romero's 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead to keep track of. NotLD has probably popped up on disc more often than any other movie and, as detailed by the inestimable Todd Doogan, the vast majority of these DVDs are utter garbage. Elite Entertainment released the best version back in '98 and when it went out of print, there was reason to be very afraid that the inferior Living Deads would take over the world. Fortunately, Elite has re-issued their definitive version of the film as part of their Millennium Edition series and there's good news for zombie fans. The best just got better.

The transfer is the same stunningly clear version used before, so a great looking version of the movie is now back on the market. Technically, the only difference is a new Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, which I approached with some trepidation. This is a low-budget, down and dirty movie and I feared that a 5.1 remix would distract from that quality, making the movie sound artificial. Well, the good news is that the remix isn't bad per se. It just doesn't really need to exist at all. There is virtually no difference between it and the original remastered mono track, apart from some added oomph in the bass during the rolling thunder effects. Otherwise, I did not detect any newly created sound effects creeping up in the surrounds or major difference in the way the music is recorded. The 5.1 mix adds a little more depth but is very respectful of the original. If you absolutely, positively have to listen to something in Dolby Digital 5.1, go with this. But if you're satisfied with the original mono track, you're not missing much.

The main additions here are in the extra features. Elite has added those bonuses from their definitive laserdisc version of Night of the Living Dead that didn't fit on the original, very early DVD. The best of the new features is the complete original screenplay by John Russo and Romero, along with Romero's original treatment and Russo's unfinished treatment for a much different movie about ghouls from space. Also making this disc worth having is an audio recording of star Duane Jones' last interview before his death. Jones was never entirely comfortable with his status as a horror movie icon (he also starred in the underrated Ganja and Hess) and rarely gave interviews about his experiences on Night of the Living Dead, making this an invaluable extra. Additional features include a short video interview with Judith Riley (who plays Tom's girlfriend Judy), scrapbooks compiled by cast members Vince Survinski and Marilyn Eastman with a wealth of rare photos, ads, and correspondence, and a gallery of original props, posters and collectibles. My only real criticism of the disc involves the inclusion of scenes from Romero's "lost" second film, There's Always Vanilla. I'm happy to see them, as I've always been curious about this movie, but I would have liked to see some kind of synopsis of the film before the scenes. If you don't already know what you're looking at, these scenes, along with the original poster and lobby cards also included, will be pretty meaningless.

When all is said and done, Elite's version of Night of the Living Dead remains the one to beat. You simply cannot find a better looking or sounding version of this movie anywhere else. And the newly expanded bonus features make this a no-brainer, so to speak. Other studios could learn a thing or two from Elite. The original DVD of Night of the Living Dead, released in the early days of the format, was outstanding. It was allowed to go out of print and brought back even better than it was before. They didn't simply pad an existing release with studio fluff but actually improved a highly sought-after item that is no longer available. Now that's the kind of reissue I can get behind.

Adam Jahnke
[email protected]

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