Night of the Living Dead (40th Ann. Ed.) DVD Review: A Classic

The key to its success, and a lesson for filmmakers of today, is keep it simple.
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After 40 years, this little film made by a bunch of people who were still learning their craft, produced on a shoestring budget, starring both actors and non-actors whom you had never heard of, still manages to do exactly what it was intended: scare the audience. Produced in 1968, the film that set the trend for all zombie movies to come, tells the story of a group of people trapped in a farmhouse surrounded by zombies over the course of a night in which radiation from space has caused the recently deceased to come back to life in search of human flesh.

Filmed in black and white, the film creates a terrifying situation that draws the audience in, and keeps them on the edge of their respective seats for the entire 96 minutes. The key to the success, and a lesson for filmmakers of today, is keep it simple. If you tell a good story well, they will come. And come they have continued to do for 40 years to this little film that could, like zombies to dead bodies in a burning truck. Helmed by now legendary George A Romero, Night of the Living Dead continues to be considered a classic that has spawned numerous sequels, remakes, and imitators. It is also serves as a blueprint to young filmmakers on how to make a movie.

The 40th Anniversary Edition from the Weinstein Company's Dimension Extreme is restored and re-mastered, looking and sounding great, but it is the extras that make this release worth owning. The new feature-length documentary, "One For the Fire," is a must-see for any fan of this movie or of the genre. It includes great interviews with many involved in the making of this film, and lends amazing insight into the process. The bonus material also includes audio commentary by Romero and members of the cast and crew, a Q&A with Romero, the theatrical trailer, still gallery, the original script accessed through a computer, and the last interview with the late Duane Jones which reflects the intelligence of this superb actor and how he dealt with the fame that came with the unexpected popularity of the film.

One of the enjoyable aspects of the bonus material, especially One For the Fire, is the intrigue that most possess with the question of “where are they now?” It is very enjoyable, and in some cases sad, to see and hear of what has become of the cast and crew. One cannot help but smile as we watch Judith O’Dea (Barbara) and Russell Streiner (Johnny) revisit the cemetery where it all started forty years ago. Noticeably missing was any mention of Judith Ridley who played Judy.

Recommendation: Even if you already own a copy of Night of the Living Dead, this release will be a valuable addition to your collection. Consider the acquisition for the documentary One For the Fire, and allow the new release of the film to serve as the bonus material. You won’t be disappointed.

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