Night of the Living Dead: 50th Anniversary Blu-ray

| October 5, 2017

The death of George A. Romero in July 2017 shook the horror community badly. His work inspired countless filmmakers including myself and the impact of his work on the horror genre as a whole is incalculable. Not only did his film Night of the Living Dead (1968) make zombies in general popular—an effect still palpable in the media today—but it directly spawned multiple long-running zombie film franchises. Obviously you have Romero’s own 6-film Dead series. Then its sequel Dawn of the Dead (1978) had its own spin-offs in the form of Italy’s Zombi franchise, and on the 1980’s Romero’s Night of the Living Dead co-writer John Russo signed off on the spin-off Return of the Living Dead franchise. This is to say nothing of the impact of his other works, including his other independent filmmaking-validating works of the 1960’s and 1970’s or his later collaborations with Stephen King.

This is to say that, among George A. Romero’s incredible body of work, perhaps no film is more important or influential than Night of the Living Dead. Yet, until recently, when Mill Creek Entertainment released the film on a 50th Anniversary edition Blu-ray, it was noticeably unavailable from any North American distributor! It was a tremendous oversight that became all the more apparent upon Romero’s death of course, when we devoted horror hounds set out to rewatch as much of Romero’s oeuvre as possible in memory of the man.

You could, if you didn’t mind gambling on potential region incompatibility, purchase the film on Blu-ray from overseas, but I had heard rumors of some nightmare releases from foreign distributors that made the cost of importing them not worth the risk. It took me ages to decide to bite the bullet and buy one of the foreign releases myself, and when I did, it cost me $25+ to import the Japanese 40th Anniversary Re-Issue Blu-ray. Was it worth it? Sure! Anything for Romero, after all, and the picture looked very clean indeed. Would it have all been so very much easier and preferable if some American distributor had put it out on Blu-ray instead? Yeah. Obviously.

And here we are, thanks to Mill Creek, no longer required to pay exorbitant fees to import foreign Blu-rays of Night of the Living Dead or buy already imported copies. You can instead just pop on over to most online retailers and pick up an official Region A Blu-ray of Night of the Living Dead, packed with a Mill Creek Digital copy code, and you can get it for less than ten bucks at that!

How does the transfer look? This is by no means a restoration of the film elements, and you wouldn’t expect it to be at the budget price. As such, the image is far from pristine. The transfer retains all the signs of damage and debris that would plague an older print of the film, and is thus more in line with what I’d expect to see from an aged print projected at a revival screening than a restored Blu-ray image. For some this might be a horrible disappointment, but I actually find it has great charm.

Having seen so many films I loved projected from an actual film print over the years, including Night of the Living Dead, I always enjoyed seeing a print that had clearly been screened repeatedly and thinking about how many people must have enjoyed the print over the years. That charm of the individual, well-loved print is so often simply scrubbed away. And with fewer and fewer theaters showing films on film, I’ve come to miss that. Thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment’s transfer of Night of the Living Dead, I can now revisit that experience in HD. And if that doesn’t excite you as much as it does me, then perhaps simply being able to buy Night of the Living Dead on Blu-ray for less than $10 does!

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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