Criterion will be releasing a special version of George A. Romero's classic 'Night of the Living Dead" on February 13.. The film, pretty much THE seminal zombie movie, will be released on Blu Ray and DVD with a lot of special features.
We spoke with Curtis Tsui of Criterion about the release.
There are many home entertainment releases of Night of the Living Dead --presumably due to the public domain status of the film. What will distinguish the Criterion version? I presume the 50th anniversary of the original was a consideration.
The primary point of this new edition of NOTLD is the film itself. It's never looked better, and the new 4K scan,which involved all of the key surviving Image Ten filmmakers including Romero himself, really shows off how well the film was made, even considering its budget limitations. The Museum of Modern Art worked with Image Ten to restore the movie and I can't stress enough that even if you've seen the movie a million times before, you've never seenit like this.
In terms of supplemental materials, we made a point to include content that would appeal to people who've seen all those previous editions and heard all of the stories and let them check out something new. So we have pieces about the scoring of the film, the never-before-seen NIGHT OF ANUBIS work print, and a dailies reel that lets viewers see alternate takes of scenes, among other things.
For those unfamiliar with the movie, we made sure to include supplements that would show that this movie was more than just an early gore-fest or shocker, that there was real artistry behind it and that it paved the way for every modern iteration of "zombie" that we know today, even if they weren't called zombies in the film!
So we have filmmakers like Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro and Robert Rodriguez talking about how important the film is to the horror genre and their own work, and there's an excellent video essay by Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou that dissects the stylistic techniques the Image Ten team used to maximize the movie's cinematic mpact.
One of the extras on the release is Night of Anubis. What will this offer viewers?
On a basic level, it shows how people worked during the days of cutting on film and assembling
work prints to screen and evaluate their work. It gives an impression of what Image Ten had to view where they were assessing how scenes played or flowed. On a more fan-driven level, there's a day-for-night ghoul shot (from the point-of-view of Mr. Cooper) that's never been seen before, as well as the title treatment chosen by Romero but ultimately rejected by everyone because "Anubis" was just too obscure a reference.
What in your opinion accounts for the popularity of the film and the zombie genre?
There's something unsettling about the idea of slow, inevitable death. (I'm more of a slow zombie afficonado than a supporter of the fast-moving undead, to be honest.) However, there's also the fact that zombies can be so open to metaphorical representation. They can be stand-ins for communicable diseases, hateful thought, social unrest, what have you.
Also, largely because of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, they can show that you're not even safe from your own family members, and that's a particularly boundary-pushing fear.
Will any of George Romero's other films get the Criterion treatment?
I honestly don't know! I can say that MARTIN is my favorite film of his.
Will other zombie films get a release through Criterion? There are a few like Don't Open the Window, Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things and Tombs of the Blind Dead that have their fans.
'm definitely a fan, and I particularly like the NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS entry in the TOMBS series as well as the "classic" zombie evoked in I WALKED WITH A ZOMIBE. I'd love to see a great edition of ZEDER and I guess someone already beat us to the punch with NIGHT OF THE CREEPS. But I unfortunately have no answers. I don't think we'll be doing any Lucio Fulci or Umberto Lenzi versions of zombies anytime soon though.