909 Night of the Living Dead

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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MichaelB
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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#101 Post by MichaelB » Sat Oct 06, 2018 6:36 am

I watched it with my fifteen-year-old son the other month, deliberately not prepping him about anything in advance. It was a wonderful experience watching it with someone who was so demonstrably caught up in it - and he was properly shocked by the ending, just as Romero originally intended.

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Slaphappy
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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#102 Post by Slaphappy » Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:02 am

I still liked Night of the Living Dead a lot as a movie, but it was not half as gripping anymore. Maybe I’m just getting old, but did anyone else feel like the HD-mastering of Criterion release had gone too far polishing contrast and clarity of the picture and somewhat ruining the athmosphere? Maybe that takes the movie too far from horror towards a zombie apocalypse drama.

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#103 Post by CSM126 » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:03 pm

Slaphappy wrote:
Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:02 am
I still liked Night of the Living Dead a lot as a movie, but it was not half as gripping anymore. Maybe I’m just getting old, but did anyone else feel like the HD-mastering of Criterion release had gone too far polishing contrast and clarity of the picture and somewhat ruining the athmosphere? Maybe that takes the movie too far from horror towards a zombie apocalypse drama.
If anything the restoration brought the film back to what it’s meant to be. They cleaned up, repaired and otherwise fixed all the damage that was never meant to be there. If it was intentional to be grimy I’m sure it still would be - Romero supervised the restoration himself, after all. What’s here is the atmosphere he wanted us to see.

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tenia
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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#104 Post by tenia » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:31 pm

Viewers getting accustomed to a certain rough aspect always seemed to me as if they built a prism through which they're building their own viewing habits, unrelated to the movie itself and what its makers were willingly making. If they wanted to make it rough looking, they could have done so. Once properly restored, if it doesn't look like this, then, it just never was intended to look that way.
I also don't think it alters movies that much. Last time I watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it was through the marvelous 4K restoration, and it still was creepy and scary and gloomy.

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Slaphappy
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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#105 Post by Slaphappy » Sun Jan 06, 2019 5:46 pm

I don’t have that much trust in elderly directors regarding their own movies. From Lucas to Jacopetti they are too fond of revisionist views on how their movies were supposed to be.

Maybe black-and-white movies are more volurnable because so much rides on contrast, which is tempting to tweak for more details. I doubt Night of the Living Dead ever looked on film like it does on bluray, but I didn’t say, that rougher and grimmer look would have been the only correct way to do the restoration. I only asked if anyone else felt like the movie got compromised as a horror movie.

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Big Ben
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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#106 Post by Big Ben » Sun Jan 06, 2019 5:53 pm

I would think that Romero would have final say here independent of what we all think. We can certainly disagree with him but it's just as creepy in this new restoration as the first time I saw it. It certainly hasn't lost it's ability to provoke and in the case of Michael's son, shock.

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#107 Post by tenia » Sun Jan 06, 2019 6:42 pm

Slaphappy wrote:
Sun Jan 06, 2019 5:46 pm
I doubt Night of the Living Dead ever looked on film like it does on bluray
I think there is a difference between how it looked and how it should have looked if the analog process would have been better at the time. Again, if they wanted it to be different on the negative, they could have done so. Yet, it doesn't seem like it. And it's not so much a question of trusting elderly directors, but a question of how damaging the older print-making processese were VS what we can get from a negative now. I believe that's where the difference lies.
Slaphappy wrote:
Sun Jan 06, 2019 5:46 pm
I only asked if anyone else felt like the movie got compromised as a horror movie.
I understood that, and to me, the answer is no. I just made a broader point in my answer by answering that, as a whole, I never stumbled on a gloomy creepy movie whose restoration turned into something less impactful.

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#108 Post by Orlac » Sun Jan 06, 2019 7:34 pm

Night is a film that could survive the process of a grainly 16mm dupe transferred to low-rent VHS in a way that, say, Sound of Music couldn't.

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Slaphappy
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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#109 Post by Slaphappy » Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:44 am

Judging by the screen shots I can’t really say, that there were poor choises made, but looking at trailers I feel like the muddy expressionist look was more gripping for me. Then again, now for the first time I fully consentrated on character dynamics and that was interesting too.

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tenia
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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#110 Post by tenia » Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:53 am

It's quite certain the way you're used to see some movies influence how you feel their content. It's not illogical that a movie like Night would gain somehow from being watched in, say, muddy conditions.
It's just that we now have enough experience with these older representations to know they’re extremely likely to be faithful to the original photography, but also that the newer proper restorations never really take away the potential impact of these movies (TCM being what I always felt to be the best example of that).

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#111 Post by mteller » Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:42 am

Slaphappy wrote:
Sun Jan 06, 2019 5:46 pm
I don’t have that much trust in elderly directors regarding their own movies.
That's some ageist bullshit right there.

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MichaelB
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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#112 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:49 am

I first saw Night of the Living Dead in a decent 35mm print, so my impressions of what it should look like are somewhat different.

And I echo mteller's "ageist bullshit" comment. Unless you have hard evidence that revisionism has taken place (and such cases are usually publicised at the time), it's usually sensible to assume that it hasn't.

Still, at least he didn't go as far as the long departed Nothing, whose characteristically charming response to the news that a transfer he'd been energetically slagging off had been approved by both the director and cinematographer was to question their eyesight and sanity. A few posts later he admitted that he hadn't even watched it himself and had been going by Beaver grabs.

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#113 Post by tenia » Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:57 am

I can however understand how, considering what has been seen on the video market, some are now questioning the validity of directors' or cinematographers' approval, especially for movies made at a time where the aesthetic norms were very different.

I suspect that B&W movies are less concerned than colored movies simply because the eye is more responsive to colors in a way (ie we would have an easier time detecting a teal'ed movie than a B&W one a bit too much contrasted), but this point aside, I don't think it would be unseen of a director or a DoP heavily tweaking the grading during a restoration for a result that is closer to the current aesthetics than the original one.

Still, challenges should be made on a case by case matter, not as a general agreement or disagreement. There are some "approved" restorations that look fine and others that don't, and the opposite is true too.
Here, I think it simply is a very good 4K restoration of a movie that has often been seen in unfaithful copies, a situation many times seen in the past few years.

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Slaphappy
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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#114 Post by Slaphappy » Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:09 pm

Maybe I was aiming to be a bit humoristic using the word elderly, but trying to reconstruct one's vision after almost 50 years seems a bit far fetched sometimes and I'm not convinced, that directors and cinematographers are automatically the best person to make decisions regarding their old work. The most brutal example I know is the Finnish tv-series Rauta-aika, which is maybe the most artistic work ever made for Finnish television. It was shot 4:3 and released cropped for 16:9 on DVD by cinematographer's approval. He also did the cropping. It went from naturalistic look and pictorial compositions to look like a badly shot Sergio Leone movie.

I think it's safe to say, that Criterion bluray is closer to what was intended 1968 than the murky cable tv-transfers I saw as a kid. Digital times can just make one pretty paranoid and some people have weird preferences. This time I got spooked by reading a quote from a DVD Beaver review, which praised a transfer for being so crisp, that one "can actually see make-ups and facial costuming" on actors. I think everything that compromises immersion is a bad thing. I also feel like I've been spotting lots of bad wig lines lately, but that could be because I've watched a lot of 80's Shaw Bros. :-"

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#115 Post by Lowry_Sam » Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:25 pm

What ranks this release among the best of 2018 is the inclusion of Night Of Anubis, which should satisfy one’s desire to see it in lo res.

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Re: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

#116 Post by bottled spider » Wed Jan 08, 2020 4:28 pm

Michael wrote:This film and The Exorcist were the films that actually ruined my childhood, thanks to my mom for not wanting to pay for a babysitter and instead threw me in the back of a station wagon and parked at a drive-in. Peeking at horrible images splashing on the screen between the dark figures of my mom and her boyfriend from the back, me all wrapped up in blankets, not knowing what to do or say about what I saw. And the sounds. The music. Blasting from the drive-in radio. What was my mom thinking!?
Pauline Kael ended her review of The Exorcist with the sentence "It would be sheer insanity to take children," which I thought was meant as a joke -- but maybe it was earnest advice after all!

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#117 Post by bottled spider » Sun Jan 12, 2020 2:16 pm

I see now from reading Roger Ebert eye-opening review, posted upthread by Feego, that there really wouldn't have been anything jocular about Kael's admonition against taking children to The Exorcist.

I've started to notice (as someone new to horror) that easily evaded yet inexorable threats are quite a popular theme -- The Blob, zombies, the lumbering monster of Frankenstein, It Follows...

This has one of the best opening scenes of any movie. Not just the clever entrance of the first zombie, but the lovely conversation between brother and sister that precedes it. Then the tremendous yet well-managed acceleration that follows. Take for example the care with which the light dwindles as we move rapidly from broad daylight to the pitch of night, and that the opening dialogue primes us to the lateness of the day. Or the steady increase in the number of zombies. Like the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, there's a fast transition from the everyday to full immersion into the bizarre, without feeling abrupt.

A couple nice touches I really liked: Ben slipping a pair of shoes onto Barbra's feet, and Barbra absently turning on the music box.

Roger Ryan upthread observes how well directed the television news clips are. I didn't pickup on the quality of their execution because they seemed such an irksome misstep in terms of script. To explain the origin of the zombies at all strikes me as unnecessary and counterproductive, let alone offering such far out sci-fi gobbledygook. The film flags in its middle section, and reducing the frequency and duration of the news footage would have helped the pacing.

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#118 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:00 pm

bottled spider wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 2:16 pm
This has one of the best opening scenes of any movie. Not just the clever entrance of the first zombie, but the lovely conversation between brother and sister that precedes it. Then the tremendous yet well-managed acceleration that follows. Take for example the care with which the light dwindles as we move rapidly from broad daylight to the pitch of night, and that the opening dialogue primes us to the lateness of the day. Or the steady increase in the number of zombies. Like the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, there's a fast transition from the everyday to full immersion into the bizarre, without feeling abrupt.

A couple nice touches I really liked: Ben slipping a pair of shoes onto Barbra's feet, and Barbra absently turning on the music box.
That chase of Barbra to the farmhouse is full of amazing moments that are rather difficult to articulate but really work to highlight the horror. I'm thinking less of the fight that Johnny has with the zombie and the stuff with the window of the car being smashed and then Barbra crashing it (which are more your standard, expected moments to occur in a chase scene), but more that moment of Barbra tripping up on the run through the graveyard to the car (a standard moment in itself) only to throw off one shoe (accidentally?) as she clambers back up and runs off again. Or when just before getting to the farmhouse the way that she runs up to and collapses against the petrol pumps to catch her breath for the moment, which works really well to subliminally establish their presence for future events in the film.

But I have especially always liked that rather brief but extremely impactful shot just after the car crashes and Barbara runs off into the woods with the zombie in pursuit where she bursts out onto a road and starts running down it, as suddenly the camera goes from much more stable and locked off to handheld and shakycam as it captures the character desperately running for her life. That is perhaps the ultimate 'accidental shot', where the commentary notes that the shot looks that way more for the practical reasons of the camera shooting out of the back of a moving car, but it adds so much of a jarringly sudden off kilter sense to the character's flight that it feels absolutely perfect, perhaps even more so when the camerawork becomes more 'classical' again after that.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#119 Post by Roger Ryan » Mon Jan 13, 2020 9:45 am

bottled spider wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 2:16 pm
...Roger Ryan upthread observes how well directed the television news clips are. I didn't pickup on the quality of their execution because they seemed such an irksome misstep in terms of script. To explain the origin of the zombies at all strikes me as unnecessary and counterproductive, let alone offering such far out sci-fi gobbledygook. The film flags in its middle section, and reducing the frequency and duration of the news footage would have helped the pacing.
I can appreciate your suggestion that the frequency and duration of the news reports could be reduced to prevent the pace from flagging, but I feel these scenes are necessary to set-up the eventual arrival of the police officers/vigilantes. Knowing that the world outside of the deserted farmhouse is aware of the horror makes the entrapment feel more claustrophobic (in my opinion), and provides additional suspense as we believe those trapped in the house just have to survive long enough for help to arrive. Whether intended or not, the realistically banal news footage provides an interesting juxtaposition to the standard "cinematic"-style drama taking place in the house, and it's this clash of styles that really sells the film's ironic ending. The one scene I would agree is completely superfluous is that single-shot street scene in Washington, D.C. even though I admire its direction.

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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#120 Post by bottled spider » Mon Jan 13, 2020 2:46 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:00 pm
That chase of Barbra to the farmhouse is full of amazing moments that are rather difficult to articulate but really work to highlight the horror. I'm thinking less of the fight that Johnny has with the zombie and the stuff with the window of the car being smashed and then Barbra crashing it (which are more your standard, expected moments to occur in a chase scene), but more that moment of Barbra tripping up on the run through the graveyard to the car (a standard moment in itself) only to throw off one shoe (accidentally?) as she clambers back up and runs off again. Or when just before getting to the farmhouse the way that she runs up to and collapses against the petrol pumps to catch her breath for the moment, which works really well to subliminally establish their presence for future events in the film.

But I have especially always liked that rather brief but extremely impactful shot just after the car crashes and Barbara runs off into the woods with the zombie in pursuit where she bursts out onto a road and starts running down it, as suddenly the camera goes from much more stable and locked off to handheld and shakycam as it captures the character desperately running for her life. That is perhaps the ultimate 'accidental shot', where the commentary notes that the shot looks that way more for the practical reasons of the camera shooting out of the back of a moving car, but it adds so much of a jarringly sudden off kilter sense to the character's flight that it feels absolutely perfect, perhaps even more so when the camerawork becomes more 'classical' again after that.
I like your analysis.
Roger Ryan wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 9:45 am
I can appreciate your suggestion that the frequency and duration of the news reports could be reduced to prevent the pace from flagging, but I feel these scenes are necessary to set-up the eventual arrival of the police officers/vigilantes. Knowing that the world outside of the deserted farmhouse is aware of the horror makes the entrapment feel more claustrophobic (in my opinion), and provides additional suspense as we believe those trapped in the house just have to survive long enough for help to arrive. Whether intended or not, the realistically banal news footage provides an interesting juxtaposition to the standard "cinematic"-style drama taking place in the house, and it's this clash of styles that really sells the film's ironic ending. The one scene I would agree is completely superfluous is that single-shot street scene in Washington, D.C. even though I admire its direction.
Agreed. It's important that they know the situation is widespread, because it's more frightening, and critically important that they know that there's help in the long term, if they can stay alive -- otherwise most people would choose suicide over inevitable death at the hand of zombies.

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colinr0380
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Re: 909 Night of the Living Dead

#121 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:28 pm

Its also to create that (literally mediated) sense of security: that the authorities are out there doing something and they'll eventually sort it all out and come and save you, as long as you can stop bickering amongst yourselves in the interim! Its another one of the social security blankets that get systematically ripped away one by one in the last section of the film, until the authorities turn up too late and not particularly concerned about the stories of the 'normal people' in the houses they are securing (which is also why, though I agree that interview scene is a bit jarring (but stylistically so, perhaps matching that shot I talked about in the earlier post), it is amusing to see the same guy being interviewed on the TV appearing again at the end in his more unnerving 'real world' context, where the dispassionate approach to managing a crisis turns its gaze on our little story). In the first half once Ben appears and is able to do practical things to counter the threat and make the place look a bit more homely things seem to be getting better as we go from having to make do with 'just' the radio to finding an actual working television set. The lure of the radio even draws out the people hiding in the basement the way that Barbra's screams did not. But neither radio or television is of much use once the power goes out and the world closes back down again to just what is going on in and around that farmhouse.

(See also that moment in Dawn of the Dead when our three heroes have their fun first consumerist trip into the mall and bring back a TV set to their attic room, which gets bookended by a couple of members of the biker gang in the final siege grabbing a couple of televisions, then realising there is nothing being broadcast any more instead smash them up with a sledgehammer in perhaps an overly blunt, but very funny, bit of social commentary!)

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