A Few Words About A few words about...™ Night of the Living Dead (1990) -- in Blu-ray

Robert Harris

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Interestingly billed as George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, but directed by special effects and make-up guru Tom Savini, this a Blu-ray release from Sony via Twilight Time, that seem to be raising some hackles on line.

The image scans seem fine. But here's where it gets murky. This is another one of those cases, in which the Blu-ray doesn't match earlier versions of the film on video, and some changes are major.

I'm unable to speak to the look of the film from its 1990 theatrical release, as I missed it, but here's what I've learned about the history of the film on home video, and it couldn't be more simple.

This release is the first time that the film has ever had anyone involved in the production overseeing the transfer. It was a totally unsupervised transfer. When this occurs, its unfortunate.

The upshot is that the audience gets used to seeing the film in a certain way, presumes that its correct, and finally, when the production does get a proper image harvest and color correction, the belief is that its wrong. I had precisely the same situation in 1989 with a certain desert picture, which was wrong.

Suffice to say, that the DP was involved in the final work, and that I'm now told that the director has seen it, and loves the final version.

I'm uninvolved in this, don't know the film well, and certainly didn't come here to watch a tribal bloodbath.

All of the information that I received, after reaching out, tells me that this Blu-ray reasonably replicates the look desired by the filmmakers.

As an aside, my friend Roy Frumkes, who has been chronicling these films for decades, plays a zombie in the sequence with Tony Todd on the porch.

Great fun.

RAH
 

Michael Elliott

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I like the remake. Most people call Savini and Romero moneysucking leeches for remaking a classic but I understood their need or want to do so. Too bad they didn't care enough in 1990 to make sure the "right" transfer got out and it's too bad no one took the time to correct it for the next 22 years. Congrats to them on the 3000 sales.
 

Vincent_P

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Michael Elliott said:
I like the remake. Most people call Savini and Romero moneysucking leeches for remaking a classic but I understood their need or want to do so. Too bad they didn't care enough in 1990 to make sure the "right" transfer got out and it's too bad no one took the time to correct it for the next 22 years. Congrats to them on the 3000 sales.
I sincerely doubt they had it in their contracts way back then to have final approval over the video versions.
I'm also a fan of the film. I loved it when I saw it theatrically back in 1990 and think it still holds up. I like the little twists and turns that were written into the screenplay in contrast to the original. Can't wait to view my Blu-ray!
Vincent
 

haineshisway

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Here's what I just posted on the other board where the vitriol and histrionics have run to over 5,000 posts. I'm including a post I quoted because it made points that no one else in all those 5,000 posts had made - and they were obvious points - funnily not one person responded to this guy's post until me):
Why do people keep saying birds don't chirp at dusk? Mine do all the time. Isn't it also reasonable to believe that if the dead were rising, that the birds might be a little jittery?
Also with the montage showing the moon rising, it's also reasonable to believe its transitioning from dusk to dark and not day to dark (unless it's actually showing the sun go down, which I didn't see... but could of missed it). It would also make sense for this to not be the middle of the day, because when we do see the moon montage, what the hell were they doing for the last 8 hours?
Barbara's brother also repeatedly states that this was a 200mile drive, which very well could mean that they arrived later in the day.
I thought mine looked great and i liked how the darkness really set the mood, afterall, its night of the living dead, not day of the... although some of the blue could of been toned down (didn't we complain that there wasn't enough blue in Halloween?)
That being said, if the director did in fact say he liked that this was shot at daytime, then it shouldn't have been changed.
Not having much recollection of how it originally looked, Im happy with my copy, but I do feel for the real fans who remember it the other way. Unless a director comes up with a very good reason on why he changed something, just give us the original please...
Then I said:
It's amusing to me, and not in a good way, that no one, not one person, responded to this post, which is filled with good points. I have now seen the Blu-ray. The caveat about my comments that follow is that this is the first time I've seen this film (and the last). The quality of this Blu-ray transfer cannot be faulted in any way, shape or form. You can argue until the cows come home (they went to Ecuador when they saw how long this thread was) about the color timing, but you cannot argue about the quality of the transfer - it looks great in the context of what it is.
I've seen all these caps - of the DVD - of the Blu - you can all give all the reasons in the world how they're accurate and we're all at fault somehow because we're not viewing them correctly. You know what? If caps can't be posted on a discussion board so that everyone can view them simply and easily in a way that reflects what is actually on the disc, then they shouldn't be posted at all. I don't want to have to go hook my computer up to my TV and do this and do that, but then again, I am not obsessive/compulsive. The caps on this board do not in any way reflect what I watched. Enough people have said this now, so I'm not a voice in the wilderness. You can see everything you need to see. No, it is not bright like the DVD.
My guess is the following: I'd bet that the that the look of this film lies somewhere in the middle of this Blu-ray and the VHS - i.e. that the theatrical prints were brighter but not as bright as the DVD. The DP of the film probably decided he finally had the tools to enable him to get the look that was his intention and he did it. It probably is not as severe-seeming between the prints and the Blu as it is from the VHS/DVD to the Blu. But everything in the post I quoted above is accurate, IMO. Anyone who doesn't think birds chirp at dusk and in the evening is either deaf or lives somewhere where there are no birds. There are birds right outside my window who are chirping NOW at seven thirty-six in the evening. There are birds who chirp in the middle of the night - I know this because they occasionally wake me up. I've been talking about these chirping birds for years elsewhere. Also, the film opens in light, but, for me, it is clearly later afternoon, not noon. The shadows are long as they would be in the later afternoon. So, whether one likes it or not, when the dusk look appears, which is gradual, it makes perfect sense. As to the montage, I agree with the poster above - the key moment in that montage is the moon rising - either I, like the poster above, missed the shot of the sun, or it simply isn't really there. The latter part of the film in the morning looks rather like the first part of the film in what I think is the later afternoon.
So, yes it's probably different than the theatrical timing but also probably not nearly as drastic as the DVD. The rabid fans of the film have been watching the DVD transfer (made off a lo-con print which is always many stops brighter than any theatrical print would be) hundreds of times (and I won't even comment on that) and that's what they're used to. So, for them, this won't work, even though, IMO, it makes perfect sense for the story being told. But just to reiterate: There is not one shot in this transfer that is too dark. The transfer has wonderful detail. That is my two centimes.
 

Oblivion138

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Looks vastly different from the DVD, and I'm fine with that. The DP and director approve, and so do I. Glad I picked this up.
And a nice side-effect of all this ridiculous hoopla...I've seen several "re-sellers" (what scalpers call themselves) saying that they're sending back the tenor twelve copies that they ordered because they don't want to deal with the complaints from their customers (whom they would charge $100 or more for the out-of-print disc that is only out-of-print because scalpers bought it in bulk). And, well...anything that prevents scalpers from ripping people off is a good thing, in my book.
 

Radioman970

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Love the film. Have the DVD, love it. It's exactly what I remember from my cable viewing. But checking out the comparison shots, I'm interested in this blu ray. I'll definitely be getting it if they will release it more widely and a better price. Otherwise, staying with my DVD.
 

Bob Cashill

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From TT today: October 5 - "We are receiving a number of inquiries from fans who missed out on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 1990 Blu-ray initially, and would now like to obtain a copy. A very limited amount of copies will be available again on October 26th, 4pm EST. These will be limited to 1 per customer, and to those who had not previously ordered one from us."
 

Russell G

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Shame such a good film is such a hassle to get. This should of hit the box stores for Halloween. :(
 

Michael Elliott

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Vincent_P said:
I sincerely doubt they had it in their contracts way back then to have final approval over the video versions.
I'm also a fan of the film. I loved it when I saw it theatrically back in 1990 and think it still holds up. I like the little twists and turns that were written into the screenplay in contrast to the original. Can't wait to view my Blu-ray!
Vincent
You'd be the person to ask but wouldn't Savini have noticed the problem back before the film was released? I understand he's happy with the look of it today (or at least saying so not to hurt sales) but horror fans know this guy loves to talk and is a great person to listen to. I just find it strange that not once in the past 22 years has he ever stated that the color timing has always been off. It seems like every aspect of the film has been covered by him through various chats yet this issue never became a factor until this release. As a director I'm guessing he didn't just turn the movie over when he was finished shooting it so shouldn't he have seen that the colors were wrong and had them fixed? Or did the budget and studio simply not allow him to correct the mistake before they pushed it into theaters?
 

Robert Harris

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Michael Elliott said:
You'd be the person to ask but wouldn't Savini have noticed the problem back before the film was released? I understand he's happy with the look of it today (or at least saying so not to hurt sales) but horror fans know this guy loves to talk and is a great person to listen to. I just find it strange that not once in the past 22 years has he ever stated that the color timing has always been off. It seems like every aspect of the film has been covered by him through various chats yet this issue never became a factor until this release. As a director I'm guessing he didn't just turn the movie over when he was finished shooting it so shouldn't he have seen that the colors were wrong and had them fixed? Or did the budget and studio simply not allow him to correct the mistake before they pushed it into theaters?
While I have no direct info toward answering your question, I can tell you one thing.
Columbia Pictures, at that time, was not a friendly place, nor did those in charge take much of an interest in getting things correct, taking direction, or care what a final product looked like.
It was all just tape, time and mastering costs. The final product was VHS, the lowest resolution means of "art" since cave paintings.
Nothing could matter less.
 

Oblivion138

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I certainly trust Mr. Crisp and his team (especially working in conjunction with the film's DP) far more than the folks who were mastering for Columbia back in the early '90s.
 

Richard Gallagher

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Originally Posted by Michael Elliott /t/324230/a-few-words-about-night-of-the-living-dead-1990-in-blu-ray#post_3985186
You'd be the person to ask but wouldn't Savini have noticed the problem back before the film was released? I understand he's happy with the look of it today (or at least saying so not to hurt sales) but horror fans know this guy loves to talk and is a great person to listen to. I just find it strange that not once in the past 22 years has he ever stated that the color timing has always been off. It seems like every aspect of the film has been covered by him through various chats yet this issue never became a factor until this release. As a director I'm guessing he didn't just turn the movie over when he was finished shooting it so shouldn't he have seen that the colors were wrong and had them fixed? Or did the budget and studio simply not allow him to correct the mistake before they pushed it into theaters?
The film was made on a budget of $4.2 million, a miniscule amount by 1990 standards. Flatliners, also released by Columbia in 1990, had a budget of $26 million.

I doubt that Savini is concerned about sales of the Blu-ray. It was essentially sold out before it was released, although a limited number of copies will be made available online on October 26. See Bob Cashill's note above.
 

Michael Allred

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Michael Elliott said:
You'd be the person to ask but wouldn't Savini have noticed the problem back before the film was released? I understand he's happy with the look of it today (or at least saying so not to hurt sales) but horror fans know this guy loves to talk and is a great person to listen to. I just find it strange that not once in the past 22 years has he ever stated that the color timing has always been off. It seems like every aspect of the film has been covered by him through various chats yet this issue never became a factor until this release. As a director I'm guessing he didn't just turn the movie over when he was finished shooting it so shouldn't he have seen that the colors were wrong and had them fixed? Or did the budget and studio simply not allow him to correct the mistake before they pushed it into theaters?
Have to agree here. You would think, at SOME point, Savini, in an interview, at a horror convention, *any place or time*, would have mentioned how the DVD is off/inaccurate/wrong, etc in terms of it's look, coloring, whatever. I find the timing very odd.
 

Radioman970

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Savini in the 90s: "The DVD is wrong don't buy it. I don't want the money anyway."
Savini in the 2010s: "The Blu ray is wrong don't buy it. I don't want the money anyway."
I'd keep my trap shut too!
 

iDarren

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Michael Allred said:
Have to agree here. You would think, at SOME point, Savini, in an interview, at a horror convention, *any place or time*, would have mentioned how the DVD is off/inaccurate/wrong, etc in terms of it's look, coloring, whatever. I find the timing very odd.
What is odd about it? He clearly felt that the DVD looked fine with no errors.
 

Greg_D_R

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After watching the whole blu-ray, I have to say, the blue tint looks terrible. This is a revisionist transfer, and no matter who did it or supervised it, I think they made the wrong decision. It goes beyond just color balance, at least for the title sequence with the full moon, because you can easily see that the levels have been crushed to the point that the gradient around the moon is much smaller and pixellated compared to the DVD. I always liked the opening daytime shots of this film, because the idea of horrific events occurring in an otherwise idyllic summer setting gave them an extra punch. The bottom line is, they should have left it alone and stuck to the theatrical color balance. If this had been a more popular film like Fellowship of the Ring or some such, we would hear a few more dissenting voices on this thread, but as it is, I'll have to say it: Patti Tallman looks like a Smurf in some of the opening shots of this film, and it's ridiculous. Avatar of the Living Dead.
 

Radioman970

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Greg_D_R said:
... I always liked the opening daytime shots of this film, because the idea of horrific events occurring in an otherwise idyllic summer setting gave them an extra punch. The bottom line is, they should have left it alone and stuck to the theatrical color balance. ....
I agree with the first part. For me, seeing it blue and darker is s curiosity. Most likely I'll end up regretting the purchase of this bluray.
 
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I never saw this movie before watching the Blu-ray, and I thought it looked great. The new timing gives it a really creepy vibe.
However, last night I downloaded the VUDU HDX version (over 5 gigs) and sampled some of it on my PS3, planning to watch the whole thing soon, and I have to say I may prefer the original timing—however close this is to the theatrical timing, that is. I like old movies to look like old movies, not rife with over-processed digital tinkering, revamping, and revisionism. The Twilight Time BD still looks super cool in its own way, but I think I like the more "real" look of the HDX version more. Particularly when it comes to the heavily blue-tinted footage, which lasts around ten minutes near the beginning of the BD. Seeing the long-casting shadows at the farmhouse and the sun resting behind the trees during the day-to-night sequence make so much more sense now; not only does this footage make more sense, but it looks better with the original timing as well. I like color in my movies; modern tampering to sap and diminish all color is rather depressing.
It's cool that I can own both, but I wish the HDX transfer were on BD with a higher bitrate.
By the way, if people own the BD they can get the HDX download for $2 if they bring it to a Walmart photo center, but they want to stamp your disc to verify the "transfer" was done, and I didn't want them marking up a limited collector's item like that. I got a $5.99 credit for signing up to VUDU with my PS3, so I put that toward the full purchase and just paid $6, so that's not bad. Alternately, bringing in the DVD and paying $5 gets you the HDX (1080p) download as well.
 

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