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Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Night of the Living Dead is a 1968 American independent horror film and cult film directed by George A. Romero, starring Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea and Karl Hardman. It premiered on October 1, 1968, and was completed on a US$114,000 budget. After decades of cinematic re-releases, the film was a financial success, grossing $12 million domestically and $18 million internationally. Night of the Living Dead was heavily criticized during its release because of its explicit content, but received critical acclaim and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as a film deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant." The film entered the public domain due to an error by the distributor. The plot of the film follows Ben Huss (Duane Jones), Barbra (Judith O'Dea), and five others trapped in a rural farmhouse in Pennsylvania while the house is attacked by reanimated corpses known as 'ghouls'. Night of the Living Dead is the origin of five other Living Dead films directed by George A. Romero, and became the inspiration for two remakes.
Romero does great work with no money to spend -- though the film is quite repetitious and the mindless zombies move so slowly that any half-brained human ought to easily outrun and outmaneuver them. Nonetheless, many humans find themselves outwitted... and the film (along with the very similar Invasion of the Body Snatchers films) has inspired countless imitators and odes, including Assault on Precinct 13 and pretty much any other 'We're trapped!' horror flick. Followed by two sequels (the first of which many regard as the best of the series).
The new 'Millennium Edition' DVD (produced by quality horror distributor Elite) goes a long way toward redeeming the film for its much-maligned '30th Anniversary Edition,' produced only 3 years ago (by some cut-rate horror production company) and guilty of savagely re-editing, re-scoring, and generally screwing up a classic. This disc is done right, with a stellar transfer and fabulous Dolby 5.1 sound, plus a ton of extras, including two star-studded commentary tracks. Dig a little deeper for a couple of real gems -- the short film Night of the Living Bread and scenes from Romero's creepy, 'lost' film, There's Always Vanilla.
A 40th Anniversary Edition DVD (this one from Dimension) includes the same two commentary tracks, a Q&A with Romero, the final known interview with Duane Jones, and a feature-length documentary about the movie.
Highly recommended. Followed by Dawn of the Dead.
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