George Romero’s original zombies roam the earth on homevid once again in Dimension’s 40th anni DVD release of “Night of the Living Dead.” Offering the best transfer and collection of extras yet for the seminal horror pic, this single-disc incarnation finally gives fans a worthy copy of the must-have film. Dimension is pairing “Night” with the director’s fifth and most recent zombie opus, the criminally underrated series-reboot “Diary of the Dead,” which should find a bigger audience in DVD afterlife following an all-too-brief theatrical existence.
What sets Romero’s films apart from contemporary horror genre is his biting wit and keen eye for social satire. Packed with bonus features guided by Romero’s undying enthusiasm for his projects, both discs should satisfy gorehounds as well as those who appreciate his sly (and occasionally, none-too-subtle) subtexts.
While the extras on “Night” are almost reverential, “Diary” offers more typical behind-the-scene features. Romero’s commentaries on both (joined by cast and crew for a nostalgic look back at “Night,” more relaxed and technically oriented on “Diary”) are informative and fun.
It’s a bit of a misnomer to describe the collection of docs on “Night” as a feature, but “One More for the Fire” is a fairly exhaustive grouping of 10-minute vignettes exploring the pic’s production and influence on subsequent films. Likewise, “Diary” includes a highly engrossing doc collection, “For the Record,” which breaks down each aspect of production. “Familiar Voices” reveals that some of horror’s biggest icons (Stephen King, Wes Craven, Guillermo del Toro) all contributed voice acting to the film’s frequent sonic collages.
Mirroring the film’s theme of the ever-expanding world of user-created media, “Diary” also includes five short films made by Myspace contest winners. The best of the lot is “Opening Night of the Living Dead,” wherein three articulate zombies bemoan the negative representation of their species onscreen and their underrepresentation in today’s film biz.
The discs create a nice set of bookends to the long-running (though loosely related) horror series, but labyrinthian rights issues make it unlikely that we’ll ever see an ultimate box set of the films. This is the best DVD release of “Night” yet — far superior to Elite Entertainment’s bar-setting “Millennium Edition,” culled from an earlier laserdisc release.
For 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead” and 1985’s “Day of the Dead,” look no further than Anchor Bay’s stellar DVD treatments. “Dawn” comes in a four-disc set featuring three different cuts of the film. “Land of the Dead” (2004) received a cursory release that includes a handful of extras, while this is “Diary of the Dead’s” DVD debut.
Take a look at Variety’s original reviews of Romero’s zombie films: