It's not unusual for video special editions to restore footage cut from a film's theatrical release. But for a classic movie to show up with the addition of some quarter hour of brand new footage shot in the style of the original is something else. No one who hasn't seen the original version of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD should watch this first, but curious fans will want to check it out.
Original director/co-writer George Romeo, who made the two official sequels, DAWN... and DAY OF THE DEAD, went on to a substantial filmmaking career. By and large, his partners in Image Ten Productions, the ad-hoc group of ten investors — mostly friends and/or business associates of Romero's advertising production company, Latent Image — didn't. The notable exception: NIGHT co-writer John A. Russo, who forged his own career as a horror novelist and filmmaker (Russo and Image Ten alumni Rudy Ricci and Russell Streiner were associated with RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, which kicked off a rival cannibal zombie series in the '80s).
Russo wrote and directed the new segments of this reworked NIGHT, and the complicated back story is probably the most interesting thing about them; they're nicely integrated into the original film, but don't enhance it. A new opening sequence reveals the origins of the cemetery zombie (Bill Hinzman), who provides the original film's first glimpse of the living dead — he's a newly executed child murderer — and introduces the manic Reverend John Hicks (Scott Vladimir Licina). It replaces the original opening shots of siblings Johnny and Barbara (Russell Streiner, Judith O'Dea) driving to the cemetery, but doesn't omit their squabbling dialogue. The second new sequence, shows a family who've died in a car crash (Diana Michelucci, Dawn Michelucci and Jessica Streiner) being devoured by zombies, and the remaining two occur near the end. The first takes place at daybreak, while Ben (Duane Jones) is still trapped in the cellar. Local TV news reporter Darlene Davies (Debbie Rochon) does stand-ups in the cemetery, and Rev. Hicks is attacked and bitten by a zombie. After the scene in which Ben is shot, the movie jumps forward a year to Davies visiting the hospitalized Reverend; miraculously, he's recovered from his zombie wound, though the experience has left him even wackier than before. Then it's back to the original ending sequence, whose bleak impact is undermined (but not destroyed) by the interruption.
The completely new score composed by Scott Vladimir Licina is excellent, haunting and understated; the original collection of library music really is cheap and cheesy. Licina is, however, really terrible as the Reverend Hicks, and Rochon... well Rochon is a second-rate scream queen gamely trying to act and not really succeeding.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: NR
- Review: It's not unusual for video special editions to restore footage cut from a film's theatrical release. But for a classic movie to show up with the addition of some quarter hour of brand new footage shot in the style of the original is something else. No one… (more)
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