Sog., F., M.: George A. Romero. Scen.: George A. Romero, John A. Russo. Int.: Duane Jones (Ben), Judith O’ Dea (Barbra), Karl Hardman (Harry Cooper), Russell Streiner (Johnny), Marilyn Eastman (Helen Cooper), Keith Wayne (Tom), Judith Ridley (Judy), Kyra Schon (Karen Cooper). Prod.: Karl Hardman, Russell Streiner per Image Ten. DCP 4K. D.: 96’. Bn
By far the most influential horror film of the last fifty years, George A. Romero’s 1968 classic is also one of the most abused – having been subjected, because of its public-domain status, to well over hundred home video releases of abysmal quality.
But now, working from the original camera negative – carefully guarded over the years by the members of Image Ten, the Pittsburgh partnership that originally produced it – The Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation have partnered to return the film to its full, original glory. Not only is the image sharper, cleaner and crisper than it has appeared since the film was first photographed – there is also more of it, as the film can now be seen in its full frame, 1.33 form, as Romero originally intended it.
From the barrier-breaking casting of an African American leading man (Duane Jones) to its reinvention of the zombie as a metaphorical figure of seemingly infinite richness, this is one American independent movie that has left a profound mark on global culture. For Romero, horror resides not in a distant, supernatural realm, but in the blunt, tragic physicality of the human body – its relentless need to consume, its irreversible process of decay. The film’s open-ended allegorical structure has invited a wide range of readings, from the political (as a critique of the Vietnam War) to the metaphysical (as a disquisition on body and soul). Remakes, variations and hommages continue to pour in from around the world, including the long-running American television series The Walking Dead and the recent Korean sensation Train to Busan. The Night of the Living Dead, it seems, will never die.