There are plenty of reasons to be grateful for public domain rules, as they make plenty of movies easily available that wouldn’t be otherwise. But there are pitfalls as well, and there is no clearer example of this than what has befallen George A. Romero’s classic film. The great man barely saw a dime from his work, but all and sundry can fiddle with Night of the Living Dead as they see fit, and here is a textbook case. The basic premise is intact: young woman and her brother visit cemetery, are attacked by zombies, and heroine winds up part of a besieged group. Sid Haig lends his presence to liven things up a bit, but he have any real role to play until the movie is almost half-over, by which point many viewers will be sunk in boredom. The zombie attacks are tediously realized, and this is easily the most gore-free version of the story. So what is more pointless than a flesh-eating zombie film with almost no flesh-eating? A zombie movie with a twist, that’s what. Talk about pointless. A twist is to zombie movies what bicycles are to fish, but here we are stuck with one, just to irritate us further. The 3D has novelty value, and will be discussed further below, but that’s about it.
The audio is 5.1, and is unobjectionable, in that distortion and lack of clarity aren’t flaws, but it isn’t very impressive, either. The score is handled well, but surround sound effects are at a premium. We should feel surrounded by zombies. We don’t. But the fact that the sound doesn’t have any overt flaws means that most viewers won’t notice it one way or the other, given that they’re much more likely to be struggling with the picture itself.
As 3D home releases go, this is pretty good. Which is to say that it isn’t utterly wretched. The sense of depth is actually there, and objects do occasionally emerge from the screen to entertaining effect. But we’re a long, long way from perfection. No matter how one positions oneself, some degree of doubling of the picture seems to be inescapable, and the colours are disastrous: depending on how much trouble you’re having with the glasses, the colours are tinted blue or red, or are simply washed-out, more grey than anything else. It is possible to watch the film all the way through in a single sitting without a headache, I suppose, but I wouldn’t want to try.
The commentary by Haig, director Jeff Broadstreet and writer Robert Valding is informative enough, and along with the making-of featurette and Q&A session is an interesting look into how such a thing as this effort comes to be (see: public domain, mentioned previously). A second behind-the-scenes featurette focuses on how the 3D was achieved, and I have to admire the budget-conscious ingenuity. Also present: trailers, TV and radio spots, a 3D still gallery and four pairs of glasses.
Basically, this is yet another indignity inflicted on a classic, this time with a novel gimmick.