Thanks to DVDTalk for Some of the Screen Grabs. Read their Review Here!
By the time that you read this, Twilight Time’s limited edition Blu-ray of Tom Savini’s 1990 version of Night of the Living dead has long been sold out. Unless you’re looking to spend some serious cash on Amazon or eBay, you’re just not going to be able to buy it. With that in mind…
I’m not going to write a review for the Blu-ray as it’s pointless. Simply put, if you didn’t nab one of the 3,000 Blu-rays from Twilight Time’s website for $29.99, you’re shit out of luck. Believe me, though, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m writing this editorial only to exorcise some demons. To get this out of my system. The truth is that I’ve never been more annoyed with the transfer of a film in my entire life.
Note: The darker images to follow are from the new Blu-ray and have not been altered in any way.
Night of the Living Dead 1990, despite its shortcomings, has developed quite a fan following. That would explain why Twilight Time sold out of pre-orders in about a week. Since all pieces were accounted for, the company decided to ship them out early to fans instead of having them wait until the originally announced release date of October 9th. I’m not going to get into the history of the original 1968 version and the 1990 version because it’s all been well documented time and time again. Me? I was just happy to finally get to see the film’s incredible looking flesh-eaters in glorious 1080p. I popped my popcorn excitedly, cranked up the sound system, and it began.
During its opening moments the print looked glorious. Every blade of grass… the cemetery gates… I was thrilled. A few minutes in I looked down to grab a handful of popcorn, and when I looked back up…. everything was blue. Dark. Tinted. Puzzled, I grabbed for my remote, thinking that somehow my PlayStation 3 had dimmed the screen because of inactivity. Anyone who has a PS3 knows full well what I’m talking about. I pressed buttons. Moved sticks. Nothing. No difference. It was from that moment on when I knew something was amiss. This transfer had been altered.
One of the things that had worked about Savini’s Night of the Living Dead was that the film’s opening was all the more jarring because the terror that unfolds within its first few minutes took place on a beautiful sunny day. A wondrous day when everything went to hell. The print before me looked as if all of a sudden the horrid day-for-night filming technique had been slapped in place. Could it be that I got a bad copy? A quick check of the Internet revealed that I was not alone and this was not my imagination. Even more frightening… this wasn’t a mistake either.
After some Twitter conversations and research the devil in the details revealed itself. Back in 2010 Sony Pictures was going to do a 20th Anniversary Edition of Night of the Living Dead 1990. To oversee the high definition transfer, the film’s director of photography, Frank Prinzi, was brought in. Prinzi got to work on the transfer and darkened the film, giving it a strange blue tint. Even more puzzling, Savini approved this transfer, stating recently, “I watched it last night, and it’s beautiful. I can’t see anything wrong with it, and I watched it on my 70-inch high-def Sharp.” Wow, Tom! I wish everyone had your TV! True, this is the filmmaker’s art, and we as fans don’t really have the right to tell anyone how we think the film should look, but come the hell on! This is nothing short of ridiculous. We’re talking Alien vs. Predator: Requiem dark. As if the lighting rig had run out of juice. These changes are not subtle. They’re fucking dramatic. Have a look at these comparison shots…
What is the point of bringing a movie to Blu-ray high definition if you can barely see what the hell’s going on?
Obviously the 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray had never been released by Sony so Twilight Time came in, licensed it, and put it out for limited distribution without ever checking to see if any alterations were made to the movie, etc. I don’t really blame them too much, and since their best selling Blu-ray release has ignited a fan-based shitstorm, they’ve gone on record as saying, “Going forward, if TT encounters another situation where the new transfer differs greatly from the old, we will bring that to collectors’ attention prior to the disc being offered so that you may know of the changes beforehand.”
Even more frustrating…. there are moments during the night scenes both outside and in the house that look absolutely stellar. Once the lights are on and the fireplace is going, things can look pretty crisp, but it doesn’t stay that way. Sooner or later the blue tint comes back for more, thereby destroying the glorious 1080p details. There are scenes in which Bill Butler’s character of Tom looks as if his jacket is painted on, void of any detail as if it were just floating around. It’s maddening A quick Google search will reveal a ton of fan outcry, calling for this one’s head or blaming that one. This is one heaping and steaming pile of disappointment.
I remember reading an interview in Fangoria years ago before the movie came out with make-up effects supervisor John Vulich, who stated that he and his team had spent countless hours going to morgues, attending autopsies, and looking at pictures of real dead bodies as a means to accurately replicate the color and shading of corpses. Their goal was to make these things look as real as could be. With this film they perfected that whole yellowish jaundice look. It truly was some disturbing and stellar work. Now it’s gone because everyone looks blue. Blue, blue, blue. And why blue? Couldn’t it be darkened without laying a blue tint over things?
I’m disgusted, disheartened and super-pissed about this. Immediately I retrieved my old DVD copy out of my “get rid of” pile. So there you have it, kids. It’s just one of those things. All we can do is hope that when Twilight Time’s three-year exclusivity window closes, someone else will come along and give us the transfer that we want. It’s doubtful, though… if Savini’s happy with this blotchy mess, then we are probably just stuck with it.
And the curse of everything with the label Night of the Living Dead continues to shamble on…
Special Note: To all of you bastards selling this on the web at astronomical prices I pray daily to the video gods that karma comes around and bites off your ass. May this article discourage the buyers you intend to gouge, and serve only to fuck you back.
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