Thursday, January 26

Night of the Living Dead (1990) - Nikkatsu Video VHS

At the risk of getting my horror fan card ripped from my hands and thrown into a corpse bonfire, I actually saw the remake before the original thanks to '90s Turner Network Television (or TNT). You know, back when they actually aired horror movies along with the gone-but-not-forgotten MonsterVision. I even remember their TV spot for this flick featuring the cemetery zombie bursting through the car window toward the camera as its closing shot. It's hard to see why this Tom Savini-helmed update is so vehemently panned by some, but I'm biased since NOLD '90 is one of my seminal experiences with the genre.

As an attempt to recoup some of heavy losses taken by the original's copyright change debacle, it's an admirable attempt with admirable intentions, despite ultimately collapsing at the box office. Isn't it funny just how unbankable the walking dead were before their resurgence a few years ago? The biggest alteration is the character of Barbara being taken from catatonic shambles with female genitalia to strong, self-actualized woman reflective of the cultural shift in the years since the original. However, the greatest achievement is how the same situation plays out with nearly no change in how the living have to deal with their surroundings and others even with over twenty years since Romero's classic (before cell phones and Wi-fi, that is). It almost hurts to say this, but this one stands as a far more complementary and thoughtful off-shoot to the "...of the Dead" series than George's own Document and Survival.

This Japanese VHS is no different compared to the MPAA "R" version released everywhere. The contrast is noticeably darker, like many of the country's tapes, than Columbia's U.S. presentation. The only explaination I can think of for this phenomena is Japan's NTSC video standard being set at a different black level (0 IRE) than North America's NTSC (7.5 IRE). So if the equipment in Japan used in creating the video master and VHS duplication is set to this unique standard, maybe the picture appears darker when played back though American VCRs and TVs? At least that's my theory...


Anthony1138 said...

With each viewing, I wonder why NotLD '90 is so hated as well. I view it as the Romero Dead world entry for the '90s, even though George didn't direct. It's a solid film, regardless of being a remake.

I remember watching it in HD a few years back and it was a big improvement over the US DVD. I'd love to see this released on Blu-Ray someday.

robotGEEK said...

Funny, I actually bid on one of these on eBay just the other week but lost.

I have to agree with Anthony1138. I actually love this film quite a bit and have never understood why it didn't get the respect or love it deserved. I though Savini's direction was top notch, giving it a real claustrophic feeling throughout and the cast was pretty amazing, especially Tony Todd. My only gripe would be that the makeup effects just weren't up to par with Savini's talents. Of course most people think since he's directing then he must do the effects as well, but unfortunately not and you can tell. So many scenes lost a lot of impact because of how badly the effects work was done, mainly in a lot of the opening scenes. I too would love to see a Blu-ray of this one someday. Nice VHS!

Jack J said...

So this is where the lovers of the NOTLD remake hangs out, eh. LOL. I rented this on vhs when it came out 100 yrs ago, made a vhs dupe, and really dug it! I still do. I think it's a great zombie film and I have no problem with it being a remake. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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