Evening of the Living Dead: 2

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Spider, Tidal Bore Hotel, Nova Scotia.

“What’s the deal with the preacher?” Kylan said, pointing to a creepy guy with a goatee. “He doesn’t even look like a preacher. He looks like a guitarist for a goth band.”

“And why does all the music sound like it was composed on a Casio?” I rejoined.

Come to think of it, what ever happened to those two goofy undertakers at the beginning? And why was the priest carrying a puppy at the end? And who was that reporter interviewing him…?

If you’ve only seen the original Night of the Living Dead, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. As it turned out, we were watching the “30th Anniversary Edition,” a film heavily modified by co-writer John A. Russo in 1999. Russo and his team removed about 15 minutes of the original film and added new footage, filmed with many of the original actors. Russo succeeded enough to fool us: The additions were bizarre, but then again, so is the rest of the movie.

When we reached the end, we were confused. What had we just witnessed? By the time we realized our mistake, it was too late. We had already “seen” Night of the Living Dead, if only as a hackneyed new version. Most of the middle was intact – including the bloodthirsty little girl devouring her own father – but it was impossible to tell the original movie from its additions. That night I spent hours sifting through YouTube clips, comparing the 1968 version with Russo’s little extras.

When it comes to movies, you only have one chance to see a film for the first time. I still remember seeing Citizen Kane (with my Dad) and Apocalypse Now (in my friend’s basement), and those first viewings are as clear today as any re-mastered print. Cinephiles like me are always eager for that first communion with a classic. If Night of the Living Dead didn’t live up to expectation, it’s not George Romero’s fault. It was ruined by Russo, who upheld a common myth: Masterpieces aren’t good enough as they are, and should be tampered with.

If I ever stumble into Romero on the street – which is always a possibility – I’ll have to apologize for the mix-up. After waiting so many years, it’s a shame to mar my favorite holiday in such a way. But I take heart: In a year, Night of the Living Dead may feel fresh again, and maybe I’ll give it another whirl. And regardless of what happens, there’s always Dawn of the Dead. The original, this time.

  1. Which can’t come to an end soon enough: Zombies or Vampires?

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