Believe it or not, there were more than four different colorized versions of Night of the Living Dead created!
Last week, we began a series to honor George Romero’s seminal film, the 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead, by examining some of its more interesting adaptations. As the film has unwittingly become the most copied, ripped-off, riffed-on, adapted and unofficially sequel-ed horror movie of all time, we thought we’d try and stick with adaptations that pay tribute to the original in some interesting and creative way. Check out last weeks article: Reanimated.
This week, we will cover an area of contention in many purists’ books. And that is the colorization of the black and white original.
Home Video Distributors (1980′s)
The first color versions of Night of the Living Dead crawled out of the ground during the crazy (and mostly misguided) colorization of black and white films in the 80′s. As the 1968 NOTLD had fully lost its original owners (and creators) by then, due to an unfortunate copyright error, it became fair game for anyone with a buck and distribution. Home video distributors crawled all over it like maggots on a corpse, and produced many ghastly colored versions. Not that these videos should be viewed as anything but abominations, if you come across one these days, they might be worth something, as most of them are impossible to find (and I guess, good riddance to them).
Hal Roach Studios (1986)
In 1983, Hal Roach Studios was one of the first studios to venture into the controversial business of film colorization. Buying a fifty percent interest in Wilson Markle’s Colorization Inc, it began creating digitally colored versions of several Laurel and Hardy features, the Frank Capra film It’s a Wonderful Life. It also colorized Night of the Living Dead.
The ghouls had pale green skin.
Anchor Bay Entertainment (1997)
Anchor Bay has a long history of releasing horror movies, especially cult films from the 1970s and 1980s. In 1997, it released a colorized version of Night of the Living Dead, to coincide with their release of the director’s cut of Dawn of the Dead. They also have distribution rights to Day of the Dead.
The ghouls in Anchor Bay’s 1997 colorized version had grey skin.
Legend Films (2004 & 2009)
Legend Films started business providing restoration and colorization of classic black-and-white films. With the refocusing of the company efforts to the 3D conversion business, the company officially changed its name to Legend3D, Inc. in the summer of 2010.
Legend produced two colored versions of the film. The first was produced in 2004, which technology critic (DVDBeaver.com) Gary W. Tooze called “damn impressive,” but noticed the print used was not as sharp as other releases of the film. The second was actually colorized and converted to 3D. Legend founder Barry Sandrew described it as the first entirely live action 2D film ever to be converted to 3D.
Sacrilege? Perhaps. Interesting to people who love all things Night of the Living Dead? Absolutely. As I mentioned in the previous article, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery– or so they say. The real question is: Is it really worthwhile? One of the appeals of the 1968 original, according to hardcore fans, is the film’s grimy feel. The black and white print definitely conveys that. Even some of the B&W “restored for DVD” versions “look TOO good” according to Romero. George DID authorize the colorizations in these latter versions, including a fully colored 1990 remake by master SFX guru Tom Savini, in 1990. We’ll be taking a look at this remake in an upcoming article.
What are your views on the colorization of this or other classics?
(DVD Restoration) Pre – and – Post
NOTLD (Color) Hal Roach Studios (1986) – NOTLD (Color) Legend Films (2004)
George A Romero is a long-standing member of the Advisory Board for the Zombie Research Society.