The Import Corner: Night of the Living Dead (1990) Blu-ray Review (Umbrella Entertainment)

By | December 15, 2016 Leave a Comment

After the trainwreck that was the Twilight Time blu-ray, can Umbrella Entertainment save Night of the Living Dead from being a blu-ray joke?

Released by:Umbrella Entertainment

Release Date: October 19th, 1990 (Theatrical)
                        April 6th, 2016 (Blu-ray)

Region Code: REGION FREE

Run Time: 1h 28m

Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 

Video: 1080p (1.78:1 Aspect Ratio)



THE FEATURES [3.5 out of 4]

Commentary with Director Tom Savini

This is a good commentary if you can get past the dryness of it. Savini sounds like a film historian more than a filmmaker. Besides that he talks about shooting in Pittsburgh and there is a lot of talk about the special effects used in the film.

I liked the commentary, but I wish that there was someone else in the booth with him to feed him questions. Would have made the track much better. Still it is not a bad commentary.

The Dead Walk Featurette (24m 54s, SD, 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio)

This featurette first showed up on the film’s dvd release back in the early 2000’s. We get a history of the original film as well as the reasoning behind remaking the film in the first place.  We then move on to some Savini history. There is a lot of talk about the special effects with a bit of behind the scenes footage shown.

This is a surprisingly thorough featurette. I learned a lot about what went into making this film. I did not know that the film ran afoul with the MPAA which resulted in much of the gore being removed from the film. We do get to see some of that gore, but this is the only place we get to see it.

Interview with Director Tom Savini (28m 7s, HD)

This is one of three brand new interviews conducted by Severin Films. Savini talks candidly about the film and how he had a miserable time making the film. He was going through a divorce at the time and was fearing losing his daughter.  He was not able to watch the film until a few years ago and know he likes the film. He also talks about how George A. Romero was not on set except for the first day of filming and during the last few days. We do learn that scenes were cut from the shooting schedule or changed all together because “there was no time”. There is one scene he talks about that was changed and that was the last scene in the film. It would have played out very differently and, I think, for the better.


This is a great interview. I learned a lot about the behind the scenes shenanigans that took place and how Savini just had to take the hits just so he could have his name on the film as director. Definitely worth the watch.

Interview with Special Effects Team John Vulch and Everett Burrell (21m 3s, HD)

This is the second of three new interviews and it is ok. The guys talk briefly about their work on Day of the Dead as well as the Fred Olin Rey films they did (although they don’t name them). They had worked for Savini before so they knew they would be in good hands. They talk about  visiting the Pittsburgh morgue and watching an actual autopsy. We learn that some of the head shots (most of which were cut from the film) were done by firing a real shotgun on set. Of course this is very illegal now, but back then it was something that would happen a lot on low budget horror film. Savini had done it before in Maniac and the famous head exploding scene in Scanners was done the same way. There is a lot of behind the scenes footage shown throughout this interview.

Interview with Patricia Tallman (16m 31s, HD)

Rounding out the trio of new interviews is this interview with the heroine of the film. She talks about her first working with Savini on Knightriders. She also talks a bit about working with Bill Mosely and how he was very helpful with some of the legal paperwork that Tallman had to fill out. She has gone on to work with Mosley a few more times. She also didn’t know that the production was in trouble until Romero showed up on set.

All in all these are some fine interviews

Behind the Scenes Featurette (8m 15s, Upconverted HD)

Not really a featurette, more of a fly on the wall type thing. We get to see some footage of the opening scene being shot before we move into more footage of the special effects.

Trailer (1m 6s, HD)

There is just something about trailers from the 80’s and 90’s that make me smile. Can’t tell what it is, but it is there and this is one of those trailers.

THE PACKAGING [3 out of 4]


Umbrella has given us a nice looking package for Night of the Living Dead. The front cover is the original theatrical poster. It looks very nice and gets the job done.

The reverse cover features nicely drawn zombies that appear to be looking at us.


The disc art is the same as the front cover, but the title of the film is nowhere to be found, which is kind of strange, but not unheard of.


The case is the regular 14mm amaray case that is used in the UK as well as Australia.

The disc is REGION FREE (even if the packaging says otherwise) and I had no problems playing this in my REGION A Playstation 3.

THE PICTURE [3.5 out of 4]

When Night of the Living Dead 1990 was released from Twilight Time a few years ago there was a lot of debate of the blue tint that was placed on the film. Many cried foul saying this is not the way the film is supposed to look. The new interviews found on this disc contain snippets of the Twilight Time transfer and I can say that I like the way the transfer found on this disc a lot more than the Twilight Time transfer.


Gone is the blue tint and welcomed back is the natural color palette. The transfer does start and end very rocky with specks of dirt showing their face many times. I was a little bit worried that the whole film would look like this, but they go away by the time Barbara makes it to the house.

Colors are strong and blacks are deep. There is a lot of detail seen throughout the film although there are a few shots in the film that don’t fare so well. This might have had to do with the film being a low budget affair and they really didn’t bother me.

I did not see any digital enhancements like edge enhancement or DNR so that is to report.

All in all, I think that this a nice transfer and miles ahead of the Twilight Time version.


THE SOUND [3 out of 4]

We get a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack and I was pleased with what I heard. The soundtrack is robust when it needs to be and quiet the other times. There are a few instances when the dialogue is muffled or unusually quiet. I again chalk this up to the low budget of the film. Other than that I was happy with the sound.


THE FILM [2.5 out of 4]

I went into this film blind. I had heard from many people that this film was trash and to go nowhere near it. I heeded that advice until this version of the film was released. I had heard that people were coming around to the positive feeling pertaining to this film and I was able to get it really cheap, so I decided to finally see the film.

The first thing that I noticed about the film was that the sense of dread was gone. The original had a foreboding feel to it. That may be because the film was shot for almost no money, but I have felt this feeling in Romero’s other work too.

As an audience, we were scared of the ghouls in the 1968 version of the film, but the 1990 version it seems like we are going through the motions. Not much is done to differentiate itself from the ’68 version outside of a few things.


The first is that they made Barbara a heroine instead of a prop. In the original, she did nothing but scream and cry and stare blankly into the distance. Here she starts out that way , but decides to fight. 
This is more in line with how people would naturally act during something like what the characters are facing.

By making Barbara into the heroine, you would think that the filmmakers would lesson Ben’s role, but the man is still kicking ass and taking names (although he is not slapping white woman in this version). Ben is still the defacto leader of the group and does just as much as Barbara in the film.

The second thing is the makeup is really so much better in this version. Romero had no money to work with so he worked with what he had. Savini has a budget (a small one, but still better than what Romero had) and he uses it to make the dead a lot more gruesome.

You would think that this being a Romero and Savini project that the blood would be flying, but that is not the case. The film was chopped up by the MPAA, resulting in a very tame film that has no bite. Savini says that the film plays better without those shots, but I think that the film plays more like a made for cable feel to it.


That made for cable feel is made all the more clear when you hear the music for the film. It is awful. 
The whole time I felt like I was watching another Leprechaun or Children of the Corn film. There is a lot of emphasis on using synthesizers, and that would be fine if it didn’t sound so cheap. There are plenty of scores that use the same tools the composer used here, but those scores are much better than the one found here. It seems so small and cheap.

I can say that I did like a lot of the film, but it seemed very tame to me and know I why. Still the actors are very good here and they are the driving force for the film. The film falters when the characters do something really stupid and that seems to be a lot. The thing is: the characters were just as dumb in the original. I think it all comes down to that sense of dread that I talked about earlier. It isn’t here and that is a shame because it would have made for a better film than what we have.


OVERALL [3 out of 4]

Umbrella has been doing a lot good lately. They have given us a nice transfer and the sound is robust. The special features are really nice and contain some interviews that are exclusive to this disc. Don’t pay the high scalper prices when you can get this version, which has more, for less than $20. I would recommend this release to fans of the film, but not outside that group as the film is lacking the dread of the original.       


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