The Night of the Living Dead has been released many times, with cuts, no cuts, additional scenes, in post-converted 3-D and in colour. Originally shot on 16mm with a cast of unknowns, the late George Romero’s’ Zombie classic has been as influential on the Zombie genre as Psycho was on the slasher genre just eight years earlier. But most likely due to an oversight on its initial release back in 1968, the omission of the Copyright on the credits, the film has essentially been in the public domain ever since.
This has lead to various producers using and adapting the material as they see fit. But without going into detail on the various edits, additional scenes being shot and the 3-D version from 2009, we are discussing the colourised versions, all THREE of them.
The first from the mid 1980’s by Hal Roach, most well known for his legendary relationship with Laurel and Hardy, producing the double act in their prime.
But I have only seen the latter two versions, the 1993 colourised take which is available on the 2002 DVD edition and the 2004 Anchor Bay version whcih I have seen quite readily on YouTube.
There is no doubt that the 2004 version is the best, with a remastered print and more up to date colourisation technology at their disposal, but the 1997 version is quite acceptable to. The most notable differences are the natural skin colour of the Zombies in the 1993 print against the green skin in the Hal Roach version and the Grey in the 2004 edition.
Also, the 1997 has white text on the credits, whilst the 2004 has yellow as well as the word “Night” being red in the opening titles.
But all this aside, what is the point of colourisation?
Well, besides presenting a different perspective of the visuals, very little. I am against it in principle but I must admit that the novelty value of seeing Laurel and Hardy in colour or The Night of the Living Dead in bright hues in interesting but given the choice, I would always opt for seeing a film as it was originally shot and presented, not bastardised into a crowd appeasing format.
If Night Of The Living Dead had been shot in colour, the lighting would have been significantly different as in colour, bright and cheerful as it is, it detracts from the eerie and depressing tone of the original monochrome version, one which has quite rightly gone down as a genre defining classic.
Bear that in mind…