So I raised a few eyebrows a while back when I praised the 2004 colorized version of the late George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (1968). A couple of horror fans gave me flack for it — I hope people realize that I was talking about the last (and best) colorization, adapted by Legend Films. (There were several prior color versions, and the 1986 attempt by Hal Roach Studios was broadly and justifiably condemned.)
I also hope that people realize that my preferred version will always be Romero’s black-and-white original. And it just so happens that I found an unusually good copy of it online, over at the Timeless Classic Movie Youtube channel. (There are actually some really clean copies of a few great classics there, including 1964’s “The Last Man on Earth”).
There are actually several colorized versions of George A. Romero’s 1968 classic floating around out there — the one I watched was the quite decent 2004 revision by Legend Films. (I believe it’s the truly crude 1986 Hal Roach colorized version that is so widely reviled by fans — and with good reason. Those green-skinned zombies looked awful in that one clip I watched.)
I had a blast with the Legend Films outing. I cheerfully recommend it. The colorization isn’t perfect, and it’s a little strange seeing the start of the zombie apocalypse rendered in occasionally pastel hues. But this was a fun way to revisit a beloved film I’ve seen so often before, but only in black and white. You can also finally fully appreciate how beautiful Judith O’Dea was. (And, in my opinion, she and Duane Jones were damned terrific in this movie.)
Check out the clip below.
Well there’s one thing I can cross off my bucket list. (There’s a lot on there, and some of it’s weird.) I finally saw F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu: ein Symphonie des Grauens” (1922).
And am I damn glad I did! I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I love plenty of classic movies; “The 39 Steps” (1939) and “To Have and Have Not” (1944) are among my all-time favorites. But I’m accustomed to modern horror — my tastes generally extend only as far back as “The Birds” (1963) and “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).
I waited until I was in just the right mood. (This is the first silent film I’ve ever seen from start to finish — the only exception being Mel Brooks’ 1976 parody, “Silent Movie.”) Then I began it shortly before midnight.
The movie just worked for me. It was sublimely creepy.
I think it helped that the grainy, flickering, black-and-white period footage made this expressionist movie utterly atmospheric for a modern viewer. These, combined with the shots of Max Schreck superbly made up as “Count Orlok,” were damned unsettling. Schreck also appeared to be a great physical actor, with his gaunt stance and stilted, inhuman movements. (Was he unusually tall too?)
The vintage footage also enhanced my enjoyment of the movie in a way that Murnau probably couldn’t have expected. I know this is strange, but … nearly a century later, the thought that occurred to me several times during this movie was this: “Everyone involved in this production is long dead by now.” Yes, I know that is a morbid thought — I’ve never done that before! I think it was just the film itself that did that to me — it’s about undeath and immortality, after all.
It also helped that I’d read Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (1897), of which this film is an unauthorized adaptation. The resulting lawsuit by Stoker’s estate is interesting reading: supposedly all copies of the movie were ordered by the courts to be destroyed, bankrupting Prana, the production company. But a permanent cult following developed for the few surviving prints.
Anyway, I followed this up with the palate-cleansing “Night on Bald Mountain,” the final segment of Disney’s “Fantasia” (1944). That combination, too, totally worked for me — I followed up the black-and-white nightmare-fuel of the seminal vampire film with some vivid, incongruously hellish Disney nightmare-fuel.
“Nosferatu” is in the public domain. You can view the entire film on Youtube at the link below.