Debacle Of The Dead

Another unsung trivia nugget unearthed by greg moss.

For the last several years I have been on a quest …

Forget the ark … or the holy grail … or the stones of sankara.

I’ve been on a quest to find a dvd copy of this movie which includes a few missing seconds of footage cut from the ‘silver sphere pumping blood from the priest’s head’ sequence.

Since the days of VHS, I have owned an ex-rental copy on tape with this scene uncut, but have been unable to find it anywhere on dvd (or blu-ray for that matter).

I have half a dozen dvd copies I’ve bought over the years, from all round the world, just hoping I would one day find the one I’m looking for.

Sadly, so far, I have been denied.

Thinking about this reminded me of that other movie I own multiple copies of –

Once again, I own half a dozen dvd copies of this movie – all different aspect ratios, all varying in the quality of their transfers – all low-rent labels. All gathering dust – as I sought out the definitive version.

So why are there so many damn copies of Night of The Living Dead?

Well, as it turns out, it’s all to do with copyright – or the lack thereof.

There is an excellent 80 min doco on the 2 disk ’40th anniversary edition’ (officially sanctioned by Romero and co) in which they talk about the issue of the copyright fiasco.

Apparently it was the distributor, The Walter Read Organization, who suggested  a change of title from Night Of the Flesh Eaters to Night Of The Living Dead  just prior to release, after it was discovered there was already a film out with the title The Flesh Eaters. Unfortunately the copyright notice (attributed to Romero’s company Image Ten) was incorporated into the original title artwork, instead of being at the end of the film where it should’ve been. In removing the title and replacing it with the new one, the copyright notice was also removed.

This was only discovered some three to four years after the film’s initial release and the only copy of the original workprint (including the copyright notice) was destroyed in a flood which inundated Image Ten’s office basement in Pittsburgh where it was stored (the same basement by the way which features in the film).

This is why the film remained in the public domain for 40 years and anyone could release a copy of it on tape or dvd if they chose to.

Tom Savini’s 1990 remake (based on a new screenplay by Romero) was only produced in order to restore the copyright of the title to the filmmakers.

By the way, I urge you to stear clear of the so-called ‘30th Anniversary Edition’ which had fifteen minutes of all-new freshly-shot scenes inserted into it.

It’s awful.

Now if only I can find a dvd copy of Phantasm II with those missing few seconds …

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes right-brained people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies.

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