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Who knew that the walking dead could also suffer from a serious case of pimples? That’s how horror maestro, George A. Romero, characterizes the various flubs and flaws that are on display in his breakthrough feature film, 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, which single-handedly launched the zombie movie boom. Still, the director was surprisingly leery about clearing up any of those zits for the movie’s new 4K digital restoration, made possible by the Museum of Modern Art’s “To Save and Project” program. “You never know whether you should change it. It’s all about, ‘Do you want to leave the pimples?’ Because there’s a lot of pimples!” Romero remarks in this exclusive clip from a Q&A that followed the Nov. 5 world premiere of his fully restored zombie classic. (As of now, no wider release is planned, but Romero has said that this represents the “definitive version” of the film, supplanting years of sub-par public domain prints.)
Granted, some of those pimples, like a visible copy of the script in one scene, would have been difficult to conceal. But working from the original film elements, MoMA preservationists and Romero’s surviving filmmaking team — including producer Russell Steiner and sound engineer Gary Steiner, both of whom joined the director at the Q&A — were able to fill in other notable gaps, including missing gunshot sound effects and other audio issues resulting from the “crude and barbaric” way the sound and voice tracks were originally recorded. Although, to Romero’s great delight, the quality of those original tracks proved better than he expected. “The original voice tracks are pretty good! Considering that we were just a bunch of guys in Pittsburgh.”
Watch a clip from ‘Night of the Living Dead:’