Review: George Romero – Between Night and Dawn

Blu-ray & DVD: George Romero – Between Night and Dawn

George Romero; a name synonymous with slow moving zombies and his classic ‘Dead Trilogy’ (there were of course more, but it is the first 3, especially for me, which always warrant repeat viewings every now and again).

There was much more to George Romero though than shuffling, flesh eating zombies, and this fantastic boxset from Arrow Films showcases 3 movies he made between the seminal Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead (my all time favourite movie).

There’s Always Vanilla (1971)

Once again filmed in George’s beloved Pittsburgh, There’s Always Vanilla is not the story of an indecisive person at an ice-cream shop, but follows Chris Bradley (Raymond Laine), a young man returning to his home town after being discharged from the military and drifting around the country. Rejecting help from his family, Chris moves in with Lynn (Judith Ridley), an older woman who gives him emotional and financial support. Their relationship however, begins to falter when Lynn finds out that she is pregnant and begins to question just how much she really wants to be with Chris.

There’s Always Vanilla is not as big a departure from Night of the Living Dead as you may initially think. The beauty of George’s work is that at its core is always the human condition and social commentary of the time; be it the need for survival, love, friendship, the whole gamut of emotions. The action surrounding them, be it surviving a zombie attack or figuring out how to keep a relationship intact, is always secondary to the human core of each story.

Both Laine and Ridley are excellent as Chris and Lynn, and a scene where the fate of the baby is decided is harrowing without having to resort to any gratuitous imagery.

A movie that many have missed, There’s Always Vanilla is a must watch not only for Romero fans, but fans of cinema too. Even more so in this great transfer and accompanied by the always entertaining and informative special features by Arrow Films.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
  • Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford
  • Affair of the Heart: The Making of There’s Always Vanilla – brand new documentary featuring interviews with producers John Russo and Russell Streiner, stars Judith Streiner and Richard Ricci, and sound recordist Gary Streiner
  • Digging Up the Dead – The Lost Films of George A. Romero – archive interview with Romero discussing his early films There’s Always Vanilla and Season of the Witch
  • Location Gallery with audio commentary by Romero historian Lawrence DeVincentz
  • Memorabilia Gallery
  • Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

Season of the Witch (1972)

Joan Mitchell (Jan White) is unfulfilled with her life. Middle aged and stuck in a marriage that she no longer cares to be in, she finds a new energy after visiting a tarot card reader who also practices witchcraft. After practicing in the ‘dark arts’ herself, Joan is convinced that she is a witch too which ultimately leads her down a most dangerous path.

Season of the Witch is not a horror movie per se, and as mentioned above in There’s Always Vanilla, this is primarily a character study of a woman whose feelings of confinement and lost opportunities lead her down an ever darkening pathway. Keep this in mind and there’s a lot to like about this movie.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Brand new 4K restoration of the original theatrical version from the camera negative [90 mins]
  • Alternate extended version [104 mins]
  • Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford
  • When Romero Met Del Toro – filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro in conversation with George Romero
  • The Secret Life of Jack’s Wife – archive interview with actress Jan White
  • Alternate Opening Titles
  • Location Gallery with audio commentary by Romero historian Lawrence DeVincentz
  • Memorabilia Gallery
  • Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

The Crazies (1973)

My favourite of this boxset is The Crazies, where the military try to contain a manmade virus which causes people to go, yes you guessed it; crazy!

The budget is low and it shows, while the acting is passable at best, yet there has always been a certain charm to The Crazies which keeps me returning to it for yet another viewing.

The tension begins with a great pre-credit sequence and continues through the entire running time, as you’re often left wondering who is infected and who isn’t. Rough around the edges and with ideas constrained by budget limitations (something that would come to a head in later years with Day of the Dead) The Crazies is an important entry into the oeuvre of George Romero.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative
  • Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford
  • Romero Was Here: Locating The Crazies – Romero historian Lawrence DeVincentz takes us on a guided tour of Evans City, PA and the locations used in The Crazies
  • Crazy for Lynn Lowry – cult star Lynn Lowry discusses her early career including her role in The Crazies
  • Q&A with Lynn Lowry filmed at the 2016 Abertoir Film Festival
  • Audio interview with producer Lee Hessel
  • Behind-the-scenes footage with optional commentary by Lawrence DeVincentz
  • Alternate Opening Titles
  • Image Galleries
  • Trailers & TV Spots
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

This is yet another great release from Arrow Films and packaged immaculately too. Go and buy.

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD presentations
  • Original Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-rays)
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Reversible sleeve for each film featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
  • Limited edition 60-page booklet featuring new writing on the films by Kat Ellinger, Kier-La Janisse and Heather Drain

You can buy George Romero: Between Night and Dawn by clicking HERE. ALL money raised by purchasing from Amazon via our website is given back to our listeners and followers in upcoming competition prizes. The more people buy, the bigger our prizes!

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from discs kindly supplied by Arrow Films via Fetch Publicity.