When film buffs discuss the good and bad horror film remakes, Tom Savini’s 1990 reworking of the classic George Romero film Night of the Living Dead tends to get lost in the shuffle. Nevertheless, the film is one of the greatest horror remakes ever produced. In his update, Savini made alterations providing misdirection, playing with fans’ expectations to give them a new experience. The casting is particularly masterful. The casting of horror veterans Tony Todd as Ben and Tom Towles as his foil Harry Cooper are perfect, and Patricia Tallman (in her biggest role since Romero’s Knightriders a decade before) is terrific as the newly-tough schoolmarm Barbara. This is a film ripe for reappraisal. It’s terrific.
But what a lot of people don’t realize is that the resulting film isn’t the film Savini wanted to make. Savini had a lot of plans for the picture that an unnamed producer (not Romero) repeatedly shot down. Savini’s ideas were fascinating and innovative, the coolest being his idea to begin the film in black-and-white (complete with the studio logo), connecting the two films and lending the feel of the original. Then “slowly color would seep in for the rest of the movie.” He also planned to show some scenes from the zombies’ point of view. Whether or not this would have been effective is questionable but now moot as said producer shut down the idea completely. Another key difference in Savini’s original vision involves Barbara in the cemetery at the beginning of the film. He had envisioned Barbara, still mourning the loss of her mother, hearing her voice (and others) inside her head as she stared at the graves. But the producer nixed the idea.
Now, twenty-nine years after the film’s release, Savini (along with the folks at Happy Cloud Media, LLC) has released a book titled Night of the Living Dead ’90: The Version You’ve Never Seen. The book is a real treat for fans of the film and the zombie genre. You don’t have to be a particularly big fan of the remake to enjoy this book. Both Savini’s (he did special-effects makeup for Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead) and the film’s (a remake overseen by Romero) connection to the original Dead series are enough to warrant it being must-own item for horror aficionados. This is a book that deserves a place on your bookshelf right next to Paul R. Gagne’s classic tome The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh: The Films of George A. Romero.
Most importantly, the film’s naysayers are the ones who would get the most out of the book. If the film as it exists now isn’t enough to prove Savini’s genius, this book–comprised mostly of Savini’s original storyboards, revealing what the film could and should have been–more than proves the point. The SFX makeup wizard/director’s unused ideas, such as Barbara’s mother appearing as a zombie, are often even more potent than the scenes which appear in the finished film.
The book, which features behind-the-scenes photos, reflections by Bill Mosely and Patricia Tallman, and running commentary by Savini that accompanies his storyboards, effectively pays homage to the film as it now exists and also provides a peek behind the curtain for the first time at “the version you’ve never seen.” This is one of the coolest, most fun horror film-related books you will ever see. If this description piques your interest, run (or amble like a zombie) over to Amazon and order it now. You won’t be disappointed.
The book is also available directly from the publisher at the following link: