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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » George A. Romero Between Night and Dawn (Blu-ray)
George A. Romero Between Night and Dawn (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video // Unrated // November 14, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $62.38 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted November 29, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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The Movies:

George A. Romero (RIP) is known primarily as the father of the zombie genre, and the man responsible for my favorite horror film all time, the original Dawn of the Dead. As much as he was known as a horror director, he had a fairly versatile outlook on his art and was never afraid of trying different styles and tones. Especially during the ten-year gap between his two defining classics, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, he tried to stretch his directing muscles with a variety of interesting projects. Whether they all succeeded is another issue, and we'll get to that below. The good folks at Arrow Video decided to cover this section of Romero's career with a spiffy and attractive box set titled Between Night and Dawn.

Before we get to what's in the set, I have to inform you on what isn't. Romero's underrated realistic vampire drama/horror Martin isn't in there, it was technically made within the period depicted in the set, even though it was released the same year as Dawn. This might be because that film is still having many rights issues, as told to me by fellow DVD Talk critic Tyler Foster, so it's entirely possible that Arrow wasn't able to jump through that hurdle. So without further ado, let's get to the movies that are in this set.

There's Always Vanilla: A rare non-horror work by Romero. This is a psychedelic, manically edited, counter-culture romantic comedy about the problematic relationship between a spoiled man-child (Ray Laine) and a professional actress (Judith Ridley). Laine covers the man-child part with his performance, but it's hard to see the supposed charm that attracted him to the actress character. The film's low budget and erratic narrative becomes obvious even if you're not aware of the many production problems it went through. Romero himself wasn't a big fan of this film, and it's hard to blame him. It's for hardcore completionists only. Rating: 1/5

Season of the Witch: Right after Vanilla, Romero tries to dip his toes back into horror while still remaining in straight drama territory. This push and pull is very apparent in Season of the Witch, about a lonely housewife (Jan White) picking up witchcraft in order to regain some power in her life and relationships. The film is successful with creating an eerie occult aura, and the story of a housewife retaining power over herself has a feminist angle that was needed at the time, but the overall experience is a little atonal and meandering. Apparently, the original cut was over two hours long. At 90 minutes, it's already a bit of a slog. Rating: 2.5/5

The Crazies: This one's also known as Romero's "non-zombie zombie movie". Romero's fully back in the "horror charged with sociopolitical satire" territory here, and this raw and grim production about a town ravaged by a mysterious virus that turns everyone into insane murderers basically has him get away with making a "Dead" movie without the actual living dead, a narrative approach later employed by 28 Days Later. Even though it suffers a bit from its obvious low-budget, especially compared to the grander scope of his intentions, this is an effective and gripping thriller that also showcases once again Romero's distrust of government figures. Rating: 4/5

The Blu-rays:

Video:

Overall, Arrow did the best they could with the materials they were given. There wasn't a pristine negative of Vanilla, so the transfer looks faded and the color palette is off. This is explained in the booklet that comes with the box. Season of the Witch fares better, but also suffers from occasional dirt and scratches. The Crazies is the best looking in the bunch, crisp and clear, with a healthy amount of that 70s low budget genre grain.

Audio:

We get DTS-HD mono transfers for each of the films. Again, Vanilla is the weak spot here, with tinny and sometimes inaudible dialogue. This is probably due to the film's low budget audio work. Season of the Witch is clearer, and by the time we get to The Crazies, the audio is almost perfect, at least for the source material.

Extras:

Audio Commentary: All three films come with optional commentary by Travis Crawford, who's very informative about each production.

There's Always Vanilla:

Affair of the Heart: A contemporary making-of documentary about Vanilla. It's interesting if you want to see how the cast looks today, and they give nice insight into the production.

Digging up the Dead: Romero himself talks about Vanilla and its many production problems in this vintage interview.

We also get a Trailer.

Season of the Witch:

Extended Version: A cut of the film that's longer by over ten minutes. The print and the transfer leave a lot to be desired, so this is only for the extra curious.

When Romero met Del Toro: This is the real reason to pop in the Season of the Witch Blu-ray. This in-depth hour long conversation between Del Toro and Romero is a film lover's delight.

The Secret Life of Jack's Wife: A Vintage interview with star Jan White.

Alternate Opening Titles: We get three alternate opening titles.

We also get two Trailers.

The Crazies:

Romero Was Here: A new guided tour through the locations in the film.

Crazy for Lynn Lowry: One of the film's stars discusses her production experiences.

Q&A with Lynn Lowry: An informative Q&A with the actress from the 2016 Abertois Film Festival. You can easily skip this if you watch the other interview.

Lee Hessel Audio Interview: The producer of The Crazies talks about the film.

Behind the Scenes: A six-minute clip made up of 8mm footage taken during production.

We also get brief Alternate Opening Titles, two Trailers, and two TV Spots.

We also get DVD copies of each film, as well as book full of essays and technical information about each title.

Final Thoughts:

Even though I'm not entirely positive on every film in this set, it's hard to discount Arrow's immense work and respect while bringing this product together. Highly recommended to established Romero fans. Everyone else might want to start with his better-known works.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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