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Arrow Video Blu-ray Release: Between Night & Dawn

The purpose of Arrow Video’s limited edition box set, Between Night & Dawn is “to shine a light on the broader thematic concerns and auteurist leanings of a skilled craftsman too often pigeonholed within the genre.” However, for a collection of three films made during the period between George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, I’m baffled and disappointed by the absence of Martin (1978).

One of the special features on the There’s Always Vanilla (1971) disc is an Anchor Bay archive interview with Romero from 2005 in which he says about the movie, “It was an awful experience. I have very little recollection about it. I care very little about it.” In a similar interview on the Season of the Witch (1972) disc, Romero says that as far as any emotional connection, he’s written it off.

Wow, Between Night & Dawn must be meant for only hard-core Romero fans, right? Not necessarily. The third disc is The Crazies (1973), where the director started to get his groove on, and it contains a terrific 12-minute special feature called, “Romero was Here: Locating the Crazies.” In it, film historian Lawrence DeVincentz tours the Evans City, Pennsylvania, locations where it was filmed.

The nice thing about this special feature is that Night of the Living Dead (1968) was also filmed in Evans City and DeVincentz includes side-by-side movie scenes and actual location shots for its famous cemetery scene. I wish I had this information prior to my own attempts to navigate Evans City this summer. With almost 50 years in between, you don’t always recognize the locations. DeVincentz even had to go to Facebook himself for assistance from the locals.

Other features of the The Crazies disc include:

  • Brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative

  • Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford

  • Crazy for Lynn Lowry – cult star Lynn Lowry discusses her early career

  • 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 (an alternate title for The Crazies was Code Name: Trixie)

  • Image Galleries

  • Trailers & TV Spots

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

The Season of the Witch disc has my favorite special feature, a 55-minute filmed conversation between Romero and Guillermo del Toro called, “When Romero Met Del Toro.” As the intertitles tells us, “On February 8th, 2016, filmmakers Chris Alexander and Justin McConnell brought director Guillermo del Toro to George A. Romero’s Toronto apartment to discuss George’s life in cinema.”

While del Toro tends to gush over Romero and Romero is reluctant to accept the praise, the conversation nevertheless reveals interesting information about both directors. Romero had no idea that Night of the Living Dead would birth an entire genre. He says that you make what you want and people read things into it. “I love the idea that I’m credited, but I don’t think I deserve it.”

Romero discusses how he likes to tread the line of who’s good and who’s bad in his films. It’s hard for him to write strictly “white hats and black hats.” He says about the era of these films, “There was so much garbage out there – cheaply made and exploitative” that he found it easy to say, “I’m not going to do that.” Interesting to him are the human relationships and he doesn’t want sex to interfere with them.

For fans of Knightriders (1981) Romero says that he feels it’s his most personal film. It represents how he spent his whole life getting people to join him in filmmaking, but only a couple people had “the real dream in their hearts.” Knightriders grew out of all the people that told him, “No.” It’s also about betrayal. Del Toro called this, and his other films, “a clash between genre and reality.”

For fans of Martin (1978), like me, Romero reveals that he knew in his head all along that (spoiler) the titular character was not really a vampire, “just a screwed-up kid.” Romero became a lapsed Catholic from the moment he was scolded for saying that his dead grandmother may not have gone to heaven. You can see how he “stomped on religion” in Martin. In the film, religion is poisonous. In general, Romero says religion is either rote or it’s misinterpreted.

Other features of the Season of the Witch disc include:

  • Brand new 4K restoration of the original theatrical version from the camera negative (90 min.)

  • Alternate extended version (104 min.)

  • Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford

  • "The Secret Life of Jack’s Wife" – archive interview with actress Jan White

  • Alternate Opening Title (an alternate title for Season of the Witch was Hungry Wives)

  • Location Gallery with audio commentary by Romero historian Lawrence DeVincentz

  • Memorabilia Gallery

  • Trailer

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

Back to the There’s Always Vanilla disc and the archive interviews with Romero, called “Digging Up The Dead: the Lost Films of George A Romero.” At that time, he said that his fans probably hadn’t seen it and Season of the Witch. “Maybe they’ll see a little bit of my style in them.” As poorly as he spoke of both of the films, he does say he would really like to have remade Season of the Witch.

Both films were learning experiences for him; he was still experimenting. After Night of the Living Dead, he didn’t want to be pigeonholed by making another horror film. However, he didn’t have the time or money to do what he wanted to do at the time. It was “real guerilla filmmaking” and he tried to make the money stretch to execute his ideas. Ultimately, he says he’s gratified that people see past the technical failures and like these movies (if they do).

Other features of the There’s Always Vanilla disc include:

  • 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

  • Location Gallery with audio commentary by Romero historian Lawrence DeVincentz

  • Memorabilia Gallery

  • Trailer

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

Overall, if you’re a Romero fan, Between Night & Dawn is a must-have box set, if only for its special features. However, I recommend that you come for those and stay for The Crazies, as well. My only comfort in the exclusion of Martin in this set is that perhaps Arrow Video is working on a super-duper restored edition with a bunch of special features. That way, the space on my shelf between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead would be truly complete.

Additional contents of the entire set include:

  • 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

  • Limited edition 60-page booklet featuring new writing on the films by Kat Ellinger, Kier-La Janisse and Heather Drain

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