Reviews | Written by Nick Spacek 12/12/2018

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

The music of George A. Romero's 1968 genre-defining horror classic, Night of the Living Dead, has long been a mystery. As noted by the director himself on the back cover of Varèse Sarabande's first soundtrack release in 1982, producer Karl Hardman's production company had a collection of Capitol Records' Hi-Q library music, and the producer made a selection from there, and Romero then put them in the film where he saw fit - or, as the director put it, "Karl gets the credit for picking the takes and I got the fun of gluing them onto the film."

That, in and of itself, would be enough for one to compile the music from Night of the Living Dead. It might take a lot of listening and a lot of watching, along with a solid memory and keen ear, but access to both library and film should be enough. However, while Zero Day Releasing put out a 40-track compact disc in 2010, entitled They Won't Stay Dead!, consisting of as many Capitol Libary tracks as possible, it doesn't sound quite right.

That's because, as WRS Studio sound technician Richard Lococo explains in Joe Kane's book Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever, "We chose a selection of music for each of the various scenes and then George made the final selections. We then took these sections and augmented them electronically."

The end result is that while Driveway to the Cemetery, the instantly recognisable main title is drawn from just one Spencer Moore track, Eerie Heavy Echo, many of the tracks were changed from their original format, and thus difficult to discern. Therefore, it's understandable that it took three years for Waxwork, working with Image Ten, to take the original 1/4" stems and transform them into the album presented across these two vinyl LPs.

And, honestly, by Waxwork working with producer Gary Streiner, director Romero, and engineer John Polito at Audio Mechanics, has crafted an astounding release. As the records spin, it's as if the film is unspooling in the mind of the listener. The mastering work by Thomas Dimuzio results in sound that is only comparable to having a full orchestra or musical combo right there in the same room. Placing it all in the gatefold jacket with Robert Sammelin's artwork - which looks so very '60s and perfect - is just the icing on the cake.

It's unfortunate that the liner notes don't do their level best to credit the many composers and musicians who worked in obscurity over a decade prior to their music being selected for this little Pittsburgh film. It would've been nice to introduce new soundtrack and film score fans to the likes of Ib Glindemann and William Loose, even if in passing.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) / COMPOSERS: VARIOUS / LABEL: WAXWORK RECORDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW