John Russo helps update the groundbreaking horror film despite George Romero's objections

April 23, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Director George Romero owns the copyright on the title of his cult horror phenom Night of the Living Dead — but that’s about it. For a special anniversary edition due this fall, the film’s writer, John Russo, gathered members of the 1968 ghoul-fest’s crew in Pittsburgh to film 15 minutes of new footage. So they dug up some original equipment and dressed cinematographer Bill Hinzman as ”the Cemetery Zombie.” Romero, busy with his upcoming project Resident Evil, opted instead to put his name on the 20th-anniversary director’s cut of the sequel, 1979’s Dawn of the Dead, due April 27. ”I didn’t want to touch [Night of the Living Dead]” Romero says of his $114,000 feature debut, to which Russo has added a prologue, epilogue, and extra zombie footage.

Of the reanimated film, Hinzman says, ”We looked at it as, had we the money [in 1968], how would we have made it?” But there’s no bad blood between the team, who all live in Pittsburgh: A long-standing deal gives both Romero and Russo the right to do as they please with the film. And the director is the kind of guy who never says die. Of future Night visions, Romero says, ”I’ll do the one for the millennium.”

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