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             On October 1st 1968, a small, ultra-low budget Horror feature was released.  A month before the MPAA ratings system was put in place, it was shown mostly at Saturday matinee performances which the norm for low budget Horror films at the time.  Consequently, even small children were not prevented from purchasing tickets to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.  The film drew little attention from film critics, apart from debating the merits of censoring it.  Audiences loved it, however, and over the next decade in release and re-release it made up to fifteen million dollars, making it still one of the most profitable independent Horror films ever made.  To this day, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is considered the bible of the Zombie mythos, and the establisher of the Zombie “rules” - rules to be followed and, of course, broken.

           Director George Romero found, as is always the case, that many of his creative choices were dictated by the low budget.  The actors playing the zombies were made up very simply, the budget not allowing for the elaborate make-up effects we enjoy today.  Pale faces with blackened eyes along with some mortician’s wax did the trick.  The entire shoot was on location since sets were too costly to build.  The cast were all unknown actors from the Pittsburgh area.  Even the decision to film in black and white was mostly due to the fact that color stock was just too expensive.

    Yet for all the film’s budgetary shortcomings, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD managed to break new ground.  The hero of the film, Ben (played wonderfully by Duane Jones), is the leader of a group of people taking refuge in a house trying to hold off the horde of undead outside.  That Ben is an African American man is not an issue in the film.  This was a very different attitude in ‘68.  In fact, George Romero claims that the racial commentary so often seen in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, while legitimate, was quite unintentional.  Romero always held that he cast Duane Jones because he was the one that wowed them at the audition.  Another notable first for this film what that up to this point, violence in movies was largely sanitized.  Showing violence, sure, just not the result of that violence.  NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was among the first to unflinchingly depict graphic violence on the screen.  This includes the shocking, tragic ending of the film that still has the capability to haunt.

    Those in 1968 who railed against this film as depraved, pornographic, and even ‘satanically inspired” would be surprised to learn that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was recently selected by the Library of Congress for preservation as “Culturally Significant”.  The film is also in the public domain (no copyright restrictions) due to an error by the distributors  - which is justice since the same distributors screwed George Romero out of the film’s profits.  So not only is NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD recognized by our government as a significant achievement, it is now one of the easiest movies to find.  Not bad for a $114,000 budget film.  Not bad at all…

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD fun fact - George Romero never referred to the creatures as ‘zombies’.  He called them ‘ghouls’

The part of Ben was originally a working-class truck driver, but the role was re-written after Duane Jones’ audition.  George Romero thought that Jones’ more cerebral take on the character was more interesting.  

Johnny  -”They’re coming to get you Barbara!”

Ben - “I don't want to hear any more from you, Mister.  If you stay up here, you take orders from me, and that includes leaving the girl alone!”

Sheriff McClelland - “Put that thing all the way on the fire. We don't want it getting up again.”

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Zombies should be

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| 32 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank You - N/T (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, coquiero, arizonablue

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 10:43:13 AM PDT

  •  A great horror flick (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coquiero, arizonablue, DivineMissV

    Seriously, that was one of the best.  I saw it when I was a kid and I still have freaky dreams from it.  It's just really weird and creepy.  

    Being in charge after the last debate is what counts.

    by Sun dog on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 11:10:39 AM PDT

  •  The basement is the place to be! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coquiero, arizonablue, DivineMissV

    Now you're telling me these things can't get through a lousy pile of wood?  

    I can handle the truck, no sweat.  

    Being in charge after the last debate is what counts.

    by Sun dog on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 11:15:00 AM PDT

  •  Great series! I just noticed this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DivineMissV, coquiero

    entry and now I need to read the others.

    What I loved about the film was the high contrast black and white.  I want to see a current horror film shot in this style.

  •  Various editions of the movie (6+ / 0-)

    Way back when, when the movie first came out on VHS, I bought a copy for what I seem to remember was the outrageous price of $60 or $70...that's what we were paying for VHS movies back then.

    I was so disappointed when I first put the cassette into the VCR. The quality sucked, like it was a several-generationth (is that a new word?) copy of a copy of a copy of ... And yet that was what we had to put up with, even buying legit retail...it just sucked.

    Eventually, along came the DVD edition of Night of the Living Dead. I bought that too, and ... it also sucked. Looked like it was made from a VHS copy of a copy of a copy ...

    Even more eventually, along came a new DVD edition, which claimed to be Digitally Remastered THX Collector's Edition, Dolby Digital sound, the works.

    I put it in the player, and ... it also sucked. Looked like it was made from a VHS copy of a copy of a copy ... is this starting to sound familiar?

    Well that was the opening credits on the THX edition. It played for about 20 seconds, then the picture stopped, the THX logo with that familiar sound came onto the screen, and the movie restarted...and it didn't suck. The masters of this edition were playing a little in joke for all of us who had suffered through earlier crap releases. This truly was the remastered edition, restored to full glory. That they did a truly magnificent job in restoring the movie, and also played the little joke at the start with showing us a few seconds of what we had been putting up with for all those years of crap, was much appreciated.

    Oh, and I also have the 30th Anniversary Limited Edition DVD, which includes an extended addition with additional scenes edited back in, some documentary stuff, and other add-ons.

    I'll stick with the remastered THX edition, which I much love.

    "It's not funny, Jack" - Chris Matthews, dressing down Jack Welch for being an asshat regarding job statistics.

    by lotac on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 12:26:57 PM PDT

  •  slept with the light on for a month after seeing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DivineMissV, coquiero, Buckeye54

    that movie!  it wasn't the fake "organs" or bad make-up - it was the sense of being trapped that made it the cult hit that it is today.

    i keep thinking it would make a great "remake" starring romney/ryan and tea partiers as zombies and the folks trapped in the house the 47%...

    just sayin'

  •  'living dead' (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coquiero

    is one of my fondest childhood memories. When other kids were playing 'shoot them up games, my buddies played 'livin dead'. I was usually the 'livin dead' who got to chase them. I loved it! I still practice my 'livin dead' moves. I'm really good, if I don't say so myself.

  •  Love NOTLD (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coquiero

    Here's a movie that came out six years earlier - also low budget and also by a regional filmmaker (Herk Harvey from Lawrence, Kansas).

    These aren't zombies, but they clearly presage the creatures in Romero's later film.

  •  Might I suggest.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DivineMissV, coquiero

    ... linking your diary series and your 13 prior posts, or at least advising people to your profile page for the prior movies. Great list!

    No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

    by Magster on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 01:14:03 PM PDT

  •  Speaking of zombies (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cmcolin

    Hubby and I watched The Cabin in the Woods last night.  He fell asleep halfway through (no big surprise there), but I LOVED it!

    What a great film.  You should add it to the list!

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 02:49:07 PM PDT

  •  Hope someone is still looking at comments to this (0+ / 0-)

    diary, but I'd like to know what the zombies are eating in those clips. Turkey legs? Leg of lamb? Or humans????????!!!!!!!

    No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

    by Magster on Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 10:54:35 AM PDT

    •  They mostly used... (0+ / 0-)

      ...slices of ham with chocolate syrup.  The syrup looked like blood in black and white (Hitchcock used it for the shower scene in PSYCHO).

      They say it made the zombie actors physically ill to eat it, so that made them even MORE zombie-ish.  Lol!

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