a fallen satellite has caused the dead to come back to life! The formerly
deceased have developed a taste for human flesh, and are desperate to feed.
Several people have barricaded themselves inside an old farmhouse to escape
from the zombies, but can they survive the night?
The beginning of
all modern horror films, and along with Psycho the most influential
horror movie ever. Although it draws on many of the early monster movies
of the 30's, with a seemingly unstoppable beast tracking down prey, and
enhancing the atmosphere of those films for the new wave audience. However,
aside from that Night of the Living Dead is a breed apart from anything
else at the time. Tonnes of gore, shocks the cinema goer had never experienced,
unexpected twists and turns, downbeat, scary, with unusual protagonists
and new ways of story telling, the world didn't know what had hit them.
It was the late
sixties. Vietnam was proving that America was not all-powerful, and asking
questions about who were the good guys, about motivation, about the human
race as a whole. Anti-war protesters were being beaten and gassed for what
they believed, while America was attempting to destroy another place...for
what they believed. Hippies were spreading a message of love, new ideas
were flourishing in all areas, from making peace to making war, and technology
was becoming more important and influential. The result was that the good
guys were often over-looked, good deeds were mostly forgotten, and many
lives were thrown away aimlessly and without purpose. Those who survived
wondered why, and had no clue why they were here. It seemed outside, bigger
forces were at play, and that unseen beings were controlling the public. Night
of the Living Dead was released.
A brother and
sister are traveling to their parents' graves in the countryside, a trip
that has become an annoyance rather than a mark of respect. Johnny, the
man taunts his sister Barbara like he used to as a kid, scaring her, saying
the infamous line 'they're coming to get you Barbara'. A man walks towards
them and suddenly attacks without warning. Johnny is killed and Barbara
flees to a nearby farmhouse. She enters a near comatose state. Another
man arrives, Ben and begins to board up the doors and windows, telling
Barbara that he too was attacked by a number of people, and witnessed a
town coming under siege. The attackers seem to have no regard for their
own safety, and feel no pain. Soon people who had been hiding in the basement
appear, and together the group try to figure out what to do. The TV says
the attackers can be killed by a heavy blow to the head, and seem to be
scared of fire. It seems that, inexplicably the dead are coming back to
life and eating the flesh of the living, who in turn become zombies. The
group argue over the best solution, tensions arise, and all the while,
the number of zombies outside grows, waiting.
The film has
great depth and terrific acting from amateurs. No-one is safe from harm
here, and it seems that the group's downfall is because they are human
and cannot work as a group because personal interest and opinion always
interferes. The zombies do not argue, they will happily wait for their
chance and strike with stunning force, as a unit. If you take down one,
there are 10 more closing in. The group could have escaped earlier, by
running past the few zombies, and it seems the house becomes their coffin.
If they had not fought amongst themselves they may have had a chance. But
even then, where would they have gone? Ben as the main character is seen
as revolutionary because he was black, but this was not in the script.
Romero has since become a champion of the disenfranchised- women, children,
other races. His performance is strong. Judith o' Dea as Barbara does not
have much to do, but is good, and the other stand out is Karl Hardman as
Cooper. He has a wife and injured daughter and feels Ben is endangering
them with his schemes. Tom and Judy are a local farm couple, innocents
who try to think clearly and are punished for it. Indeed it seems that
when a good plan comes around, it is stopped in its tracks with devastating
results. Though human error is the major mistake in a darkly ironic twist.
was filmed in black and white, the gore is there. People are eaten and
burned, flesh is chewed on the full screen, bullets are driven through
chests. The shocks are genuinely shocking, and the film's atmosphere is
claustrophobic and we sense the dwindling of hope. The overall tone of
the film is stark, and it seems the future only holds violence. The film
struggled to find distributors, and was shown in matinées to unsuspecting
youngsters-we can only imagine their reactions. Truly a horror classic,
and one of the most nightmarish films ever made, with a view of the world
as a terrible place filled with pain and stupidity. We cannot overcome
creatures which cannot think. Death is shown as a creeping inevitability,
and the good guys almost always lose.
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- The blood is actually Bosco chocolate syrup.
- When the zombies are eating the bodies in the burnt-out truck
they were actually eating roast ham covered in chocolate sauce. The filmmakers
joked that it was so nausea inducing that it was almost a waste of time
putting the makeup on the zombies, as they ended up looking pale and sick
- One of the working titles for this film was Night of Anubis.
Anubis is the god of the dead in the ancient Egyptian religion.
- During the filming of the cemetery sequence, shot on two separate
days, an unexpected accident caused a fast change of script. The car driven
by Barbara and Johnny into the cemetery was actually owned by the mother
of Russell Streiner. Unfortunately, sometime between the two filming sequences,
someone ran into the car and put a dent in it that would easily be visible
on camera. George A. Romero rewrote the scene so the car would come to
a stop by crashing into a tree.
- In the scene where Ben is nailing wooden boards to the door, small
numbers can be seen on them. These were written on the backs of the boards
so they could be removed and replaced in between shots, preserving continuity.
Some numbers are visible because some of the boards were nailed on backwards.
- Tom Savini was originally hired by George A. Romero to do the
makeup effects for this film. The two were first introduced when Savini
auditioned for an acting role in an earlier film that never got off the
ground. Romero, remembering that Savini was also a makeup artist (he had
brought his makeup portfolio to show to Romero at the audition), called
Savini to the set of his horror movie. However, Savini was unable to do
the effects, as he was called to duty by the U.S. Army to serve as a combat
photographer in Vietnam.
- Columbia Pictures was the only major Hollywood studio interested
in distributing this film, but eventually passed because it was in black-and-white
at a time when movies had to compete with new color televisions. Ironically,
Columbia did distribute the 1990 color remake.
- The extras who played the zombies were paid $1 and a t-shirt that
said "I was a zombie on Night of the Living Dead".
- When the writers decided to base the film on zombies, they brainstormed
about what would be the most shocking thing for the zombies to do to people
and decided on cannibalism.
- During production, the film's title was still being chosen. The
working title was simply "Monster Flick".
- George A. Romero has readily admitted that Herk Harvey's Carnival
of Souls was a big influence in his making of this film.
- The main house did not have a true basement but a dirt "potter's"
cellar, and thus had no long staircase leading down to it. The basement
scenes were filmed in the editing studio's cellar.
- One of the Walter Reade Organization's publicity stunts was a
$50,000 insurance policy against anyone dying from a heart attack while
watching the film.
- The only real mishap to happen during filming involved producer
and actor Russell Streiner's ("Johnny") brother, Gary Streiner. After the
scene where Duane Jones sets the chair on fire, it was Gary's responsibility
to extinguish the flames and set the chair ablaze again to preserve continuity,
ensuring that smoke would be seen emanating from it near the end of the
film. At one point Gary's sleeve caught on fire, and as he ran in terror,
S. William Hinzman (in full zombie makeup) tackled him to the ground and
helped extinguish the flames, saving him from major injury.
- Some of the groans made by S. William Hinzman when he's wrestling
with Russell Streiner in the cemetery are authentic. During the struggle,
Streiner accidentally kneed Hinzman in the groin.
- The Evans City Cemetery was the cemetery used in the original
version of the film, but it could not be used for the 30th anniversary
edition. Before filming the new footage, a tornado had torn through the
Evans City Cemetery, and ironically, it unearthed several graves.
- The house used for this film was loaned to the filmmakers by the
owner, who planned to demolish it anyway, thereby ensuring that they could
do whatever they wanted to the house.
- There were two trucks used in the film. The first one used in
the beginning of the film would not start for the "trek to the gas pump"
scenes and had to be replaced. Unfortunately, they forgot to break the
headlights. Hence the goof on the headlights.
- While writing the script, George A. Romero and John A. Russo were
trying to think of a manner in which to destroy the zombies. Marilyn Eastman
joked that they could throw pies in their faces. This is obviously an inspiration
for the pie fight scene in this film's sequel, Dawn of the Dead.
- The filmmakers were attacked for being "satanically-inspired"
by fundamentalist religious groups for their portrayal of the undead feeding
on flesh and of Kyra Schon attacking Marilyn Eastman.