When we lost George Romero back in July it only helped to underline this year’s 50th anniversary celebration for the writer/director’s masterpiece, Night of the Living Dead. It’s still two months until Halloween, but I keep feeling like I want to jump-start the creepy cinema season. I’ll be seeing the IT preview this week so maybe I’ll just go with the fright flow and share this dead-eyed diamond. The movie’s Wiki page includes a hilarious “Controversy” section that includes some amazing quotes from Roger Ebert…
Night of the Living Dead premiered on October 1, 1968 at the Fulton Theater in Pittsburgh. Nationally, it was shown as a Saturday afternoon matinée – as was typical for horror films at the time – and attracted an audience consisting of pre-teens and adolescents. The MPAA film rating system was not in place until November 1968, so even young children were able to purchase tickets. Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times chided theater owners and parents who allowed children access to the film with such potent content for a horror film they were entirely unprepared for: “I don’t think the younger kids really knew what hit them,” he said. “They were used to going to movies, sure, and they’d seen some horror movies before, sure, but this was something else.” According to Ebert, the film affected the audience immediately:
The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying… It’s hard to remember what sort of effect this movie might have had on you when you were six or seven. But try to remember. At that age, kids take the events on the screen seriously, and they identify fiercely with the hero. When the hero is killed, that’s not an unhappy ending but a tragic one: Nobody got out alive. It’s just over, that’s all.
Response from Variety after the initial release reflects the outrage generated by Romero’s film: “Until the Supreme Court establishes clear-cut guidelines for the pornography of violence, Night of the Living Dead will serve nicely as an outer-limit definition by example. In [a] mere 90 minutes this horror film (pun intended) casts serious aspersions on the integrity and social responsibility of its Pittsburgh-based makers, distributor Walter Reade, the film industry as a whole and [exhibitors] who book [the picture], as well as raising doubts about the future of the regional cinema movement and about the moral health of film goers who cheerfully opt for this unrelieved orgy of sadism…50″
One commentator asserts that the film garnered little attention from critics, “except to provoke argument about censoring its grisly scenes
Night of the Living Dead famously became a public domain film when a copyright stamp was left off the film’s prints. You can find it anywhere you look online. Here’s the movie at my YouTube channel. Watch the movie below, and connect at the links at the bottom of the post.