HAPPY 50TH!! NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
Written by ZenKC on October 11, 2018
HAPPY 50TH!! NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
With the month of October upon us, people’s minds are filled with thoughts of Halloween parties and which costumes they are wearing at those parties or clubs they will be going to celebrate that night.
For classic horror movie fanatics such as myself, October is a magical month filled with watching these old classic monster movies from the 1930’s to the 50’s on television. Near Halloween is when you have the best chance of watching them since it seems like they are rarely shown the rest of the year.
As a classic horror movie fanatic, I can’t believe I almost spaced out a zombie movie that was released on October 1st, 1968. That movie was called, “Night of The Living Dead.” It was directed by legendary director, the late George A. Romero. This low budget, independent film permanently changed the way zombies were presented to movie audiences back then, and are permanently presented to movie and TV audiences today in 2018: 50 years later.
The first known zombie movie was from 1932 entitled “White Zombie.” It starred actor Bela Lugosi who was a red-hot commodity after he starred in 1931’s “Dracula.”
In early days, zombies were extremely tame by today’s standards. They were slow moving. They were mostly Black and bug-eyed. They were victims of a curse by a voodoo priest/priestess. They took orders from their masters like slaves and for the most part, killed their victim by strangulation.
But in 1968, movie director George A. Romero released a low budget independent horror film called “Night of The Living Dead.” This movie permanently changed the way we perceived zombies in pop culture today. Even though this movie was not by any means the first zombie movie ever made, it was the progenitor of the known “zombie apocalypse” everyone enjoys today. This zombie movie was the very first where the dead were reanimated, was decaying, and was consuming the flesh of the living. This movie, like today’s zombie movies, or most of them, left you wondering how did this happen. What was the cause? This was also the first zombie movie that if you were bit, you would fall ill, die, and become a zombie. Romero completed his movie on a $114,000 budget. Within a decade, “Night of The Living Dead” grossed over$12 million dollars domestically and $30 million dollars internationally. I didn’t see “Night of The Living Dead” until it was on TV in the mid-1980’s if my memory serves me correctly. Back in 1968, I was an innocent 12-year-old. I was a clean teen. (laughing) My vice was like most kids in that era, rushing home to watch the gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows.”
The lead & hero of the film was an unknown stage actor named Duane Jones. His character’s name was Ben. Ben was described as a “comparatively calm and resourceful Negro.” Romero’s pick as a Black man being the hero of the film, and bossing White characters and, at times, having physical altercations with them, was considered controversial.
The leading lady of the movie was another unknown actress named Judith O’Dea. She played Barbara who was severely traumatized and in shock seeing her brother being murdered by a zombie. In an interview, O’Dea revealed she was terrified of horror films. There was no romantic connection between her character Barbara and the hero of the movie, Ben. Movie audiences back then would have either had a stroke or burned the theaters down.
What was also amazing was that the supporting cast of the movie had no previous film or stage experience as well.
The film critics were very dismissive of the movie. Besides the politics of the movie, it was also all the gore back then, which was unheard of.
I purposely don’t want to say anything to my young Chuck’s Chat readers who may not have heard or seen this movie. The one thing I will say though it will remind you of, “The Walking Dead,” and “Fear The Walking Dead.”
The zombie monster genre has come a very long way from 1932’s “White Zombie.” Romero died July 16th, 2017 at the age of 77. I am so very elated that Mr. Romero lived long enough to see his critics eat crow.
I am writing this article on October 3rd. From what I have found out, by the time you all will receive this article, the 50th-anniversary celebration would have already have been celebrated. It was announced it will be October 6th at the Byham Theater in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is where Romero got his start and the location of where “Night of the Living Dead” movie. Suzanne Romero, widow of George A. Romero, will join surviving cast member and production staff of the 50th anniversary of the movie release. Mrs. Romero is scheduled to reveal details of her late husband foundation to promote/train future generations of visionary filmmakers to come.
Have a very Happy and safe Halloween, Day of the Dead, and Dia de Los Muertos, everyone.
Chuck’s Chat operates under an open authority. Opinions and comments are always welcome. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org