STARRING: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn
Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley
1968, 98 Minutes, Directed by: George A Romero
Description:In a Pittsburgh suburb people are being stalked
by zombies ravenous for human flesh. In a house whose occupant has already
been slain, two separate groups of people unite and board themselves in,
hoping to fend off the advancing ghouls. Through radio and TV reports they
learn that radiation from outer space is thought to be responsible for the
wave of zombie attacks all over the eastern United States.
Expecting a cheesy
B-movie? Well, to be honest, so was I - despite the reputation of Night
of the Living Dead as being a modern horror classic alongside the
likes of Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween and Psycho.
After all, who takes
zombies seriously anymore? Shuffling around aimlessly and mindlessly so
slowly that even those fat kids who recently sued McDonald's could outrun
them; zombies have never really entered the movie mainstream until quite
recently with the likes of 28 Days Later
and Dawn of the Dead (2004). And then they were
updated to be fast moving and ferocious, in fact in
28 Days Later they are called "the
infected" instead of zombies, but we all know better, hey? (The word "zombie"
isn't so much as uttered once in Night of the Living Dead either.)
In Night of the Living
Dead they are however a menacing presence from the very outset - a bit
like the Zulu warriors in Zulu, or the H.R. creatures in
Aliens - and the movie's few missteps are when
director Romero zooms in too closely on them. But while modern make-up has
improved and become gorier with time, nothing can really detract from the
dilemma of the group of survivors holed up in the remote farmhouse.
Also, what separates
Romero's film from its various imitations throughout the years is its sly
commentary on human nature and its social satire. As one critic has
pointed out, the hero in this case is a Black man (quite daring for its
time) and the most sensible characters are the females. In fact, white men
come across as, well, Stupid White Men to steal Michael Moore's phrase.
However, in one of the movie's many ironies one of the more repugnant
characters turn out to be have been correct all the time. The
ending, without wanting to spoil too much, is also doubly ironic.
"This 1968 movie is definitely deserving
of its cult status . . ."
of the Living Dead counts as sci-fi not only because of its theme of
radiation from a satellite launch gone wrong causing all the mayhem, but
because of the way it portrays an almost post-apocalyptic scenario in
which society under strain with its government helpless to do anything.)
Filmed in gritty Black &
White (color would have spoiled it), Night of the Living Dead
plunges right in with the action and when its dismally bleak
ending comes around, it becomes quite clear that this 1968 movie by a first time
director is definitely deserving of its cult status.
director Romero has forgotten to put a copyright notice on the end titles
of the movie's initial prints, Night of the Living Dead has lapsed into the public
domain over the years. (Okay, the legalities are a bit more complicated
than that, but the film's public domain status is a fait accompli.)
Therefore anyone can - and probably has - released a copy of the movie for
So there are different
versions of this movie out there. In fact, someone even overdubbed the
film's soundtrack with a comedic one! In 1998 a so-called "30th
Anniversary Edition" with new footage shot by one of the film's authors
was released. In general this is a version to avoid and has aroused more
ire from fans than even George Lucas' so-called
Star Wars - Special Edition. The
latest is a so-called "Ultimate Edition" which features a digitally
colorized version (and the original Black & White thankfully) as well as
an audio commentary by Mystery Science Theater 3000 host Mike Nelson.
Beware: picture and audio
quality of the various DVDs and VHS tapes thus differ. I watched Night
of the Living Dead as one of 50 movies contained on the
Classics 50 Movies DVD Collection, which contains, yes, 50 movies on
twelve double-sided discs. It consists of old movies which has lapsed into
the public domain and no longer has any copyright restrictions on them -
hence the way low price of about 30 U.S. dollars. Attack of the Giant
Leeches and Monster from a Prehistoric Planet are also part of the set.
Sound and picture quality on Night of the Living Dead was better
than I had anticipated and it was quite watchable.
However, if you have the bandwidth
and hard disc space, then you needn't bother: you can download Night of
the Living Dead right
here for free - and it's legal too!
Top 100 Sci-Fi
of all time