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Night of the Living Dead

Entry updated 17 July 2017. Tagged: Film.

1. Film (1968). Image 10 Productions/Walter Reade-Continental. Directed by George A Romero. Written by Romero and John A Russo. Cast includes Karl Hardman, Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea and Keith Wayne. 96 minutes, cut to 90 minutes. Black and white.

This unrelenting and downbeat Horror film, Romero's astonishing debut, tells of a horde of walking, cannibalistic corpses who lay siege to an isolated house. Their revival is explained by "space radiation" brought to Earth on an aborted Rocket launch, but the absurdity of this barely detracts from the concentrated Gothic Paranoia of the action, whose intensity won the film a cult following, especially from those who saw the savagery – and helplessness – of both ordinary people and Zombies (whose bite infects the victim with zombiism) as symbolic of the horrors of the Vietnam War. Night of the Living Dead was independently financed and made during weekends by a small group based in Pittsburgh. The slightly belated novelization is Night of the Living Dead (1974) by John Russo.

Five sequels directed by Romero have followed, making up a Living Dead hexalogy: Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005; vt George A Romero's Land of the Dead), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009; vt George A Romero's Survival of the Dead). [PN/JB]

2. Film (1990). 21st Century/George Romero/Menahem Golan/Columbia. Directed by Tom Savini. Written by George Romero, based on the 1968 screenplay by Romero and Russo. Cast includes McKee Anderson, William Butler, Katie Finneran, Patricia Tallman, Tony Todd and Tom Towles. 89 minutes. Colour.

It was a risky and possibly cynical undertaking to remake, in colour, the 1968 black-and-white classic. However, while the original remains the stronger, this was an accomplished feature-film debut for Savini, best known for his ghoulish special make-up on Romero's Zombie movies. Generally the story-line of the original is followed closely, but there is a greater emphasis on the female character, Barbara (Tallman), who does not succumb so quickly to frozen fear as did her original. The 1968 film made a virtue of its ramshackle production values, with a cinema verité style resulting from a shoestring budget; the greater smoothness of the remake makes it strangely less compelling – more obviously a movie. [PN/JB]

see also: Cinema; Monster Movies; Supernatural Creatures.


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