Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead (1968) is a seminal horror film directed by George A. Romero which was to transfigure the horror-movie genre. The plot is simple and familiar to viewers even casually acquainted with the genre: the dead come to life after a mysterious plague that is sweeping through the United States and start attacking the living in order to feed upon their flesh. It was filmed in Evans City, Pennsylvania.
Although a low budget film (it cost around $114,000 to produce) and helmed by a first-time director, the film is considered a horror classic by many film critics, and placed #93 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years, 100 Thrills list. It was shot in black and white, and employed such innovative cost saving special effects as using chocolate syrup as cinema blood.
The film comments slyly on racism in the United States and reverses a number of stereotypes. Perhaps the most sympathetic character is a young black man who takes refuge within a farm house. It must be noted, however, that Romero has denied choosing Duane Jones as a black actor specifically for the part, claiming that he merely gave the best audition.
It was followed by two sequels: Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985), with a third sequel (Land of the Dead) planned for release in 2005. In 1999 the original film was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
The film lapsed into the public domain because of the film makers' neglect to put a proper copyright notice on the film's prints, at a time when proper notice was required to maintain copyright. (That requirement was removed with the United States' Berne Convention Implementation Act and Copyright Term Extension Act, which together provided for automatic copyright on any work once it was put into a "fixed form," and automatic copyright term renewal on all copyrighted works). As a result, the original film is available through numerous distributors in wildly divergent qualities, is available for free download at the Internet Archive , and has spawned a parody in which the audio track has been replaced with new dialogue showing that (among other things) the heroes attempted to leave the farmhouse in order to get a pizza.
Night of the Living Dead was remade in 1990 by director Tom Savini. In the later version, the "hero" of the piece is a woman. Although the character of the African American male is included, he is not the centerpiece of the plot.
In 1998, a modified "30th Anniversary Edition" was released. It had new scenes inserted, which were directed by the movie's Producer/Co-writer, John A. Russo . It also had a new soundtrack, written by Scott Vladimir Licina , whose character (a mentally unstable priest) was the focus of many of the new scenes. The new edition was generally hated by fans and non-fans alike, the general criticisms being that the new scenes did not fit into the movie, and that the soundtrack damaged the film's overall mood. The new edition had a relatively short sales-life, and quickly vanished.
Return of the Living Dead was a satirical take on the subject matter.
It should be noted many sources, including 2004's remake of Dawn of the Dead, cite the cause of the plague to be possibly viral. The aspect for "Night" is left rather ambiguous only saying that the cause may be the return and destruction of a satellite harboring an unknown radiation from Venus. This cause was only spoken in the first film, and abandoned in the following sequels. Notably, the third in the series "Day of the Dead," one of the main characters asks the question "Does it really matter the cause?" and that for all they know it's literally the wrath of God. This approach is more in keeping with the uncertainty, for if you know the cause, you are one step closer to defeating the problem.
- Night of the Living Dead (1990) at the Internet Movie Database
- The Ultimate Zombie Book List - Huge listing of zombie novels, anthologies, collections, comic books, and more.
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