Title: Birth of the Living Dead
Directed by: Rob Kuhns
Starring: George A. Romero, Gale Anne Hurd, Larry Fessenden, Elvis Mitchell, Sam Pollard, Chiz Schultz, Jason Zinoman
Running time: 76 minutes
Special Features: Extended Interview with George A. Romero; George A. Romero at the Museum of Modern Art 06/16/1970; Bill Hinzman and the World-Record-BReaking Monroeville Zombie Walk
In 1968 a college drop-out directed the low-budget, landmark film Night of the Living Dead. What people don’t know is that George A. Romero started out directing segments for the children’s show Mr Roger’s Neighborhood and beer commercials before he found his home in horror.
Romero was only 27 years old when he found some investors interested in making a film. Many of the cast members took on several jobs in order to to make up for the lack of crew in order to get the film made. Two investors who also took acting roles agreed to get set on fire without safety gear, and would just “roll on the ground” if they got hot. The local news allowed crew to film areal shots from their helicopter and police even volunteered to show up with their K9 units in the movie. One of the crew members was a meat packer and brought real entrails and livers that the actors willingly “ate” on screen.
At a time when there were barely any people of color on screen, Romero casts Duane Jones as the lead. The casting was groundbreaking as it showed a character as a strong black man. Romero regrets not digging deeper into the character, but merely thought he was “being hip” by making a black man the star. A black character who is level headed, able to establish leadership over the white characters and is the last to survive because the ending needs to still be shocking and tragic with a a social conscious message.
Watching this documentary showcases how Night of the Living Dead gave birth to the zombie genre and how its predecessors attempt to live up to it; and what a difficult feat that is which is surprising considering it was made with very little funding. The Walking Dead, while the special effects are incredible, stays pretty faithful to Romero’s conception. Romero never gives a reason for the zombie invasion, which makes the story much more scary. What’s more scary than the unknown?
Total Rating: A
Reviewed by: JM Willis