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Happy Anniversary, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD!

Fifty years. FIFTY! How did that happen? Wow. I’d challenge anybody to name a movie that has had more of an impact on modern culture than this one. Everything zombie, everything, came from this film. Every zombie-related project that has existed since has been riding on George Romero’s coattails. That’s just simple fact.

Written, directed, produced, and edited by Romero, and filmed for a whopping $114,000—chump change BY Hollywood standards—the movie opened to controversy on October 1, 1968. Our current MPAA ratings system didn’t go into effect until a month AFTER the release of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and so it was that children were able to get in to see the movie. “I don’t think the younger kids really knew what hit them,” said Roger Ebert at the time. Nor did anybody else, Ebert. And check out what VARIETY had to say: “…this horror film…casts serious aspersions on the integrity and social responsibility of its Pittsburgh-based makers, [its] distributor…as well as raising doubts about the…health of film goers who cheerfully opt for this unrelieved orgy of sadism…” And yet here we are, fifty years later (that’s still hard to believe) and where are those handwringing goody-goodies? And where is this unrelieved orgy of sadism? To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, “It’s still here. They’re all gone.” And not only is it still here, it is rightfully regarded as a classic, even selected by the Library of Congress for official preservation as a motion picture “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Significant? Yeah, that’s kind of an understatement.

TheCheezman • October 7, 2018

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