Fifty years ago, George A. Romero revolutionized the horror genre with this gritty black-and-white tale of seven people who hole up in a remote farmhouse while the zombie apocalypse rages outside. Not only did he re-define zombies as flesh-eating ghouls (after years of their depiction as pitiful reanimated slaves), but he also increased their level of inflicting violence, thereby giving rise to the “splatter” genre. He didn’t set out to change the horror film, however. He and his partners only wanted to make a low-budget feature so they could break out of making commercials. The low budget required shooting in black and white and in real locations, which only intensified the horrific atmosphere. Adding to that was the way the film unconsciously reflected the spirit of the times. Scenes of civilian militias fighting off the zombies provided an uncomfortable reflection of news images showing the Vietnam War. The fact that the main character was a black man (Duane Jones) fighting to have his voice heard seemed to echo the nation’s racial divide, an element of the film that was not Romero’s original intention. Jones was simply the best actor to read for the role, and they cast him without making any changes to the script to refer to his race, making this one of the most genuine films of its time. (d. George A. Romero, 96m, Digital)
About the Restoration:
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was restored by The Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation. Funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation and the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation.
The restoration was overseen by George A. Romero and Image Ten—most especially, Gary Streiner, Russ Streiner, and John Russo—with restoration work done by Cineric Inc, NYC, and Audio Mechanics, Burbank, CA.