In 1968 a young college drop-out named George A. Romero gathered an unlikely team – from Pittsburgh policeman, iron workers, housewives and a roller rink owner – to create a low budget horror film that would revolutionise the industry, and spawn a new flesh eating monster that endures to this day… that film was ‘’Night of The Living Dead”.
“Birth of the Living Dead”, is the story of how they managed to pull off the greatest guerrilla shoot of all time. This documentary includes exclusive new interviews with the godfather of zombie films George A. Romero himself, as well as brand new animations created by Gary Pullin. Put together with 60’s archival footage this film shows just how politically charged “Night’’ was, set against the backdrop of race riots and Vietnam the film challenged the establishment and had enormous fun doing it!
With a range of candid interviews and fascinating insight ‘’Birth of the Living Dead’’ is an absolute must have for any horror fan, enter the original Zombie Universe, but remember…..
“They’re coming to get you Barbara……”
“They’ve been dead a long time……”
Being a lifelong horror fan, I was introduced to Romero’s legendary trilogy on VHS during my teen years. The rather superb Tom Savini remake being my first exposure,then a heavily cut version of Dawn of the Dead and quite oddly, a pastel shaded ‘colourised’ version of Romero’s original then followed by Day of the Dead. The colourised version put me off in all honesty. Relegated to the bottom of the pile, I had no intention of watching it again and stuck to the remake. Then a little thing called DVD happened and I ended up upgrading my collection. One of those upgrades was Night of the Living Dead but instead of a sickly colourised version that was done in the early 80’s, I had a THX certified transfer with restored video and audio and bonus features! Watching it again but as the director intended, it was like rediscovering it all over again, the moody black and white photography restored that creepy atmosphere and dread and I finally came to my senses and realised that what I was watching was the bar raiser that kicked the zombie genre off.
I’ve collected a few DVD and Blu-ray editions over the years, the fact that the film’s copyright does not exist due to an error during the original 1968 release, and the film still remains in the public domain meaning any company outfit, no matter how big or small, can put any edition together and release it. Luckily I’ve sourced the best of these editions (and the 1999 recut special edition which was quickly sold off) and have delved into the featurettes and documentaries contained on the discs. None of them really reached the heights of the popular ‘Document of the Dead’ that was directed by Roy Frumkes that charted the production and release of Dawn of the Dead. The closest we have come to a dedicated documentary for Night of the Living a Dead was ‘One for the Fire : The Legacy of The Night of the Living Dead’ that was contained on the Optimum released UK Blu-ray which looked more at the legacy of the original film and it’s cultural impact and inspiration throughout the years in the horror genre.
Birth of the Living Dead is a new documentary that goes back to the beginning and gives us the origins of this zombie classic. Featuring interviews with the man himself, George Romero, who really does give some superb insight throughout the documentary, Gale Ann Hurd (The Walking Dead, Terminator, Aliens,The Abyss and many more blockbusters) and various historians, producers, and current Filmmakers, Birth of the Living Dead delivers a interesting and comprehensive look at the making of Night of the Living Dead.
Giving us a snapshot of the era that Night of the Living a Dead was shot in, using a clever combination of archive footage, film clips and 3D animated segments, it explores the origin of the Romero’s company ‘The Lantern Image’ and subsequent work that got Romero behind the camera. Fast forward to 1967, a very angry time in the US due to the Vietnam war and racial tension, Romero and nine other investors formed a new company called Image Ten and start pre-production on what they considered a ballsy horror movie. Using guerrilla tactics and shooting on a shoestring budget, Romero multi tasked on the production and worked with local tradesmen and co-operated with townsfolk and services to get the film made. The documentary also looks at Duane Jones performance and impact on audiences and celebrate his performance. The documentary also does a superb job of breaking the film down and comparing it to ongoing events in the US. Examples being racial tension, Vietnam war coverage and media tactics and various other political statements which gives a much deeper meaning and appreciation for the film.
Finishing off with the troubled marketing, missing copyright and uncertain anticipation due to it’s political statements and Black and white photography in an age where cinemas had colour movies exploding on their screens, it charts the small screenings in drive in’s and Grindhouse cinema pits and how it’s popularity grew beyond expectation despite critical disapproval. Remember to keep it rolling past the credits though for a bonus interview.
Birth of the Living Dead is not only an insightful documentary but it’s also a celebration of this classic horror film that manages to fill that gap in every horror fans collection and one I cannot recommend enough.
Special thanks to Maven Publicity for supplying the screener for this review