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Night of the Living Dead Movie Review

romero george judith ben

Until 1995, rental videos of this classic horror movie were dupey, contrasty, grimy copies of the original film. That's when Anchor Bay Entertainment released a special collector's edition that was digitally remastered from the 35mm negative. Don't even think about buying or renting anything else! This was the way George A. Romero intended Night of the Living Dead to be seen. Made in Pittsburgh during the last year of the Johnson era, the story explored our very real fears of the unknown during that violent, tense time. Why are the dead walking around and attacking the living? Who cares? Get through the night as best you can! Duane Jones, then 31, stars as Ben, who is trying to fortify a farmhouse against the flesh-eating zombies. He's courageous, decisive, and smart, all worthy qualities for the triumphant hero he would be in a less nihilistic tale. (Jones, a fine actor who later appeared in Black Vampire, Beat Street, and Fright House, died at 51 a year before 1989's To Die For was released; he is sixth-billed as a very gaunt Simon Little and the film is dedicated to his memory. Jones also taught literature at Antioch College and directed theatrical productions.) Ben's nemesis is (producer) Karl Hardman as Harry Cooper, who wants to hide in the cellar with his wife Helen (Marilyn Eastman) and injured daughter. Blowhard Harry fights Ben every step of the way, but he doesn't impress Helen for an instant. The peacemaker of the group is Keith Wayne as Tom, who respectfully addresses Harry as “Mr. Cooper,” although his sympathies clearly lie with Ben. Judith O'Dea is cast to type as Barbra, who acts like a zombie, even though she isn't one yet, and Judith Ridley as Tom's girlfriend Judy must have gone to the same acting school as O'Dea. Everyone else is quite good and the existential quality of their fate, plus the steps they take to circumvent it, will suck you in for the duration. If you want to see what Romero looked like in 1968, check out that television interviewer from the nation's capital. And don't watch this one alone! AKA: Night of the Flesh Eaters; Night of the Anubis.

1968 90m/B Judith O'Dea, Duane Jones, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley, Russell Streiner, Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille; Cameos: George A. Romero; D: George A. Romero; W: George A. Romero, John A. Russo; C: George A. Romero. VHS, LV, DVD

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