Birth of the Living Dead
Film: Birth of the Living Dead
Director: Rob Kuhns
Starring: Larry Fassenden, Mark Harris and S. William Hinzman
This film is a documentary telling the story of the film ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and how George A. Romero did everything he could, with the help of those around him to get this film made. It also tells the story of deeper meanings, the reception the film received and the legacy the film has created.
In order to tell the story of the film, they have interviewed Romero himself. This gives his take on a lot of things, allows him to clarify many things about the film as well as how things were interpreted afterwards. He also gets to tell his story and the struggles he went through to realize the dream of this film.
To supplement this, there are film critics and producers. They give interesting perspectives on different things from the film, their own interpretations as well as drawing parallels to things that were happening at that time in America and the world. They also tell how this film has affected not only themselves, but the horror and zombie genre. They also tell us how it has affected their careers.
Night of the Living Dead was actually a struggle to make. Back in the 1960s, films were made by major studios. There were not many that were made independently and it did cost a lot to make as well. Romero had created a film company that was making commercials as well as small films for television. He did what he could, found financing and enlisted the help of anyone who was willing to make this film outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It really is quite amazing.
The film also came out in a time when the Vietnam War was being televised on the news. There were also the race riots that had much of America nervous. Romero casted an African-American in the lead, a man named Duane Jones, who was a classically trained actor. Sidney Poitier was already making a name for himself and helping out others of African descent by what he was doing in Hollywood. Actually, ‘Look Who’s Coming to Dinner’ had come-out before Night of the Living Dead and that tackled the taboo of interracial marriage. Night of the Living Dead had an African-American hero who hits, fights and even kills Caucasians. Romero stated that at the time he didn’t see Jones as African-American, but as the best actor for the job. The role was not written for any race in particular.
They faced issues with someone distributing this film as well. It had no named actors, it was not made in Hollywood, it had a shoe-string budget and it was filmed in black-and-white. Color originally thought to be a fad, became the norm at this time. Romero had trouble finding someone to purchase it. Another issue was at this time, horror was a genre that was directed toward children. Films had little blood and story that was not very scary. They usually followed Gothic literature. Romero helped to break that with this film.
This documentary film also covers is that the name was originally copy written as Night of the Flesh Eaters. When the title was changed to Night of the Living Dead, they did not copy write it and it fell into the public domain. Romero has come to terms with it, but at the time this was devastating. This means that anyone could show and produced this film without him seeing a profit. It also means that it cannot be determined how much money this film made either.
I have to say that if you like the Night of the Living Dead series, I would watch this documentary. It is nice to learn the history of the film, the reception at the time, people’s reaction to the film and how it did. Many of us came along after the fact and we already knew about it. Learning the history and the struggle to get there is an interesting journey. I also liked to see how these producers, critics and those in the industry were affected by this film and how it changed their lives. It isn’t very long, but covers a lot in that time.
I don’t really have a lot of bad to say about it. This film is a documentary on a film that changed not only the horror film genre, but it also took zombie films from being voodoo to re-animated corpses that eat the flesh of humans. The film is a companion piece, so it is not something that should be seen alone.
I would highly recommend seeing this documentary if you are a fan of the Night of the Living Dead series. I think by viewing this, you will get a better understanding of this film and what it did. As stated above, it changed the not only the zombie film, but the horror genre. It is interesting to learn the struggles it took to make this and to see how Romero feels about the final product. I also like to see how others perceived it and the effects it had on their lives as well. I would definitely say to give this a viewing if you are a fan of zombies and the series of films that made them what they are.
My Rating: 8 out of 10