Night of the Living Dead

1968 movie

If you haven’t seen it:

night_of_the_living_deadThere had been zombies in movies well before Night of the Living Dead, but this was the first “zombie apocalypse” movie. The thoughtful tone of the movie and the convincing actions of the characters made such an impact that a sub-genre was created, one that is still thriving today.

Many have said that Night of the Living Dead was the first modern horror film. It is intelligent, but also, in places, quite nasty, with scenes of gore and cannibalism.

Hardcore horror movie fans today will not be shocked by it (it is relatively tame by modern standards), but if you are the sort of person who feels squeamish looking at the contents of the meat counter in a supermarket, you should probably give this one a miss.

Michael Jackson and Simon Pegg have done their best over the years to make zombies seem ridiculous, but despite their efforts, Night of the Living Dead is still a chilling and thoroughly convincing horror masterpiece.

If you have seen it:

Scroll down past the trailer for more.

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Look! Someone over there looks worse than I do.

Barbra and her brother Johnny are visiting their father’s grave at a rural Pennsylvania cemetery, when a well dressed middle-aged man attacks them, knocking Johnny unconscious. Barbra flees, and, pursued by her attacker and several other sinister figures, she makes the classic horror movie mistake of taking refuge in a spooky old house. She is soon joined by Ben, and a group of people who were hiding in the cellar.

We learn from radio and TV reports that there has been a massive outbreak of homicide and cannibalism from ordinary-looking “assassins” who appear to be in a trance. Later reports state that the unburied dead are coming back to life as “ghouls” (the movie never mentions the word “zombie”), and they suggest that this has been caused by radiation from a satellite that has recently returned from Venus.

The house is now surrounded by zombies (including a cute naked one), and the terrified occupants argue amongst themselves about whether to make a break for freedom, or barricade themselves in the cellar. Ben establishes himself as leader, but his plan to fill his truck with gas goes predictably wrong, resulting in an explosion, two deaths, and a gruesome zombie barbeque.


Feeding the kids can cost an arm and a leg.

The zombies, including zombie Johnny and the well-dressed zombie#1 (but sadly not cute naked zombie) attack the house. The only survivor is Ben, who locks himself in the cellar, which is ironically what he had forcefully argued against doing earlier in the movie.

Ben survives the night, and in the morning a rescue party led by the local sheriff pass through the area. However, they mistake Ben for a zombie, and shoot him dead.

Trivia Trish Says:

  • Romero’s storyline was inspired by Richard Mattheson’s novel “I am Legend which was itself recently filmed with Will Smith.
  • When the zombies are eating the bodies in the burnt-out truck they were actually eating roast ham covered in chocolate sauce.
  • During the wrestling scene in the cemetary, the actor playing Johnny accidentally kneed the zombie actor (Bill Heinzman) in the groin.
  • Night of the Living dead can lay claim to having influenced hundreds of later zombie movies, as well as books, websites, and at least one mathematical study – namely When Zombies attack!: Mathematical Modelling of an outbreak of Zombie Infection.
  • This was the first time an African American had the starring role in a mainstream horror film, and in fact it was the first time a black actor had been cast in the lead role of any major motion picture where his race was not part of the story. The part was written for a white man.
  • Duane Jones taught at and became the head of the Theatre Department at Old Westbury college in Long Island, New York. He remained there until he died in 1988.
  • The couple who play the Coopers are married in real life. Also their daughter is really the daughter of “Mr. Cooper.”
  • The farmhouse was rented from a local family. Although it was scheduled for demolition, its owners insisted on being paid $5000 for the intended burning-down-the-house climax. Romero opted not to pay, and changed the ending.
  • When it first appeared in cinemas, Night of the Living Dead was inappropriately shown in kiddies’ matinees, scaring the daylight out of unprepared youngsters.
  • Romero made five “sequels” to this movie. His “…of the dead” series consists of Night/Dawn/Day/Land/Diary/Survival. “Night” has also been remade twice.

Steve Sunday Says:

Yes, some of the acting in Night of the Living Dead is a little dodgy. They were all amateurs after all. Judith O’Dea’s performance as the catatonic Barbra is often singled out for criticism. Also, there is one character who bears a passing similarity to Matt Le Blanc, and his acting (especially during a supposedly tender scene with his wife) put me in mind of Joey Tribbiani’s acting in “Days of Our Lives”. However, Duane Jones is great as Ben, and for me, his energy carries the movie.


Drop undead gorgeous

Let’s all spare a thought though, for the actress playing cute naked zombie. All the other zombie actors get to dress up and wear cool makeup, but she has to wander around in the buff. You know, filming took place in Pittsburgh in November – if you look closely you can actually see the goosebumps on her pert little bottom. Poor girl. She does not even get a credit. Who was she? If anyone knows please let me know – let us give her the recognition she deserves. Perhaps if someone is reading this is Pittsburgh they could put an advert in a local paper – I was thinking of something along the lines of

Good looking zombie seeks similar.
Likes: walks in the country, nudity, human flesh.
Dislikes: fire, redneck posses, chocolate sauce.

Chris the Critic says:

George Romero was working in advertising in Pittsburgh in the mid 1960s when the company he worked for decided to make a feature film. Night of the Living Dead was filmed at weekends, and it was financed by the crew, local investors, and credit cards. Having such a tight budget, they knew they had to make the film as cheaply as possible – their success changed the face of the contemporary horror film, and paved the way for the generations of American independent film-makers to come. Night of the Living Dead’s influences can be seen in Reservoir Dogs, Easy Rider, Signs, and The Blair Witch Project.


The hot seat


Following my appeal above, reader Steve Leasure has contacted me to say:

Re – the naked zombie in “Night of the Living Dead”  Her name was Carol and she was a nude model at “The Art Institute of Pittsburg.” I was a student there at the time.

I never knew her surname. She was very quiet and private. She would come to class, Disrobe and not say a word, but she seemed like a nice person. She seemed to be in her mid to late 30s. This was 1966 to 1969.”

Thanks Steve!



Top Ten Zombie Jokes:

What did the zombie eat after its teeth were pulled out?
The dentist.

A zombie’s sex-life usually starts well…
but it soon drops off.

What is a zombies prefered mode of transport?

What did the zombie do after he dumped his girlfriend?


Baby zombie: “Mommy, do I have daddy’s eyes?”
Mother zombie: “Yes you do honey! Now eat them before they get cold!”

A zombie walks into a bar…
didn’t faze him at all.

Did you hear about the dyslexic zombie?
He ate Brian.


What’s black and white and red all over?
A nun being eaten by zombies

Do zombies eat popcorn with their fingers?
No, they eat the fingers separately…

What has a dog’s head, a cat’s tail, and brains all over its face?
A zombie coming out of the pet store.

Main Cast and Crew:

Duane Jones … Ben Hanser
Judith O’Dea … Barbra
Karl Hardman … Harry Cooper
Directed by George A. Romero

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