Night of the Living Dead
Screenplay: John Russo, George Romero
Producers: Karl Hardman, Russell Streiner
Release Date: October 1, 1968 (USA) color version released: July 1, 2008
Running Time: 96 minutes (United States)
Brother and sister Barbara and Johnny have driven to rural Pennsylvania to visit their father’s grave. In the cemetery, whilst Johnny taunts his sister by chanting the phrase “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”, a stranger tries to attack Barbara. A struggle ensues between Johnny and the stranger which culminates in Johnny hitting his head on a tombstone and dying. Barbara desperately flees. Luckily a man named Ben comes to her rescue. He drags her into a nearby farmhouse, barricading the doors from the undead crowd who now pursue them both. Others are already hiding in the house. As they all bicker between themselves on where to hide, and who is in charge, a report comes over the radio about other widespread zombie attacks. The constant threat from the undead trying to break into the house is evenly matched by the constant in-house fighting between the discordant survivors.
It’s going to be a long night!
The violence in Night of the Living Dead is a significant part of the film. As this film was made in 1968, some might think that the violence would seem tame by today’s standards. However, despite the passage of time you can still expect to be shocked by some of the film’s graphic images. It is not suitable viewing for children or people of a nervous disposition.
The type of violence in Night of the Living Dead includes:
- Images of cannibalism, with zombies are eating body parts
- Partial decomposition of a human face
- Head bludgeoning where a man’s skull is crushed
- A small girl kills a woman with a masonry trowel
- One man is shot in the stomach and eaten by zombies
- Graphic images of a man being shot in the head; not bloody, just shocking!
- A victim is shot and their body is burned
- A car explodes with victims inside
Night of the Living Dead Characters
The main male protagonist, Ben, is played by Duane Jones. He is a hero several times over; rescuing Barbara and trying to enlighten his fellow survivors on the best way to defend themselves from the zombie attacks.
Barbara played by Judih O’Dea is the main female protagonist. At the start of the film she is seen with her brother Johnny visiting their father’s grave. Barbara is the first victim in the film to be attacked by a member of the living dead. After her brother’s death, Barbara is rescued by Ben and taken to the farmhouse to face a long night of fighting off zombies.
Played by Karl Hardman, Harry Cooper is one of the survivors found hiding out in the farmhouse where Ben and Barbara seek refuge. There is a constant struggle between Harry and and Ben as to who knows the most about fighting the living dead; we’ll leave it up to you to see who wins that argument!
Helen, played by Marilyn Eastman, is married to Harry. Their daughter Karen was bitten by a zombie before the family sought refuge in the farmhouse. Despite her daughter’s impending fate, Helen bravely battles to nurse Karen and comes to Harry’s rescue when he suffers a zombie attack.
Barbara’s brother, Johnny Blair is played by Russell Streiner. At the start of the film he and Barbara have travelled to Pennsylvania to make their annual pilgrimage to their father’s grave. Johnny teases his sister with the line “They’re coming to get you Barbara”, but when they really do come to get her, Johnny battles to defend her bravely. Unfortunately he hits his head on a tombstone and bows out of the movie gracefully. Or does he?….
Karen Cooper, played by Kyra Schon, is the daughter of Helen and Harry Cooper. She has been bitten by a zombie before her family seek refuge in the farmhouse. Karen and her mother Helen are involved in what is probably the most shocking and violent scene in the film.
We are introduced to our very first member of the living dead, Zombie #1, when he attempts to attack Barbara at the start of the film. , played by Bill Hinzman. Despite his best efforts, Zombie #1 fails to get the girl, as Barbara is light on her feet and races off to find sanctuary!
Night of the Living Dead is a landmark film for the zombie franchise. Since its commercial release it has thrilled audiences, and has directly influenced every single zombie feature film that has followed eagerly in its footsteps. What’s more, not only is Night of the Living Dead an exceptional zombie movie, but it is also a solid and well-made feature film. Everything single aspect of this film has been executed superbly; from the inspired plot and the stellar cast to the shocking violence which is necessary to convey the true level of horror imposed by the living dead!
The original Night of the Living Dead was filmed in black and white. The same movie is now available in colour; a feature which many fans believe makes what is a great film even better. Our advice is to watch either of these versions; both of which have received better feedback from fans than any other anniversary or “new added footage” editions.
When a movie is billed as “the scariest film ever made” and sets the bench mark for all future films of that genre, it just has to be awarded our maximum zombie rating!
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