Night of the Living Dead

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(1968, directed by George A. Romero)

- inducted 2019 –

"I know you're afraid. I am too."

“The first time I saw George A. Romero's landmark horror film Night of the Living Dead, I was sixteen. I was staying over at my best friend Jim's place, as I often did in high school. His mother, though usually home, was away for some reason this particular evening, and though we'd often go downtown and hang out at the various coffee shops on Main Street, this night we'd decided to stay in and fart around. Flipping channels, we came across a local station filling time with a cheap horror film - Rospo Pallenberg's Cutting Class. That film, a dumb and clumsy thing that never quite figures out if it's intending or not to be funny, activated our natural teenage tendency towards mockery, and we had a good time riding it as hard as we could. Having built up a good head of steam, we decided to stick around for the next film, fully expecting to continue with our fun. That film turned out to be Dead. Jump to 2 AM, where we have be stunned into silence, our only reaction to be to slowly turn to each other and utter, ‘Whoa.’ I did not sleep well that night.

“Almost a quarter century later, after a dozen viewings, my most recent watch of Dead this past week still left me stunned into silence. I have over the years shown it to other people, people who aren't film buffs, and seen the same reaction happen. I'm not sure what else I can add to the conversation on this one - few films have been as poked, prodded, pulled, dissected, deconstructed and blown apart as this - so all I can do is concentrate on my specific reaction and what that says about the film. And beyond the vituperative social commentary, beyond the groundbreaking casting, beyond the fact that Romero straight-up invented an entire genre, beyond everything that makes this a game-changer... strip all that away, get down to the meat and bone of the thing, and you still have the most terrifying film ever made, a film that retains its cruel and incomparable power to disorient and disturb even after double-digit viewings.

“Therein lies the extraordinary power of Dead - it's a destabilized film for and from a destabilized time, a work of narrative art in which the narrative is a series of shock waves meant to wreck the audience's sense of expectation. And within those shock waves lies its suffocating sense of dread, the mounting panic that stems from its eventual succumbing to the sense that everything is wrong and nothing will be okay. Cutting through the accumulated detritus around the film to find its core, this is the elemental truth to be found there - Night of the Living Dead works at a level most horror cannot hope to touch because, for any number of reasons relating to the time and place it was made, it posits a future where Nothing Will Be Okay. Fear is the only option. There's no road out. These are terrifying times, and this might be The End. I know you're afraid. I am too.” ~ Steve Carlson

Principal cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Riley, Kyra Schon, Charles Craig, Bill Heinzman, George Kosana, Frank Doak, Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille, with uncredited appearances by George A. Romero, Russell W. Streiner
Screenplay by John Russo and George A. Romero
Produced by Karl Hardman, Russell W. Streiner
Sound by Marshall Booth, Gary R. Streiner
Special effects by Tony Pantanello, Regis Survinski
Cinematography by George A. Romero (uncredited)
Film editing by George A. Romero (uncredited)
Music supervisor: John Seely (uncredited)

Duration: 96 minutes
Languages: English
Filmed in black and white
Sound mix: Mono
Cinematographic process: Spherical
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Printed film format: 35mm

Produced by Image Ten Productions
Released in USA by Continental Distributing, Walter Reade Organization
Premiered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 1, 1968

Awards and honors:
- National Film Registry selection, 1999

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