Some fun and interesting trivia regarding 'Night of the Living Dead!' (1968)
When the zombies are eating the bodies in the burnt-out truck they were actually eating roast ham covered in chocolate sauce. The filmmakers joked that it was so nausea inducing that it was almost a waste of time putting the makeup on the zombies, as they ended up looking pale and sick anyway.
Readers Digest tried to warn people away from watching the film in 1968 by claiming if it's ever watched, it will inspire cannibalism.
Bosco chocolate syrup was used to simulate the blood in the film.
The zombie hand that Tom hacks up with a kitchen knife was made of clay and filled with chocolate syrup.
Though the radiation of a detonated satellite returning from Venus is theorized to be the cause of the dead rising and attacking the living, according to the filmmakers, the actual cause is never determined.
During the filming of the cemetery sequence, shot on two separate days, an unexpected accident caused a fast change of script. The car driven by Barbara and Johnny into the cemetery was actually owned by the mother of Russell Streiner. Unfortunately, sometime between the two filming sequences, someone ran into the car and put a dent in it that would easily be visible on camera. George A. Romero rewrote the scene so the car would come to a stop by crashing into a tree.
When the writers decided to base the film on zombies, they brainstormed about what would be the most shocking thing for the zombies to do to people and decided on cannibalism.
This was one of the first films added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
There are two known deleted scenes that were removed at the insistence of distributor Walter Reade Organization. They include a 8-minute expository scene in the basement between Helen and Harry at the bottom of the stairs (which explains the abrupt jump cut shown) as well as a wide shot of numerous zombies covering the landscape, which was replaced with footage of zombies eating near the end of the film. This footage was presumed lost when a flood damaged the storage facility years later at Latent Image, Inc.
One of the working titles for this film was "Night of Anubis". Anubis is the god of embalming/mummifying in the ancient Egyptian (Kemetan) religion. The title was changed once Romero learned that very few understood the reference.
The Evans City Cemetery was the cemetery used in the original version of the film, but it could not be used for the 30th anniversary edition. Before filming the new footage, a tornado had torn through the Evans City Cemetery, and ironically, it unearthed several graves.
The body upstairs in the house was made by director George A. Romero, who used ping-pong balls for the eyes.
The character of Ben was originally supposed to be a crude but resourceful truck driver, with no specification to race. After Duane Jones, in real-life a self-serious, erudite academic, auditioned for the part, director and co-writer Romero re-wrote the part to fit his performance.
The house used for this film was loaned to the filmmakers by the owner, who planned to demolish it anyway, thereby ensuring that they could do whatever they wanted to the house.
One of the original ideas for the script before its many revisions called for Barbara to be a very strong, charismatic character. Instead, George A. Romero and the producers loved Judith O'Dea's portrayal as a catatonic and terrified young girl much better, and edited the script to accommodate the part. Eventually, the idea of Barbara being a strong, central character would be revisited in Tom Savini's 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990).
200 extras were cast in the parts of townspeople and zombies.
The word "zombie" is never used. The most common euphemism used to describe the living dead is "those things," mostly by Cooper. Other characters refer to the creatures as "ghouls."
One of the Walter Reade Organization's publicity stunts was a $50,000 insurance policy against anyone dying from a heart attack while watching the film.
The film's world premiere was at the Fulton Theatre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 1 October 1968 (At 8PM, admission by invitation only). The film was met with a standing ovation.
The only real mishap to happen during filming involved producer and actor Russell Streiner's (Johnny's) brother, Gary Streiner. After Duane Jones set the chair on fire, it was Gary's responsibility to extinguish the flames and set the chair ablaze again to preserve continuity, ensuring that smoke would be seen emanating from it near the end of the film. At one point Gary's sleeve caught on fire and, as he ran in terror, S. William Hinzman (in full zombie makeup) tackled him to the ground and helped extinguish the flames, saving him from major injury.
S. William Hinzman based his characteristic saunter (and, subsequently, that of each other zombie) on a film with Boris Karloff, the title of which he could not remember but was most likely The Walking Dead (1936). In that film, Karloff played a man risen from the dead, and walks with a characteristic ungainly saunter.
At the time of the film's release, any work that did not include a copyright notice was assumed to be public domain. Since the film makers forgot to include this notice, the film slipped into the public domain. It was not until 1 March 1989 that a copyright notice was no longer required.
The character of Ben was originally written as an angry person. When Duane Jones was given the role, he expressed concern that the character be rewritten to remove some of the anger - such as the scene where Ben hits Barbara - afraid of how it would be widely perceived in the United States at the time to see a black man acting in this way. The nation was still plagued with high racial tensions during the late sixties; the film was released to theaters shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr . Nonetheless, Romero and most of the rest of the predominantly white crew decided against it, thinking they were being "hip" by not changing it. Years later, Romero lamented that he had not taken Jones' concerns more into consideration, and thought that he was probably correct. He's expressed that he wishes he could speak with the late Jones again, asking him how he felt about the film's legendary status, and believes Jones would just say "Who knew?" and laugh.
Though the cast and crew of the film had nothing but positive things to say about Duane Jones (Ben), Marilyn Eastman (Helen Cooper) would later refer to him as a tortured individual, due to the racial tensions which were still high in the United States during the late sixties. Karl Hardman (Harry Cooper) had become good friends with Jones, and Jones' unfortunate death in 1988 affected him greatly. He would often become emotional when talking about Jones, and believed he received a rotten deal in life due to the nation's racial tensions.
Assuming the movie takes place on the spring time change (according to the dialog at the beginning) after the date (December 1966) on the calendar in the house (a reasonable assumption from the condition of the body in the house), the movie begins on the night of 30 April 1967 and ends the next morning, which is May Day. However, for the sequels, Romero has treated the timeline of the Dead saga with a bit of malleability; this "time slip" often occurs in fictional continuities where much less time has passed in the fictional world than in real life. In the movie novelization of Dawn of the Dead (1978) he notes "The stock market had plummeted way below the lowest point of the Jimmy Carter administration" and refers to an upcoming election. Day of the Dead(1985) features a copy of the novel Salem's Lot by Stephen King, published in 1975, after Night of the Living Dead came out; it seems peculiar that this work still saw publication in a world where "ghouls" actually exist. Diary of the Dead(2007) takes place within the timeline with Night of the Living Dead yet features modern computers. Of course, even Night of the Living Dead references technology far advanced than that available at the time of the film's release (i.e. the Venus probe).
One of the working titles for this film was "Night of the Flesh Eaters". Originally, the beings attacking the characters were extraterrestrial in origin, either aliens or humans possessed by an alien pathogen, presumably covering a NASA satellite returning from Venus. Eventually, it was decided that the dead would rise and devour the living, presumably due to radiation that was carried by a NASA satellite returning from Venus.
When Ben is nailing wooden boards to the door, small numbers can be seen on them. These were written on the backs of the boards so they could be removed and replaced in between shots, preserving continuity. Some numbers are visible because some of the boards were nailed on backwards.
Tom Savini was originally hired by Romero to do the makeup effects for this film. The two were first introduced to each other when Savini auditioned for an acting role in an earlier film that never got off the ground. Romero, remembering that Savini was also a makeup artist (he had brought his makeup portfolio to show to Romero at the audition), called Savini to the set of his horror movie. However, Savini was unable to do the effects because he was called to duty by the US Army to serve as a combat photographer in Vietnam. Savini later appeared in Dawn of the Dead (1978) and directed Night of the Living Dead (1990).
The film's first scene, the initial cemetery attack on Barbara and Johnny, was the last filmed, in November 1967. The actors had to hold their breath to avoid visible condensation in the frosty autumn air.
According to Romero, the film was originally ten minutes longer but the distributor pressured him to cut it down.
Bill 'Chilly Billy' Cardille, who played the television reporter, was indeed a local Pittsburgh TV celebrity. He hosted a horror movie program on Channel 11 and occasionally reported the news.
Actor/co-producer Karl Hardman (Harry Cooper, the father in the basement), also served as makeup artist, electronic sound effects engineer, and took the still photos used for the closing credits.
The music used in the film was from a Capitol/EMI Records Hi-Q stock music library, on which the copyright was in the public domain, and cost the filmmakers $1500. It was originally used in Teenagers from Outer Space (1959).
Some of the groans made by S. William Hinzman when he's wrestling with Russell Streiner in the cemetery are authentic. During the struggle, Streiner accidentally kneed Hinzman in the groin.
According to the commentary track on the Elite laserdisc and DVD version of the film, the original working print and working elements and materials for the film no longer exist - they were destroyed as a result of a flood that filled the basement where the materials were stored (which was the same basement used in the movie).
At between 51 and 52 minutes into the film, going by the Elite laserdisc/DVD release, there is a very visible jump cut. The distributors wanted some of the "talky" bits trimmed down, so, about 6 minutes was cut from a basement scene involving the Coopers. The jump is quite clearly visible because at one point Harry is facing one direction and then immediately in the next frame, he is facing another.
The first movie filmed in Pittsburgh.
One of the most successful independent films ever made.
In 2013, a stage adaptation of the film, executive produced by George A. Romero, Russell Streiner, and John A. Russo, debuted in Toronto. The play featured the story of the original film, followed by a series of alternate scenarios.
Duane Jones, in his final interview before his death admitted he had never seen any of the other "Dead" movies, nor any other Romero movie.
One of the last big hits of the drive-in era.
Romero smashed a butterfly on set to prepare everyone for a difficult scene, much to their shock. It was such an unpleasant moment in an otherwise pleasant shoot.
Allegedly Romero never did his own laundry during filming. He just bought new clothes instead.
Judith Ridley still has her outfit from the film. The pants became her painting pants. And her shirt became a dishrag.
The Pittsburgh police provided personnel and equipment.
Romero saw very little profit from the film when thanks to his lack of knowledge regarding distribution deals, the distributors walked away with practically all of the profits.
The gas pump was not bolted to the ground when the actress who played Barbra, runs into it at the start of the film. She did it with so much force she almost tipped it over on the cameraman.
S. William Hinzman and Karl Hardman, two of the original $300 investors were cast due to a shortage of available talent. Another investor was a butcher, who provided some blood and guts.
During production, the film's title was still being chosen. The working title was simply "Monster Flick".
The main house did not have a true basement but a dirt potter's cellar, and thus had no long staircase leading down to it. Because of this, the basement scenes were filmed in the editing studio's cellar.
While writing the script, Romero and John A. Russo were trying to think of a manner in which to destroy the zombies. Marilyn Eastman joked that they could throw pies in their faces. This is obviously an inspiration for the pie fight scene in this film's sequel, Dawn of the Dead (1978).
Screenwriter John A. Russo appears as the ghoul who gets his forehead smashed by Ben with a tire iron. He also allowed himself to be set on fire for real when nobody else wanted to do the stunt.
The Cooper family are partly played by a real family. Karl Hardman (husband Harry Cooper) is the real life father of Kyra Schon (daughter Karen Cooper). However contrary to what is elsewhere reported Marilyn Eastman (wife Helen Cooper) is not in any way related to either Karl or Kyra.
The role of Ben was originally meant for Rudy Ricci. After Duane Jones had read the part, however, it was given to him, and Ricci played one of the zombies.
Filmed at Tim Hornish's grandmother's house in Zelionople.
When applying makeup for the actors playing zombies, Marilyn Eastman focused less on a rotting appearance for most of them (it can still be seen on several, including herself in the "bug-eating" scene), instead concentrating on a prominent facial feature that each actor or actress had and making it appear more prominent for an unsettling image.
As Romero explains in "The Directors: The Films of George A. Romero", the day the final editing and voice-over dubbing was complete (4/4/1968), he and John A. Russo literally "threw" the film into the trunk of their car and drove to New York to see if anyone wanted to show it. While driving through New York on the night of April 4th, 1968, Romero and Russo heard news on the radio that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated.
One of the first films to graphically depict violent murders on screen.
Judith Ridley read for Barbara originally but she felt out of her depth in the role.
The real gravestone that Barbara cowers beside in the graveyard scene of the movie is that of Nicholas Kramer (1842-1917), whose remains are interred in the Evans City Cemetery in Jackson Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.
Columbia Pictures was the only major Hollywood studio interested in distributing this film, but eventually passed because it was in black-and-white at a time when movies had to compete with new color televisions. Columbia did distribute the 1990 color remake Night of the Living Dead (1990). American International Pictures considered releasing the film, but wanted Romero to shoot an upbeat ending and add more of a love story subplot.
Romero was the one operating the camera when S. William Hinzman (the cemetery zombie) attacks Barbara in her car by smashing the window with a rock. When Hinzman shattered the window, the rock barely missed Romero.
The Chevy truck seen in the new footage is not the same one seen in the original footage. The filmmakers for the new footage were fortunate enough to find a truck owned by a local resident that bore a near-perfect resemblance to the original truck. The owner was kind enough to let them borrow his truck for the film. The owner of the truck was Harold Metz of Zelienople.
During the filming of the new footage for the 30th anniversary edition, actor/composer Scott Vladimir Licina (Reverend John Hicks) suffered a heat stroke in the cemetery and was hospitalized for a few days.
There were two trucks used in the film. The first one used in the beginning of the film would not start for the trek-to-the-gas-pump scenes and had to be replaced. Unfortunately, they forgot to break the headlights.
The stock music that accompanies Barbara's initial flight from the cemetery zombie was taken from the score for The Hideous Sun Demon (1959), and had been used a year earlier, in the final episode of television's
The social commentary on racism some have seen in this film was never intended (an African-American man holing up in a house with a white woman, a posse of whites shooting a black man in the head without first checking to see if he was a zombie). According to the filmmakers, Duane Jones was simply the best actor for the part of Ben.
Barbara was originally meant to be the sole survivor of the zombies' onslaught. This idea is incorporated into the remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990).
Originally, one idea for the script called for Harry Cooper to die from the gunshot wound received from Ben before his daughter became a zombie, which would have resulted in Helen coming down the stairs to find him eating their daughter, rather than the daughter eating him. It was decided that this would probably be far too disturbing and graphic and was changed back to the idea of the daughter becoming a zombie first.
When Ben moves the body upstairs to another room, its face is intact. This was in fact Kyra Schon who doubled as the upstairs body as it was felt that a mannequin would look unrealistic.
The matricide scene was accomplished by having Kyra Schon stab repeatedly into a off-screen pillow with a trowel while a member of the effects crew threw chocolate syrup (used as fake blood for a black-and-white film) onto the wall. These scenes were looped with scenes of Marilyn Eastman screaming. The trowel used in the scene was purchased online years later and is now in a private collection.
The filmmakers were accused of being "Satanically-inspired" by Christian fundamentalist groups for their portrayal of the undead feeding on flesh and of the Coopers' zombie child attacking her mother.