5 Night of the Living Dead Fun Facts Before the Rifftrax Halloween Show
Some Night of the Living Dead fun facts…
#5. Mr. Rogers attended the premier of Night of the Living Dead
I love this one. A lot of fans don’t believe it, but beloved children’s TV host was one of the guests of honor for the premiere for Night of the Living Dead when it was held in Pittsburgh. This is a story of one citizen of the Burg helping out his neighbor. George Romero’s first gig as a director was on the TV show Mister Rogers Neighborhood. He directed segments on about a dozen various episodes before finally breaking out on his own in film-making.
Fred Rogers was a big supporter of Romero’s and is even rumored to have given the upstart $1,000 to finance his first movie. The only stipulation was that Fred’s name could not be put on the credits as to not sully his reputation as a children’s TV host. Romero also wanted several stars from Mister Rogers Neighborhood to star in Living Dead. But Rogers said no to this, again wanting none of his actors to be associated with something that might scare children.
#4 The movie was originally to be about aliens.
One of the earliest ideas that writer John A. Russo had was for the movie to not only have aliens in it, but it was to be a comedy. The premise was for a bunch of aliens to come to earth, integrate themselves with a pack of teenage car enthusiasts and eventually kill them one by one. The idea was then that the aliens would bury their victims and dig them up after a little bit of aging in the ground in order to eat the humans as a delicacy.
George Romero loved the part about eating the humans. After telling Russo to thrown out everything else, the duo came up for the script that would become Night of the Living Dead.
#3 Contrary to Popular Belief, Night of the Living Dead is Not Rated!
Because the MPAA ratings didn’t take effect for another month prior to it’s debut, Night of the Living Dead does not have an official rating. Some posters gave the film an ‘X’ rating but the George Romero classic was never required to undergo a rating review. One reason for the so-called rating of ‘X’ were because the original trailer showed a naked woman zombie approaching the farm house. Some theatres panicked because of this and printed up their own posters giving the film the illicit rating. But in reality, a child of any age could have bought a ticket without parental consent and without reciprocity to the movie house for selling it.
#2 Originally Ben Was Supposed to Survive
Duane Jones’ character of Ben is not only a horror film icon. Ben is also a touchstone in African American history. Before Night of the Living Dead, a black character was never depicted as either the star or leader of a tradition white film. That all changed here in 1968.
The film is a thinly veiled allegory on not only race in a Vietnam era America but also on the generational divide between members of the Greatest Generation who fought in the second world war and the Baby Boomers. For almost 90 minutes, those issues are discussed at length while a rag-tag group of people battle zombies. The film was originally supposed to have Ben be the lone survivor of the attack. Instead, Jones insisted to director Romero to alter this out come. “The heroes never die in American movies. The jolt of that, and the double jolt of the hero being black seemed like a double-barreled whammy,’ Jones said in a interview before his untimely death in 1988.
#1. The entails and blood were delicious!
The budget for the film was extremely small for 1968. With only $114,000, a lot of creative film making had to be done to stay under budget. The movie was shot in the more cheaper medium of black & white, stock footage has to be used for establishing shots, and all sets and scenes were done within a 30-mile radius of Pittsburgh.
But the biggest cost cutting measure involved food. As we all know, zombies love to eat human beings. But the creation of fake body parts isn’t cheap. So George Romero and John Russo persuaded a local butcher shop to invest in the movie. Only, the meat market didn’t have shell out any money. All was asked of them were any leftover brains, entrails, and organ meats not be added to sausage that day, but donated to the makeup department. Considering that the film made over $300 million dollars in ticket sales, it’s a pretty good guess that the local butcher who sponsored them made off with a fairly decent payday.
Another item that was made up on the fly was the blood. Since the film was being made in black and white, Romero figured out that they didn’t need to buy the expense theatrical blood films buy for a colorized film. They just needed a medium that looked good on film. The winner was Bosco chocolate syrup. A staple item in the North, Romero claimed that for every gallon of theatrical blood he passed on buying, he was able to purchase four gallons of Bosco instead.
Rifftrax of the Living Dead
You might be wondering why I just hit you with several fun facts about Night of the Living Dead. That’s because this Wednesday, October 25th, in select theatres nationwide, the guys at Rifftrax Live will be hosting a re-release showing of their take on the horror classic Night of the Living Dead! For one night only, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 alums Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy will be adding their comedic spin to the George Romero thriller.
The event begins at 7:30pm and runs about 2 hours. The gang promises to start things off with a classic educational short about Halloween that’s sure to scare up a few laughs. Plus, there will be an all-new tribute to Mr. Romero who passed away earlier this year from lung cancer. But try to get to the movie even earlier, as the Rifftrax folks are known for putting up a 10 minute slideshow filled with goofy gags, terrible trivia, and other tid-bits.
For more information, check out the Rifftrax website. From there, you can also purchase tickets for the event.
Oh, and before I close, one more fun fact.
Being that Night of the Living Dead is a Pittsburgh cultural staple, if you sneak in a bag of Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Pieces (any flavor) into the show, you automatically win 1,000 official George Romero Dead Points. And that fun fact isn’t made up- it’s a state and federal law!
Hope to see you at the movies this Hump Day!