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Night of the Living Dead

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One of the smartest moves I ever made was becoming a “cord cutter.” Aside from the financial benefit, it has served to liberate my mind from the clutter of contemporary pop culture and media propaganda. Nevertheless, I occasionally indulge in streaming old movies, classics, whenever I can find them.

Vintage horror and monster flicks have always been favorites of mine; the kind that were meant to be seen in drive-in theaters. In all sincerity, I’ll take an archaic black and white Godzilla, King Kong, or Bela Lugosi film any day over the never-ending array of spastic “jump scare” offerings they currently peddle in theaters. There’s pleasure to be had indulging in the creativity of campy, low-budget B-movies whose stories were still original and fresh in those earlier days of cinema.

The apocalyptic fog that has settled over the year 2020 with COVID-19, an economy in free fall, post-Floyd anarchy, and a momentous presidential election makes for the perfect backdrop for a classic zombie movie, so I decided to stream George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (for brevity, NOTLD) over the weekend. Yep, the one that literally gave birth to that genre. I’ll confess that my motivation wasn’t purely for entertainment. I was also looking for some writing material, and Romero’s landmark choice in casting a black man as the protagonist in that film caused quite a stir when it debuted. Consequently, this move is widely regarded as a seminal moment for the civil rights movement and Duane Jones, who played Ben, was the forerunner of actors like Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Samuel L Jackson, and Idris Elba.

I’m going to start off with a few short bios, move on to a brief synopsis, and then wrap it up with a critique of the film by discussing the 1960s reaction to it, and then finishing with a contemporary view from the political right. Before I begin, I’ll confess that this is my first endeavor in critiquing a film, and as such, I can’t claim any expertise or credentials in cinematography or the art of film making. My purpose here is not to evaluate the merits of this movie; instead, I want to primarily speak to its cultural impacts as they resonate still to this day.

George Romero is widely recognized as the father of the apocalyptic zombie genre, one that has gone on to inspire dozens of other movies and multiple television series, including The Walking Dead. He was born in the Bronx, New York in 1940, the son of Spanish and Lithuanian immigrants. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in 1960, he enjoyed moderate success filming TV commercials and shorts, to include a segment for Fred Rogers and his eponymous Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. After his breakthrough with NOTLD, Romero enjoyed a prolific career in the horror genre that includes later movies such as Creepshow and Monkeyshines. He died in 2017 of lung cancer.

Other than cult notoriety for his portrayal of Ben in NOTLD, Duane Jones did not enjoy the same level of later success in the film industry as Romero. Having said that, his role as Ben, if I’m being completely honest, was quite compelling despite the original screenplay not calling for a black man. I suspect “white-presenting” Sidney Poitier’s role in controversial Jewish director Stanley Kramer’s infamous Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner the previous year played a part in Romero’s choice to cast a black protagonist, if for no other reason than for novelty and notoriety. Jones, like Poitier, was particularly well educated, clean-cut, articulate, and “white-friendly” enough for a late 1960s audience that was tepidly opening up to the broaching of social taboos. Jones died in 1988 at the young age of 51, lamenting that his role in NOTLD was all that had garnered him recognition.

Now a brief synopsis of the movie.

We open up to a sleek, sporty, soft-top car of the era driving down a dirt road. The occupants, young 20-something siblings, have traveled several hours to a graveyard in rural Pennsylvania, at the behest of their mother, to adorn their deceased father’s grave with an arrangement. The brother, bespectacled Johnny, complains to his sister Barbara of the pointlessness of enduring this annual ritual for a father he barely remembers.

Johnny and Barbara are presented as examples of the spoiled, affluent, young, white baby boomer demographic that had emerged in the post-WW2 era. Their characters are easily identifiable, likable, even if a bit immature, naive, and innocent. The suspense level gets a sudden jolt as Johnny’s playful graveyard teasing turns into terror as a skeletal, mortifying zombie emerges from nowhere to attack his sister. In a valiant struggle to aid her, Johnny wrestles with the ghoul, hits his head on a tombstone, and is seemingly knocked cold.

Barbara flees the agile undead creature and manages to make it to the car — keyless, of course. Locking the doors, she puts the car in neutral and coasts down the steep hill leading to the graveyard. In a scene that surely inspired subsequent slasher films such as Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Friday the 13th, Barbara’s assailant gives good chase until she evades her brother’s fate by hiding in an old farmhouse.

Paralyzed by fear, she roams the empty house until coming upon a rotting corpse upstairs. She screams in terror as she flies down the stairs, procures a knife from the kitchen, and makes a futile attempt with a dead rotary phone on a table in the den. This is when we are introduced to our protagonist Ben as he responds to her screams by bursting into the house, locking the door behind him.

The intensity of the movie is brought down a notch as Ben proves himself resourceful, capable, cool under pressure, and possessing a great deal of situational awareness. Something notable to mention: the original screenplay had typecast a rugged truck driver, a stereotypical white everyman, the blue-collar sort who would be naturally handy, good with a gun, and physical. Nothing in the script changed to reflect that the actor who was ultimately chosen was black, and an atypical Poindexter type at that. Nor do the other characters, who we will discuss shortly, behave in a way that reflects any misgivings about an uppity black man taking charge.

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As Ben goes about the business of securing the farmhouse with boards and nails, while also locating a lever-action rifle and ammo, aimless “NPC-like” zombies gather and wander around the structure. As the plot progresses, Barbara’s paralysis turns to hysterics which begin to annoy Ben. This prolonged scene is rather uncomfortable, even for more modern eyes, because Ben is given carte blanche to be dominant over Barbara, showing a penchant for violence that culminates in punching her in the face, out cold, when she hysterically slaps him. Even in 1968, such a scene would have been jarring if a white male character had balled up his fist to punch a woman. I can only imagine the white fathers and husbands who sat, clenching their teeth, as this scene played out in theaters.

The following scenes present an escalation of interpersonal tensions as Ben and Barbara are introduced to Harry and Helen Cooper, their preteen daughter Karen, who is injured, and the teenage couple Tom and Judy. The five of them have been hiding in the cellar while the action on the floor level of the farmhouse has taken place. Presumably, the scuffle and noise from Ben and Barbara’s earlier episode alerted them to see what was going on upstairs.

Immediately, the personality of Mr. Cooper clashes with that of Ben. They begin to argue over minutiae with an undercurrent of suspicion and distrust. Again, none of the characters, not even the balding white patriarch Mr. Cooper, seem to recognize or care that Ben is a lone young black man accompanied by a catatonic young white woman. Regardless, the antagonism between Cooper and Ben serves as a symbolic plot device that was undoubtedly used as a metaphor for racism.

Steady zombie activity continues around the perimeter of the house, while Ben and Tom go about the business of boarding up the doors and windows at the protest of Mr. Cooper, who insists that hiding in the cellar is the safest place. Mr. Cooper is presented as a scowling, angry man, and his wife Helen, an attractive woman of around 40 years old, harbors an obvious disdain for her uptight, poor-postured, cowardly, and scheming husband.

These scenes of personality conflict serve to represent, in my mind, the greater social changes that were playing out as a backdrop to the movie. Mr. Cooper is the trope of the close-minded white man of the past, and Ben is the youthful, noble black man, the up-and-coming ascension of people of color. Mr. Cooper isn’t a sympathetic character, and the entire ensemble of refugees in the house seem to side with Ben in plotting to secure the home and plan an escape while Cooper fumes.

At some point, a small television with rabbit ears is discovered in the home and the distressed group gathers around to watch a news broadcast. They learn that NASA scientists and ranking military personnel blame the zombie predicament on a space ship that had been exposed to a mystery source of radiation. It is destroyed in the atmosphere upon its return mission, but the radiation has unfortunately contaminated the earth, creating zombies from recently dead cadavers.

They also learn that law enforcement agencies and deputized volunteers are gathering near the area to shoot the wandering ghouls in the head, which appears to be the only way to eliminate them. Tom is a local, familiar with the area, so a plan is concocted to fuel up an old farm truck and make their escape to the safety of a shelter that they’ve been made aware of through the broadcast.

With each new act of bravado and competence that Ben displays, Cooper’s frustration intensifies. He’s convinced that the cellar is the safest place, but he watches, impotently, as Ben barks out orders and dictates directions to the rest of the bunch.

Judy volunteers to accompany Tom and Ben while Tom fuels the truck and Ben provides cover with the rifle. Tom bumbles things by spilling gasoline on the makeshift torch that Ben is using to ward off zombies, which puts them in jeopardy of the fuel pump exploding. Tom and Judy panic and attempt to drive the truck away from the pump while Ben stays back to extinguish the fire. Tragedy befalls the young couple when the truck bursts into flames and the fire consumes them.

Ben makes a run back to the farmhouse while the ravenous zombies gather around the embers of the truck, dragging out the bodies of the teenagers and tearing at their flesh. Cooper sees these events transpiring through the window, and at this point, he locks the door to prevent Ben from gaining entry. Ben kicks the door open, leaving Cooper with little choice but to help Ben board the door back up as the zombies make their way back to the house. Ben, knowing what Cooper has done, proceeds to beat him repeatedly and ultimately shoots him.

Barbara finally snaps out of her paralysis and helps Ben secure the house further, while zombies are attempting to gain entry. This is when she recognizes her brother Johnny has become one of the ghouls; he pulls her into the mallee outside, only to be ripped to shreds by the other zombies.

Downstairs in the cellar, Helen Cooper finds her daughter has finally succumbed to her wounds, died, and turned into a zombie. Karen Cooper then proceeds to kill her mother with a garden spade and also kills her injured father.

Ben is the last survivor and realizes at this point that Cooper has been correct all along: the cellar was indeed the safest place in the house. He barricades the cellar door, unknowingly locking himself in with zombie Karen, who he then shoots in the head, leaving him safe and secure in the cellar as the horde of zombies who have by now flooded the home eventually disperse.

Exhausted, Ben drifts off to sleep, suddenly snapping to alertness hours later when he hears the sound of gunshots outside.

He cautiously exits the cellar, making his way to a window while dozens of deputized white men with rifles and handguns, led by the local sheriff, make their way to the farmhouse, shooting zombies indiscriminately as they go. The sight of Ben walking toward the window catches the attention of a volunteer, who alerts the sheriff, who then gives him the order to shoot. Just like that, unceremoniously, Ben is shot dead by his would-be rescuers, a bullet to the head. Meat hooks are used to extract him from the house, as they would with the other zombie corpses. Roll the credits.

So, that’s it. The plot devices innovated in this movie are by now standard fare in the zombie genre; this film is remarkable only because it was the first, and because it elevated a black man to the protagonist role. It was an interesting choice by Romero to not make his blackness obviously important, and by not having the characters behave differently toward him with the lone exception of Mr. Cooper. It made the film’s underlying social commentary even more powerful than it would have been had he drawn attention to his blackness through the attitudes of the other characters.

One can easily see this as a pivotal moment in cinema for the civil rights movement. Realistically, however, it was a movie for its time — a more clearheaded 1960s — and I think it unintentionally reveals truths through the current zeitgeist that belie the liberal narrative for which it has been credited.

Let’s go back to the discomforting scene of a black man ball-fistedly punching a white woman’s lights out. The 1960s was a different era, and people were generally more tolerant of the reality of physical violence toward women, even by white men; it just wasn’t acknowledged publicly, and it was almost nonexistent in cinema. A slap to a belligerent or hysterical female to shut her up, possibly, but not a fist punch. My suspicion is that Romero took a little liberty here because the actor was black, and few people questioned the impulsive and violent tendencies of black men back in the 1960s.

Moving on to the introduction of the Coopers and their teenage tagalongs in the cellar. The immediate hostility between Harry Cooper and Ben is believable. Their personality clash could just as easily be chalked up to the male ego instead of racial posturing. I think, however, that the way that the entire group sides with Ben over the more sensible Cooper is as much of an indictment on society at large as it is on Cooper’s flawed, stubborn character. His disloyal wife would have easily sided with just about anyone just to get under his skin. Tom and Judy’s eagerness to allow Ben to lead is rooted in their teenage naïveté and idealism instead of sober, rational judgment and trust in patriarchal figures.

Ben is quick-tempered and stubborn, unable to think more than 2 steps ahead. Sure, he possesses the veneer of confidence and assuredness, but his impulsivity prevents him from backing up his bravado with results. His free-wheeling ultimately gets him, and everyone else, killed; whereas trust in Cooper’s conservative and cautious nature could have potentially kept them all alive.

Perhaps Ben’s most telling flaw is his selfishness. One gets the feeling that he’s only in it for his own survival, totally unwilling to compromise or put the safety of the women and the injured young child, which was Cooper’s immediate concern as a father, ahead of his own ambitions. As unlikeable as Cooper’s character is meant to be, a thinking person will see beyond superficial quirks of personality to reveal his honest motivations.

Perhaps the jarring ending is the most telling of all. For all of his Negro cocksureness, Ben was just another zombie to the sheriff and his deputies. He was indistinguishable from the hordes of flesh-eaters. The bullet killed his brain just as dead as any other. Blacks are not supermen; they deserve no special praise, adulation, or worship.

At the end of Night of the Living Dead, his black life didn’t matter any more than anyone else’s.

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  1. Rural Farmhouse
    Posted August 14, 2020 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    Romero has often been described as a proto-SJW. I’ve even read several reviews that relished his depiction of the rural white “cleanup squad” that kills zombies as the real nightmare of the film: fascists, racists, whatever.

    I disagree. There’s a short scene in the movie that introduces this “vigilante” group. They are presentable, competent, decent looking people who, though they are having perhaps too much fun killing the enemy (could anyone say that zombies were not the enemy in this film?), are heroes! There are some women in their group too, and they seem to be there not just as bimbos or groupies of the “killer rednecks.” The hillbilly banjo music on the soundtrack is not a denunciation of them. It sounds good and fun and human. They’re the GD cavalry of lore, saving the day! Their one tragic defect is that they are careless and kill Ben. This is serious and very sad, but it does not offset the many good qualities of the zombie killers.

    Romero, at least here, was certainly not an antiwhite SJW of the kind we know today.

    • Rural Farmhouse
      Posted August 14, 2020 at 4:16 am | Permalink

      I should add that there’s no way you could accuse the squad of racism in killing Ben. He was too far away for them to tell his race, just a moving human figure. Their minimal dialogue never mentions race. Careless, sure; racist, not.

    • John Wilkinson
      Posted August 14, 2020 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      In context of the times when NOTLD was filmed, some interpret the zombies to be representative of Vietnam war protests and the almost apocalyptic chaos and anarchy that characterized the 60s.

      …Making this film all the more apropos for 2020.

      Looting, arson, mayhem and riots by Antifa and BLM. Is there really much difference between them and ravenous zombies swarming on a burning truck to pull out the passengers and tear at their flesh?

  2. Anthony Kimball
    Posted August 14, 2020 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Obviously, a modern remake of this movie would never allow the black character to be killed. On the contrary, he would be portrayed as some type of whiz kid science genius who saves the human population from destruction by eventually figuring out a way to eradicate the zombie menace. Night Of The Living Dead hasn’t aged all that well, but at least it didn’t venture into the realm of utter absurdity by making the black into something his intellectual capacity would never have allowed him to become. In the 1960’s, though many hollywood productions were beginning to transform negros into saints and victims of evil whites, there were still some movie directors who were able to present blacks as they really were (and remain): people fundamentally different from whites and that whites would be best advised to avoid and ignore.

    • Watcher
      Posted August 15, 2020 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      The 1990 remake (in color) of the film turns Barbara (Patricia Tallman) into a Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween) or Sigourney Weaver (Alien/Aliens) type Final Girl heroine who survives at the end while Ben (Tony Todd) still dies but before the zombie-hunters appear – he re-animates as a zombie and gets destroyed by them.

      • Anthony Kimball
        Posted August 15, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        I never saw the 1990 version….I’m not usually a fan of remakes. That’s interesting that they allowed the black character to meet a similar end, although not exactly like in the original. I remain pretty confident, though, that if Night had been done a third time, say within the last five years, the black guy would have been portrayed as I described earlier. Since the early 2000s, if not before, white people have found getting away from hollywood’s incessant pushing of negro worship and glorification is becoming increasingly difficult, to say the least.

        • Watcher
          Posted August 16, 2020 at 5:29 am | Permalink

          I’m not disagreeing; my point was that feminism triumphed with the 1990 re-make and Barbara was strengthened – she survived while Ben didn’t.

  3. Antidote
    Posted August 14, 2020 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    NOTLD can be interpreted as a cautionary tale against the evils of race mixing and [email protected] Powah. The Negro Poindexter and the huWhite grave visitor represent the Bizarro reflection of Sidney Poitier and Katie Houghton; their coming together brings about conflict, anger, and violence—in other words it is unnatural for them to be forced together and only disharmony and resentment will result.
    Cooper represents dee White Man, the patriarchy, all the DWMs, history and civilisation. He wants to retreat to the cellar; in other words to the security of the foundation.
    The Negro taking command leads to chaos, dysfunction, bloodshed, and death just as it has in all times and all places whether that be the Symbionese Liberation Army, Katanga Province or Haiti.

  4. DR
    Posted August 14, 2020 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Now it’s time to watch, review and compare this film with the 1990 remake. Directed by Tom Savini with a script by George A. Romero (he rewrote it based on the original script). Looking at the Wikipedia article on this film it is clearly a Romero film.
    Given your thesis this is a pivotal film for the civil rights movement one can then ask some interesting questions. Its 22 years later, civil rights marches on. How does Romero et al., look back on the first film?
    What does he think has changed which is now worth commenting on in his film? I think the different ending may provide an interesting answer.
    There is of course the obvious answer, the role of Barbara was significantly changed. I won’t ruin it, yet it is easy to guess.

  5. Liam Kernaghan
    Posted August 14, 2020 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    First and foremost, thanks for a very well written and interesting critique of Romero’s NOTLD. The point I’m about to make has been made elsewhere by other people – probably several times over in connection with Romero, but I’m going to reiterate it in any case. Romero’s films emphasise people’s inability to co-operate with each other in situations of extreme crises, thereby bringing out the worst in themselves; the more noteworthy examples being the following – “The Crazies” 1973; friends and neighbours pitted not just against each other, but the machinery of big government backed by military muscle in the wake of a bio-chemical weapons leak; “Martin” 1978; a young man in his late teens believes himself to be a vampire, so does his great uncle following a string of murders involving local women. However, Martin’s vampiric state is not actually proven and is left to the imagination of the viewer. The older man, believing the youth to be cursed, drives a stake through his heart whilst sleeping. A similar pattern is played out in Romero’s subsequent “Dead” movies, quite noticeably in “Dawn of the Dead” 1978 – slow moving, shuffling zombies that would be easily dealt with and vanquished if those with the collective will to do so would act accordingly. The early part of this latter film set in the blue funk of a chaotic television studio and an attempt by heavily armed security forces to forcibly evict the racially diversified and impoverished occupants of a slum tenement block, effectively conveys a mood of hopelessness and confusion fuelled by a lack of social cohesiveness, trust and commonality.

    • Right_On
      Posted August 15, 2020 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      “Martin” is not only my favorite movie by Romero, it was also Romero’s own favorite of all his films.
      He creates a completely unique “gothic” atmosphere and the protagonist is by no means an attractive character.
      It’s probably best to watch it for the first time while you’re still young, dazed and confused.

      • Liam Kernaghan
        Posted August 16, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        The character Martin is similar to his older male relative. The latter has built a successful butchery and food retail business in a blue-collar Pennsylvanian town, but is highly superstitious and socially very conservative. Martin is self-reliant. He sees. He plans. He does. He efficiently acts as an individual, unlike the black youths that harass in a pack animal manner, White women shoppers in the car park of a supermarket about 120 minutes into the movie. Martin’s a loose cannon and that is the basis of the antagonism with his older male relative. The down-beat setting of the movie – mid-to-late 1970’s working-class outer Pittsburgh ideally places the socially alienated Martin.
        Romero’s presentation of ordinary people as monsters – zombies; crazies; vampires; etc, in some ways corresponds with the current establishment’s criminalization of White people who resist the damaging changes being forced upon them in their own home lands.

  6. Some White Guy
    Posted August 15, 2020 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I paused in reading this yesterday so as to watch the movie last night first before reading the description.

    Interesting that I missed the punch. I thought Ben simply slapped Barbara back and she fainted from the shock of being counter slapped. The moment actually made me laugh because I thought it amusing her personality was so weak. The full punch makes more sense.

    One thing I noticed was how nearly everyone in the film except the zombies smoked cigarettes, reminding me of just how precisely prevalent that habit was back then.

    It was a marvelously low budget movie, in the same caliber as John Waters’ many Baltimore centered ones. Imagine Divine being cast as the protagonist instead of Ben and the comedy writes itself.

    • John Wilkinson
      Posted August 15, 2020 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      The shifts in attitudes toward smoking over the last 50 years are indeed remarkable.

      Even into the 70s, it was not at all that uncommon to see news anchors sitting at their news desk smoking a cigarette while airing a live broadcast. Mostly men. I think there was still a cultural taboo for high profile and professional women, mostly self imposed, to not be seen chain as a habitual smoker or drinker.

      Having said that…
      Back in those days, you seldom ever saw anyone publicly using drugs. You certainly wouldn’t have seen much of it in TV or movies.
      Now, it’s not uncommon at all the see people smoking “blunts” in their cars as they drive. (Mostly blacks but also low-class whites and wiggers).
      Smoking weed in music videos is also very common.

      The other day, at the gym, this stupid MTV show “Ridiculousness” was on the big screen. It’s similar to that show “Jackass”, but it seems to be home videos of people doing crazy stunts.
      Two panelists. Yeah a black rapper and a beautiful blonde white woman. Who would have imagined that combo.

      Turns out that the beautiful blonde woman is actually half Jewish. Her name is “Chanel”, but that’s only part of her stage name. It’s “Chanel West Coast”, and she’s a so-called “rapper”.

      Now when I say that she’s beautiful, I mean that she presents this sort of cute, upper-middle class, suburban “classy” kind of image on the show. Stylish, perfect hair. Stylish clothes. Big smile with perfect teeth. Attractive, fit figure. Girly.

      Curious, I took the liberty of pulling up some of her videos on YouTube. Degenerate trash. Smoking weed, surrounded by blacks, totally projecting a fake ghetto image. Her wiki says that her father was a well known NYC DJ. Doubt she ever set foot in a real ghetto

      My point is about the weed smoking though. We’ve exchanged smoking cigarettes for smoking weed as culturally acceptable habits. It’s being pushed on us heavily now in pop culture. In 10-15 years, it won’t be uncommon for people to light joints up in public without any fear at all of legal recourse.

  7. Peter
    Posted August 16, 2020 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    I made this comment before but I assume Romero was influenced by the Birds, mainly taken refuge in a house as alien forces attack you. When I rewatched The Birds I immediately thought it reminded me of NOTLD

    • Watcher
      Posted August 16, 2020 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      I saw another possible Hitchcock reference – Psycho. Living Dead starts with a girl (Barbara) who appears to be the protagonist but when the Ben shows up he takes the role away from her, much like Anthony Perkins does to Janet Leigh.

    • Liam Kernaghan
      Posted August 18, 2020 at 3:46 am | Permalink

      The farmhouse refuge in NOTLD was probably also influenced by two other films that came out around the same time as “The Birds”, both of which starred Vincent Price -” The Last Man On Earth” 1963/4; based on the 1954 novel “I am Legend” by Richard Matheson (the movie was remade shortly afterwards in 1971, with the new title “The Omega Man”, starring Charlton Heston) and “Masque Of The Red Death”. All of these movies feature havens of retreat from the externa,l alien and unwantable

  8. Bold Inq.
    Posted August 16, 2020 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    A while back I interviewed Bill Hinzman, the actor who played the suited zombie stammering in the cemetery during the opening scene. I’d asked him if he thought they were making a “social commentary” film, and I was surprised by his answer. He said that “No, none of us did. Not even Romero. We were just making a movie about people eating blood and guts. If there was a political message, it was subconscious.”(paraphrased)

    I was sad to hear Bill died in 2012. He was a sweet and patient old man during our interview, and I was amused to hear he even disliked horror films.

    Anyway, a thanks to Bill Wilkinson for his take on NOTLD. I’m new to the dissident websites, having been a generic liberal for most of my life. I’m thrilled to see some compelling commentary on popular culture, like the recent Taylor Swift album. Devon Stack’s ‘Blackpilled’ video critiques are also powerful. (e.g. “Norma Rae,” “American Beauty”)

    • John Wilkinson
      Posted August 16, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for this informative comment!

      I do think it is probably true that Romero was less interested in social commentary than he was in novelty when casting Duane Jones.

      The late 60s was a time for pushing boundaries simply because it got people talking and was a cheap, easy way to draw attention to your film.

      I think that if casting Jones in that role had risked the project turning a profit, it likely wouldn’t have happened.

      Nevertheless, themes can be extrapolated from good art, even if unintentional. So I do stand by my interpretations, and appreciate the comments!

      • Bold Inq.
        Posted August 16, 2020 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        Completely agree about intentionality, themes, and interpretations, Bill. I’m firmly in the camp of those who think that things mean something. By the way, “stammering” was supposed to be “stumbling around” in my above typo.

        • Bold Inq.
          Posted August 17, 2020 at 10:23 am | Permalink

          Sorry, meant John. Multitasking sucks.

  9. Raylan Crowder
    Posted August 16, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Another well written essay. Please keep writing John.

    • John Wilkinson
      Posted August 16, 2020 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      The encouragement is very much appreciated.

  10. white lurker
    Posted August 17, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I going entirely by memory, but I recall that the Sunday edition of The Observer-Reporter newspaper based in Washington PA did an interview with George Romero (who was from Pittsburgh) back in the mid-nineties.

    Romero stated that he was a political liberal and that NOTLD was a commentary abut white racism toward black people. I can’t remember the specific comments he made but that was clearly the gist of what he said.

    At that time I wasn’t too informed about racial issues and consequently was a little surprised at his remarks, having assumed that NOTLD was simply intended as a scary movie.

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    New Right vs. Old Right

    Lost Violent Souls

    Journey Late at Night: Poems and Translations

    The Non-Hindu Indians & Indian Unity

    Baader Meinhof ceramic pistol, Charles Kraaft 2013

    Jonathan Bowden as Dirty Harry

    The Lost Philosopher, Second Expanded Edition

    Trevor Lynch's A White Nationalist Guide to the Movies

    And Time Rolls On

    The Homo & the Negro

    Artists of the Right

    North American New Right, Vol. 1

    Some Thoughts on Hitler

    Tikkun Olam and Other Poems

    Under the Nihil

    Summoning the Gods

    Hold Back This Day

    The Columbine Pilgrim

    Confessions of a Reluctant Hater

    Taking Our Own Side

    Toward the White Republic

    Distributed Titles


    The Node

    The New Austerities

    Morning Crafts

    The Passing of a Profit & Other Forgotten Stories

    Gold in the Furnace