Forty years ago a grainy black-and-white movie about a group of people trapped in a house changed the face of horror forever. Out of that one film were spawned sequels and an entire sub-culture that includes conventions, gatherings, clothing, and movies, all dedicated to the shambling masses that are zombies. Now, the surviving cast of Night of the Living Dead have participated in a documentary (which we reported on here) and are traveling across the country and around the world to meet their fans in celebration of their roles in this cultural phenomenon. Traveling with the tour are Kyra Schon, Bill Hinzman, Judith O’Day, Russell Streiner, George Kosana, and even George Romero himself.
The tour kicked of at Dallas’ “Texas Frightmare Weekend,” where the Dallas chapter of the American Film Institute honored the film.
“Horror films are often overlooked,” says Chris Roe, George Romero’s manager and the man who spearheaded this effort, “so it’s nice to see the movie given acknowledgement. For AFI to acknowledge that it was a groundbreaking movie was a good honor and says a lot.” The festivities were hosted by Malcolm McDowell and were attended by cast members from nearly all of Romero’s films.
One of the greatest thrills for the cast has been to meet the fans. Says Roe, “It’s also been a thrill to see all the different generations that come to meet them. You’ve got kids who are twelve and thirteen with their parents, who are in their thirties, and their parents, who are in their fifties. We’ve had fans fly from Australia to meet the cast, from England, Germany, Canada, and all across the United States at both the stops so far.” Not only fans, but also young filmmakers. “It’s interesting to see the young filmmakers come out in great numbers. This movie redefined the genre and inspired generations of great filmmakers. People like Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Peter Jackson, John Landis, John Carpenter, who all have been inspired by that movie, not to mention all the up and coming filmmakers that we haven’t even heard of yet. But it’s clear at every event we go to; there are always those new young aspiring filmmakers who say, ‘When I saw this movie, I knew what I wanted to do.’”
On this tour the cast is also promoting the release of the fortieth anniversary edition of Night of the Living Dead, which contains a few features previous versions did not. Due to be released on May 20th, at the same time as Romero’s “>Diary of the Dead (review), this package contains not only commentaries by various cast and crew members, but also the last interview with Duane Jones and the new documentary One for the Fire.
“We tried to make it an incredibly in-depth look at the movie through the eyes and mouths of the filmmakers. I think what we put together, the fans will enjoy. I think it opens up a chapter for another documentary to be made, maybe for the fiftieth. I believe the fans will be extremely pleased with what the documentary says and does. No other DVD has been released with this kind of information before. Others have tried to do it, but they’ve never done it with the filmmakers themselves. This is the first one that does.”
Those expecting this version to be the last say in the NOTLD book, however, are sorely mistaken.
“Just because this documentary has come out doesn’t mean shooting has stopped,” says Roe. “I’m still shooting the various stops in the tour and interviews as they come up. I’m still compiling for the next one.”
The tour, which began in Dallas, Texas, and continued through Baltimore, Maryland, continues this weekend in Los Angeles, California, at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors. After that, there will be stops in New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Orlando. Following the Stateside tour, the six filmmakers will continue to England, France, Spain, and Germany.
As Roe said, this isn’t the last chapter either. As soon as the 40th anniversary tour wraps up, he’ll be preparing for the 50th.
“Ten years from now I think people will still be talking about it. People will be saying the name ‘Romero’ fifty years from now.”
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