Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Joe Kane
Published by Citadel (Kensington) Press
In 1968 a grainy black and white movie on a shoestring budget was released to horrible reviews and horrified audiences. But now, forty-two years later, Night of the Living Dead still holds its place as one of the most groundbreaking and influential movies in the history of cinema. Horror fans have been inundated with remakes, documentaries, colorizations, and retrospectives, all of which showcase the love we have for the film. But somewhere many of them fall short. That’s why Joe Kane, the “Phantom of the Movies,” has released what seems to be the definitive book on the subject, Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever.
Beginning before pre-production, NOTLDBSMTZME chronicles the journey of George Romero and his friends John Russo and Rudy Ricci from the first inkling of a monster movie through the years after the movie became a classic. While many chronicles of NOTLD stops with the after effects of the movie, Kane’s book continues and examines every facet of Romero’s career, as well as those of the others involved. It also details what it was like to be on that historic shoot with stories both well-known and obscure.
A few of the other features in this book, courtesy of Kane, are interesting, if strange, side notes. Included are things like “Zombie Movie Milestones” with listings for Re-Animator and 28 Days Later, Kane’s “official” zombie movie guide, and his guide to “Zomedies.” There are also listings of “‘Z’-wards” with categories for best zombified pet and best quote from any zombie movie. It also includes a “Where are They Now” section that informs the readers of the current goings-on of the stars and filmmakers. But one of the coolest extras, in my mind anyway, is the inclusion of the original script for NOTLD, which contains the original ending the distributers tried to change.
What sets this book apart from the majority of others about NOTLD is that it doesn’t shy away from the not-so-pretty side of the movie. Many books on the subject seem to reflect on the film through a rose-colored lens, while Kane’s book shows not only the triumphs but also the indignities suffered (like the 1980’s colorization and the “new” version with 18 minutes of additional footage). It also details how a single missing piece of paper denied Romero and the cast any form of copyright or royalties from the film and threw it immediately into the public domain.
There have been lots of books about NOTLD. As a fan, I can say that Kane’s book stands head and shoulders above most of them. Even if you own a dozen books about the production, this one is still a worthy addition.
5 out of 5
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