Night of the Living Dead
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Night of the Living Dead can be found here.

Seven people -- Barbra (Judith O'Dea), Ben (Duane Jones), Tom (Keith Wayne), Judy (Judith Ridley), and the Cooper family -- father Harry (Karl Hardman), mother Helen (Marilyn Eastman), and their sick daughter Karen (Kyra Schon) -- are forced to barricade themselves in a farmhouse when they are besieged by dozens of flesh-eating zombies. Their only hope rests on getting gasoline from a nearby pump into a truck that is running on empty, but this requires braving the hordes of ravenous walking corpses outside.

Night of the Living Dead is based on a script by screenwriter John Russo and director George Romero. After the success of Night of the Living Dead, Romero went on to make five more Dead movies. These include: Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), and Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009). There are also various remakes and unofficial sequels that have sprung from the Dead movies, none of which were directed by George Romero. Romero has admitted that his inspiration for the film was Richard Matheson's novel I am Legend. In fact, Romero has said, regarding the creation of Night of the Living Dead, "I had written a short story, which I basically had ripped off from a Richard Matheson novel called I Am Legend."

The shock of seeing her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) killed by the first ghoul, plus being attacked by the reanimated man, would be more than enough to make anyone become psychologically wounded.

Romero gives us no definite answer in this movie or its sequels. In interviews he tells us that he doesn't even know the answer. Enthusiasts still have their theories, three of which are 1) Radiation from satellites reactivates the brains of recently dead corpses. This is the theory of the film's characters, specifically those featured on the news programs, though that hardly settles the matter, 2) God made it happen to punish us. Supporters of this theory give us Peter's statement in Dawn of the Dead, the first sequel: "When there's no room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth", and 3) Some kind of virus has caused it. The evidence is that the dead infect the living whenever they bite them.

In the Dead series, anyone who dies during a zombie plague, particularly from a zombie bite, comes back to life, unless the brain has been sufficiently damaged to prevent it. Johnny died from a blow to the head, but he was still intact enough to function as one of the living dead.

Who is Johnny imitating?

Johnny is imitating the voice of the horror star Boris Karloff when he warns, "They're coming to get you, Barbra!"

How does the movie end?

The search and destroy team combs the area, getting closer and closer to the farmhouse. Meanwhile, the zombies are beginning to break through the boarded up windows and doors of the farmhouse. Harry hides in the basement while Ben, Helen, and Barbra try to fight off the zombies. Helen escapes into the basement where she finds daughter Karen has transformed into a zombie and is feasting on Harry's body. Karen then goes after Helen, stabbing her repeatedly with a trowel. Upstairs, the zombies have broken through the door and, much to Barbra's horror, her brother Johnny is among them. Johnny drags Barbra out onto the porch where the zombies pounce on her. Ben retreats to basement, fighting his way past Karen and shooting Harry and Helen when their corpses begin to reanimate. The next morning, Ben awakens to the sounds of the sheriff's posse nearing the house. He cautiously makes his way upstairs and peeks out the window. Suddenly, he is shot in the head. The final scenes are a series of still photos of the bodies of various zombies being tossed in a pile. Ben's body is tossed in with them, and then the pile is ignited.

What happens to Barbra?

She is killed and pulled apart by ghouls. Barbras brother, Johnny, returns as a ghoul. She goes to him, and he pulls her into the hoard of ghouls. Romero recently wrote a Marvel comic, 'Empire of the Dead', that shows another fate. In it, Johnny drags Barbra out the window and away to an abandoned barn. A group spots the two and starts firing, risking Barbra's life. Johnny jumps in the way of the bullets to shield his sister, sacrificing himself. Barbra ends up surviving the whole ordeal.

As the sets and costumes make clear, each film is set in the time that it was made--and yet not. The events of Dawn of the Dead (1978) happen weeks after those of Night of the Living Dead, which was released a decade before. The events of Day of the Dead (1985) occur only months after the second film. About roughly three to five years separate the events of the first film and the fourth, Land of the Dead (2005). Diary of the Dead (2007), the fifth film, takes place at the same time as Night of the Living Dead. Survival of the Dead (2010) the sixth film, takes place at the same time as Dawn of the Dead (1978). Fans have speculated that Romero's Dead films are set in two separate timelines. The first trilogy Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead takes place of the zombie apocalypse happening in the 1960s while Romero's second trilogy of Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead updates the series time setting to the zombie apocalypse happening in present day 2000s instead of the 1960s. However in Empire of the Dead which clearly features technology that was not available in the 1960s, shows a flashback sequence of Barbra surviving her ordeal five years ago at the farmhouse from Night of the Living Dead, suggesting that all six films are set in the same universe.

Is this available on DVD?

Countless distributors have released Night of the Living Dead (1968) onto VHS and DVD. This film is in the public domain, which means any distributor can legally sell copies without paying royalties. Beware: many small distributors market copies of public domain films with poor picture and sound. Others are more reputable and deliver good transfers of the best available prints. On May 20, 2008, the Weinstein Company released the film on DVD. According to the official product description: "This 40th Anniversary Edition authorized by the director himself reanimates the landmark tale of five strangers who struggle desperately against hordes of the walking undead. Re-mastered and loaded with all-new Special Features."

In 1968, US copyright law required copyright ownership to be displayed on the actual print of a film (e.g. in the credits). Early prints of Night of the Living Dead had the title Night of the Flesh Eaters, under which was the copyright information. When the title was changed for theatrical release, the distributors apparently failed to include the copyright information - leaving the film uncopyrighted and in the public domain. This also explains why there are so many different VHS and DVD recordings.

There have been a whole lot of interpretations of NOTLD's theme, some which include Eliot Stein's who said, "The film was not set in Transylvania, but Pennsylvania this was Middle America at war, and the zombie carnage seemed a grotesque echo of the conflict then raging in Vietnam". Others have pointed out the film's casting decision for its main character Ben, who is African-American, something unheard of at its time. Many have analyzed how Ben is the only resourceful character, yet the film's antagonist Mr. Cooper refuses to help him, thinking him to be an idiot. Critics have compared Ben to the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and more recently, Barack Obama. In the film's end, Ben is shot down by a redneck posse, mistaking him for a zombie. This has drawn the conclusion for some that the film has an anti-racism theme.

Remakes: The original 1968 movie was remade in 1990 as Night of the Living Dead and again in 2006 as Night of the Living Dead 3D. The 1978 sequel was remade in 2004 as Dawn of the Dead. The 2004 film is not a sequel to the 1968 film or either of its remakes. The 1985 sequel was remade in 2008 as Day of the Dead. The 2008 film is not a sequel to the first two "Dead" movies or any of their remakes. Note: Ving Rhames appears in Dawn of the Dead (2004) and Day of the Dead (2008), but as two different characters. The "Dead" trilogy is the only film trilogy to have been entirely remade.

Unofficial sequels are too numerous for a comprehensive list. The following are notable examples: The Return of the Living Dead (1985) is an unofficial sequel to Night of the Living Dead (1968). The Return of...was followed by four sequels of its own: Return of the Living Dead: Part II (1988), Return of the Living Dead III (1993), Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005), and Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave (2005). Zombi 2 (1979), an Italian film, is an unofficial sequel of Dawn of the Dead (1978), which was released in Italy as Zombi. Zombi 2 was followed by Zombi 3 (1988) and many other unrelated 'Zombi' films. Those who owned the rights to Day of the Dead (1985) made a straight-to-DVD "sequel" in 2005 called Day of the Dead 2: Contagium. Despite the title, the two movies are unrelated. The 2004 comedy/horror film Shaun of the Dead is an homage to zombie films, Romero's films in general. .

A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here. In the UK, some DVD versions, e.g. the one released by Contender Entertainment, are slightly censored and are missing some violent scenes. One can find a detailed comparison between this censored version and the original version with pictures here.

The film was shot in open matte, a format in which the composition was intended to be screened in a widescreen format (in this case, 1.66:1), but an unmatted print would display at 1.37:1, approximately the same frame ratio as a 4:3 television. A widescreen version of the film in very high quality, can be seen here, on the web video site of independent comic book publisher Horndog Studios.

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 2 weeks ago
Top 5 Contributors: J. Spurlin, bj_kuehl, aHardNightsDay, Pooty, Marxist_Bros

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