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Trivia / Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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  • Ability over Appearance:
    • Ben was not written to be black and Romero always claimed he only cast Duane Jones because he gave the best audition, rather than to make a point or be controversial.
    • Inverted with Judith Ridley, who played Judy. The producers were so struck by her beauty that they wrote a part for her.
  • Acting for Two:
    • Karl Hardman (Harry) is the voice on the radio in the opening scene.
    • Marilyn Eastman (Helen) plays the zombie that plucks a bug from a tree and eats it.
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    • Kyra Schon (Karen) doubled as the body upstairs when Ben is moving it. Romero felt that a mannequin wouldn't look realistic.
    • Besides his Newscaster Cameo as the TV anchor, Charles Craig played a zombie as well.
  • Actor-Inspired Element:
    • Ben was written as an earthy, unrefined blue collar type. Duane Jones, who had a solid academic background and worked as an acting coach, didn't feel comfortable with that and changed him into a calmer, more well-spoken character. Also, he talked the producers out of changing the ending to have Ben survive, feeling the original ending would be more potent and that black viewers in particular would relate to it better.
    • Barbara being a strong, charismatic character was changed to accommodate Judith O'Dea's interpretation of her as terrified and catatonic. The previous interpretation would later be used in the 1990 remake.
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  • AFI's 100 Years… 100 Thrills: #93
  • Amateur Cast: Duane Jones and Judith O'Dea, themselves unknowns, were the only professional actors in the cast. The rest were production crew and friends of Romero's.
  • Banned in China: Banned in Germany. Netflix was forced to withdraw the film by the German Commission for Youth Protection shortly after making it available.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Johnny only says "They're coming to get you, Barbara!" once, followed by "They're coming for you!" twice.
  • Blooper: When Ben is nailing boards, some numbers can be seen on them. These were markings for continuity, and some boards were mistakenly put on backwards.
  • Breakthrough Hit: For George A. Romero.
  • California Doubling: The house used did not actually have a basement big enough to shoot in - so the basement scenes were filmed in the editing studio in Pittsburgh.
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  • Cast the Expert: Bill Cardille, who played the news reporter, was an actual local TV host in Pittsburgh.
  • Cast the Runner-Up: Judith Ridley reportedly also auditioned for Barbra before Judith O'Dea won the role. The crew still liked Ridley enough to hire her and created a new character (named Judy) for her to play.
  • Channel Hop: The film was released independently by the Walter Reade Organization, but because they accidentally forgot to put a copyright notice on the film prints (as per US copyright law at the time), the film immediately entered the public domain, and Romero refused to ever work with them again. It has been released to home video by a number of different studios, but "officially" from Anchor Bay, Elite Entertainment, 20th Century Fox (in a colorized edition), Dimension Films, and The Criterion Collection.
  • Creator Backlash: To put it lightly, George A. Romero did not approve of the 30th Anniversary Edition, with Bill Hinzman also later admitting that they should have gotten Romero's approval before going ahead with making it. Averted, however, by John A. Russo, who gave a few Dear Negative Reader interviews over the re-edit.
  • The Danza: Judith Ridley as Judy.
  • Dawson Casting: Tom and Judy's actors were in their 20s when playing as the young teenage couple, although their actual ages aren't given.
  • Descended Creator:
    • Johnny is played by Russell Streiner, who was also a producer.
    • Screenwriter John A. Russo is the zombie who Ben hits with a tire iron.
    • Karl Hardman played Harry Cooper, and was also the make-up artist and electronic sound effects engineers. He also took the still images used for the end credits.
  • Enforced Method Acting: The zombie extras eating bodies are actually eating roast ham covered in chocolate sauce. They were so grossed out the filmmakers joked they almost didn't need make-up for them to look pale and sickly.
  • Executive Meddling: The distributor asked for two scenes to be removed - one eight-minute exposition between Harry and Helen in the basement (and there's an awkward jump cut where it was deleted), and a wide shot of zombies covering the landscape.
  • Fan Nickname: The 30th Anniversery Edition cut in new footage featuring a character named Reverend Hicks, played by producer/actor Scott Vladimir Licina. Not only were his scenes overly enthusiastic, his prominent incisors gained him the sobriquet "Reverend Bigteeth".
  • Inspiration for the Work: Romero was inspired by I Am Legend.
  • Killed by Request: Duane Jones convinced the producers not to spare his character at the end, (correctly) believing it would be more shocking for white audiences and more impactful for black ones. Considering that there are still thinkpieces being written about that scene fifty years later, it's hard to argue he was wrong.
  • No Budget: Made for $114,000 (equivalent to about $800,000 in 2016's money), which explains its inexperienced cast, cheap special effects and Deliberately Monochrome cinematography. Incredibly, they initially planned on a budget of just $6,000 (with each of the 10 partners of Image Ten, the production company set up to make the film, contributing $600), but quickly realized they'd need a whole lot more than that.
  • Pittsburgh: Was filmed here and is regarded as the film that birthed the now active interest in using Pittsburgh as a filming location for movies and TV.
  • Real-Life Relative:
    • Harry and Karen Cooper were played by real life father and daughter Karl Hardman and Kyra Schon.note  Contrary to some reports, Marilyn Eastman (Helen Cooper) wasn't married to Hardman and wasn't Schon's mother (but she'd been Hardman's longtime acting and business partner).
    • The zombie extras included several real life families.
  • Sleeper Hit: Something of a Trope Codifier. It debuted in Pittsburgh around Halloween 1968 and word-of-mouth turned it into a huge local hit, which attracted the attention of grindhouse theaters in other big cities, where the same word-of-mouth pattern repeated itself. It also benefited from No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, when critical denunciations of the film (like Roger Ebert'snote ) attracted curious moviegoers. Then it started getting a strong reputation in scholarly film circles, including praise from Sight & Sound and Cahiers du Cinema, and even a screening at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1970.
  • Throw It In!:
    • The character Judy wasn't originally in the story. Apparently the actress was just so sweet and photogenic that the crew created a part for her and just made up scenes for her as they went along. Which explains why she's basically a Living Prop.
    • The car crashing into a tree was done on a whim because they needed an excuse for why there was suddenly a dent in it after getting in an accident during production.
    • Barbra goes barefoot quickly in the movie because the crew lost one of the shoes. To this day the actress believes it was stolen by a crew member with a foot fetish.
    • Barbara's description of the events in the cemetery don't match what happened very well. This can be explained in-movie by the fact that she's going a little nuts. It's a little clearer why this is when you learn that that scene was ad-libbed, and the cemetery scene was the last scene filmed anyway.
    • George Kosana ad-libbed all of Sheriff McClelland's lines.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • In the original script Barbara was originally meant to survive the zombie attack.
    • Tom Savini was supposed to do the effects, but he had to go to work as combat photographer in The Vietnam War. He later directed Night of the Living Dead (1990).
    • None other than Betty Aberlin was Romero's first choice for Barbra, but she was unavailable.note 
    • The first concept Romero and co-writer John Russo had was a horror comedy about teenage aliens who arrive on Earth to hang out with human teens. The movie was also going to co-star an inept cop named Sheriff Suck and an alien pet that "looked like a clump of spaghetti." Eventually, the idea morphed into cannibal aliens, and then into just dead cannibals.
    • American International Pictures considered releasing the film, but they wanted the ending to be more upbeat and for there to be a Token Romance in there.
    • One idea for Harry Cooper would be for him to die of his gun shot wounds and become a zombie. Helen would then come down into the basement to see him eating their daughter. This was deemed too disturbing, so they went with the original idea of Karen becoming a zombie and killing Harry herself.
    • Karl Hardman's rejected idea for the ending was that after Ben gets shot and the posse moves on, we learn that one ghoul survived: Karen Cooper. In the finished film, Karen is still undead when Ben locks himself in the cellar and we don't see her again, so it's plausible.
  • Word of Dante: The supposed racial undertones of the film and especially the Downer Ending are purely speculation on the part of critics and fans, as George A. Romero repeatedly stated that the character of Ben was written as a white man and no social allegory was originally intended. Hasn't stopped fans from treating it as canon or stopped Romero himself from later taking credit for it.
  • Working Title: Was usually just called Monster Flick by the cast and crew during filming, with Night of Anubis and Night of the Flesh Eaters as early attempts at more formal titles. It was the distributor who came up with Night of the Living Dead. While a better title, the distributor swapping the title card lead to the movie's loss of copyright.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: John Russo wrote the shooting script in just three days, but it was constantly tinkered-with during filming. A large amount of the dialogue was ad-libbed.


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