Night of the Living Dead (1990)

R | 96 mins | Horror | 19 October 1990

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HISTORY

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, notices were posted all over Hopewell Township, PA, looking for “extras” to play zombies, vigilantes, and police. Several hundred people from the tri-state area—western PA, eastern OH, and northern WV—auditioned for the 150 roles, and most begged to be zombies. Actor Jeff Ladisic’s main qualification was having a glass eye, so he played an eyeless zombie in the opening graveyard scene. Aspirants attended a two-day “Zombie Seminar” directed by a Carnegie-Mellon University drama professor, who taught them how to stumble, fall down, and “emote.” Director Tom Savini called the film “a retelling [of the 1968 original]. It has the same characters with the same look and the same names. It has a farmhouse and the cemetery, but it also has lots of twists and turns and surprises.” Savini shot Night of the Living Dead in sequence, moving from the cemetery where the heroine, Barbara Todd, is first attacked, to the three-story Victorian farmhouse where she and other survivors seek refuge from the ghoulish horde. Interiors were filmed in the farmhouse, which set decorator Brian J. Stonestreet furnished with old furniture. A nearby church was used as a lunch area and “holding tank” for background actors. Crowds often gathered outside the church to see the ghouls in full makeup. Special makeup effects creators John Vulich and Everett Burrell studied forensic pathology books, and Burrell attended an autopsy, in order to make the creatures look like real dead people. Among their findings was that corpses look more yellow than gray, so they added a yellowish tint to the zombies’ skin.
       Although the 21 Apr 1989 DV announced that ... More Less

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, notices were posted all over Hopewell Township, PA, looking for “extras” to play zombies, vigilantes, and police. Several hundred people from the tri-state area—western PA, eastern OH, and northern WV—auditioned for the 150 roles, and most begged to be zombies. Actor Jeff Ladisic’s main qualification was having a glass eye, so he played an eyeless zombie in the opening graveyard scene. Aspirants attended a two-day “Zombie Seminar” directed by a Carnegie-Mellon University drama professor, who taught them how to stumble, fall down, and “emote.” Director Tom Savini called the film “a retelling [of the 1968 original]. It has the same characters with the same look and the same names. It has a farmhouse and the cemetery, but it also has lots of twists and turns and surprises.” Savini shot Night of the Living Dead in sequence, moving from the cemetery where the heroine, Barbara Todd, is first attacked, to the three-story Victorian farmhouse where she and other survivors seek refuge from the ghoulish horde. Interiors were filmed in the farmhouse, which set decorator Brian J. Stonestreet furnished with old furniture. A nearby church was used as a lunch area and “holding tank” for background actors. Crowds often gathered outside the church to see the ghouls in full makeup. Special makeup effects creators John Vulich and Everett Burrell studied forensic pathology books, and Burrell attended an autopsy, in order to make the creatures look like real dead people. Among their findings was that corpses look more yellow than gray, so they added a yellowish tint to the zombies’ skin.
       Although the 21 Apr 1989 DV announced that principal photography would begin in the summer in New York City, filming did not commence until the following year, on 23 Apr 1990, outside Pittsburgh, PA, according to the 25 Apr 1990 and 2 May 1990 Var. The 6 Jun 1990 Philadelphia Daily News reported that filming was nearly completed, on a budget of $4.2 million.
       The original Night of the Living Dead (1968, see entry) was shot in black and white on a modest budget of $130,000 in Evans City, PA. Because of an oversight, the distributor failed to include a copyright notice, leaving the film unprotected from anyone who wanted to copy or screen it. The film grossed “about $50 million,” the 5 Aug 1990 LAT noted, but investors barely made a profit. Night of the Living Dead became a cult classic that literally began a new genre: the flesh-eating zombie movie, although the word “zombie” was never used in the film. (The word is also not used in the remake, except to describe “featured zombies” in end credits.) For director George A. Romero, the film spawned two sequels, Dawn of the Dead (1979, see entry) and Day of the Dead (1985, see entry), and a series of unrelated zombie movies. After Romero secured a new copyright in 1986, he agreed to remake Night of the Living Dead as scriptwriter and executive producer in order to finally profit from the property.
       Although Night of the Living Dead was officially a remake, Romero made several changes to the ending. In the original, the helpless “Barbara” was killed by a horde of ghouls, including her brother, “Johnny”; Ben killed “Harry Cooper,” and was then shot by a vigilante mistaking him for one of the walking dead. In the remake, Barbara becomes a warrior who survives and kills Harry Cooper, and Ben is killed by a vigilante only after he turns into a ghoul. Also, the name of daughter “Karen Cooper” was changed to “Sarah Cooper,” and Johnny was changed to “Johnnie” in the credits. In the original, the last name on Johnny and Barbara’s father’s tombstone is “Cole”; in the remake, the name on the mother’s stone is “Ann Todd.” The only actor credited in both films is Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille, a Pittsburgh, PA, television personality and horror movie host who played the same role as a “field reporter”/”television interviewer” traveling with the vigilantes.
       Despite generally favorable reviews, Night of the Living Dead made only $3.6 million in its first week, and “plummeted 65%” the following week, the 29 Oct 1990 and 5 Nov 1990 editions of Var reported.
       End credits contain the following acknowledgments: “Special thanks to: Boston Light & Sound; Jones Brewing Company - Smithton, PA; Black & Decker (Industrial Division) - Pittsburgh, PA; Maaco Auto Painting & Body Shop - Monroeville, PA; Whalen Nursery Outlet, Inc. - Eighty-Four, PA; Clark Candy Co. - Pittsburgh, PA; Ace Sporting Goods - Washington, PA; Jefferson Avenue Foodland - Washington, PA; Dr. Glass - Washington, PA; Peters Township Ambulance Service - Peters Township, PA; WIPA/WYTK Radio - Washington, PA; WPKI-TV - Pittsburgh, PA; WTAE-TV - Pittsburgh, PA; Monsch's Lunches - Pittsburgh, PA; Italian Boys Pizza - Washington, PA; Isiminger's Towing - Washington, PA; Pizza Hut - Washington, PA; Pepsi Entertainment - Los Angeles, CA; Pittsburgh Brewing Co. - Pittsburgh, PA; Albert G. Ruben & Co., Inc.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Business Wire
22 Feb 1990
p. 1
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1988
p. 14
Daily Variety
21 Apr 1989
p. 23
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1990
p. 3
Daily Variety
19 Oct 1990
p. 2, 21
Daily Variety
29 Oct 1990
p. 3
Daily Variety
5 Nov 1990
p. 27
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 1990
p. 10, 16
Los Angeles Times
5 Aug 1990
Calendar, p. 26
Los Angeles Times
19 Oct 1990
Calendar, p. 10
New York Times
19 Oct 1990
p. 17
Philadelphia Daily News
6 Jun 1990
p. 44
Variety
15 Nov 1989
p. 18
Variety
25 Apr 1990
p. 18
Variety
2 May 1990
p. 25
Variety
22 Oct 1990
p. 61
Variety
29 Oct 1990
p. 3.
Variety
5 Nov 1990
p. 27.
Wall Street Journal
14 May 1990
p. 1, 6
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
21st Century Film Corporation and George A. Romero Present
A Menahem Golan Production
A Film by Tom Savini
A 21st Century™ Film
A Columbia Pictures Release
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Line prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Co-exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Addl asst cam
Addl asst cam
Cam trainee
Key grip
Best boy grip
Addl grip
Addl grip
Addl grip
Addl grip
Addl gaffer
Addl gaffer
Best boy elec
Addl elec
Addl elec
Addl elec
Addl elec
Addl elec
Addl elec
Still photog
Camera, lenses and equip
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Storyboard artist
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Set dresser
Addl set dresser
Addl set dresser
Addl set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst props
Spec props
Spec props
Const coord
Lead carpenter
Addl carpenter
Addl carpenter
Addl carpenter
Head scenic painter
On set scenic
On set scenic
Addl scenic
Addl scenic
Addl scenic
Addl scenic
Addl scenic
Addl scenic
Addl scenic
Key set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Asst ward
Asst ward
Addl asst ward
Addl asst ward
Addl asst ward
Addl asst ward
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus arr and scoring
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
1st asst sd ed
2d asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
ADR/Foley mixer
ADR/Foley rec
ADR/Foley rec
Foley walker
Foley walker
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Pyrotech spec eff
Pyrotech spec eff asst
Pyrotech spec eff asst
Pyrotech spec eff asst
Closing montage
Main titles and opt
MAKEUP
Spec makeup eff created by
Spec makeup eff created by
Key makeup/Hair
Asst makeup
Addl asst makeup
Addl asst makeup
Spec makeup eff asst
Spec makeup eff asst
Spec makeup eff asst
Spec makeup eff intern
Spec makeup eff intern
Spec makeup eff intern
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting, New York City
Casting, New York City
Casting, Pittsburgh
Casting, Pittsburgh
Prod supv for 21st Century
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod accountant
Loc supv
Loc scout
Loc asst
Asst auditor
Office coord for 21st Century
Promotions coord
Office prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Unit pub
Extras casting
Extras casting asst
Catering
Catering
Catering
Craft service
Security/Weapons handler
Security
Security
Security
Security
Security
Security
Transportation coord
Courier - N.Y.C.
Driver - N.Y.C.
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the original screenplay Night of the Living Dead written by John A. Russo and George A. Romero (Latent Image, 1968).
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 October 1990
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 19 October 1990
New York opening: week of 19 October 1990
Production Date:
23 April - early June 1990
Copyright Claimant:
21st Century Production, N.V.
Copyright Date:
3 July 1991
Copyright Number:
PA534557
Physical Properties:
Sound
Ultra-Stereo
Color
Duration(in mins):
96
Length(in feet):
7,914
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On August 23, 1989, near Evans City, Pennsylvania, Barbara Todd and her brother, Johnnie Todd, place flowers on their mother’s grave. They argue because Johnnie dislikes the long drive to the cemetery. Seeing a man in a suit approaching, Johnnie teases Barbara, imitating horror actor Boris Karloff and saying, “They're coming to get you, Barbara.” Clearly disoriented, the man tells them he is sorry and stumbles away. Suddenly, another man, a ghoul, attacks Barbara, and as Johnnie tries to stop the creature, it bites his neck. Barbara runs past a hearse sitting next to an open, empty coffin, and gets into a car, but there is no ignition key. As another man approaches, his suit falls off, revealing autopsy scars on his chest. Both ghouls attack the car, and Barbara releases the emergency break, letting the car drift down a hill until it crashes into a tree. Barbara runs to a nearby farmhouse, finds an unlocked back door, and enters, but nobody answers her calls of “Hello.” A bloody ghoul falls over an upstairs railing and nearly lands on her. Running outside, she sees another ghoul approaching, but a pickup truck runs it down. Ben, an African American, gets out and pulls Barbara back into the farmhouse. She is in shock and can barely speak. While Ben dispatches one ghoul with a tire iron, Barbara beats the another with a fire poker. With his truck nearly out of gas, Ben takes refuge in the farmhouse, informing Barbara that the creatures are not strong enough to break though the door. However, he and Barbara will have to defend the windows. She asks what happened, but Ben has no idea. As ... +


On August 23, 1989, near Evans City, Pennsylvania, Barbara Todd and her brother, Johnnie Todd, place flowers on their mother’s grave. They argue because Johnnie dislikes the long drive to the cemetery. Seeing a man in a suit approaching, Johnnie teases Barbara, imitating horror actor Boris Karloff and saying, “They're coming to get you, Barbara.” Clearly disoriented, the man tells them he is sorry and stumbles away. Suddenly, another man, a ghoul, attacks Barbara, and as Johnnie tries to stop the creature, it bites his neck. Barbara runs past a hearse sitting next to an open, empty coffin, and gets into a car, but there is no ignition key. As another man approaches, his suit falls off, revealing autopsy scars on his chest. Both ghouls attack the car, and Barbara releases the emergency break, letting the car drift down a hill until it crashes into a tree. Barbara runs to a nearby farmhouse, finds an unlocked back door, and enters, but nobody answers her calls of “Hello.” A bloody ghoul falls over an upstairs railing and nearly lands on her. Running outside, she sees another ghoul approaching, but a pickup truck runs it down. Ben, an African American, gets out and pulls Barbara back into the farmhouse. She is in shock and can barely speak. While Ben dispatches one ghoul with a tire iron, Barbara beats the another with a fire poker. With his truck nearly out of gas, Ben takes refuge in the farmhouse, informing Barbara that the creatures are not strong enough to break though the door. However, he and Barbara will have to defend the windows. She asks what happened, but Ben has no idea. As night falls, Barbara wraps the ghoul she killed in a carpet, and Ben helps her drag it out of the house. He explains he was at a diner when the creatures attacked. A man shot one of the ghouls several times, but it did not stop until he shot it in the head. The radio news speculated there had been a prison break or a chemical spill, but neither explanation makes sense. The farmhouse telephone is out of order. Upstairs, Ben finds the corpse of a man who shot himself in the head after his left hand was eaten off. Ben takes the man’s rifle and finds ammunition. Suddenly, two men, Harry Cooper and Tom Baynor, emerge from the cellar where they have been hiding. Harry’s wife, Helen, and daughter, Sarah, along with Tom’s girl friend, Judy Rose Larson, are still below. Tom tells them the house belongs to his Uncle Rege and cousin Satchel. Belligerent toward Ben and Barbara, Harry believes they attracted more ghouls to the house, and insists they either hide with them in the cellar or leave. When Ben mentions his truck is nearly out of gas, Tom says there is a pump near the barn, but Ben informs them that the closest town, Evans City, has been overrun by the creatures. Ben refuses to trap himself in the cellar. Tom explains how he found Uncle Rege dead, but his corpse suddenly came alive and attacked Satchel. Tom grabbed a shotgun, but could not kill his uncle, so when the Coopers arrived, he led them into the cellar. Ben decides to board the windows, and Tom agrees to bring up Judy Rose to help him and Barbara. Harry Cooper goes back downstairs, locking the door behind him. Helen, his wife, wants to get help for their daughter, Sarah, who has been bitten, but Harry demands she stay with him. Ben, Barbara, Tom, and Judy Rose nail every piece of wood they can find over the windows. Outside, more ghouls approach, but since they move so slowly, Barbara believes it would easy to run around them and get away from the house. Ben goes upstairs for more wood and puts a tablecloth over Satchel’s body before Tom comes up. They find a television set, but the only working channel shows written instructions from the Emergency Broadcast System. In the cellar, Helen challenges Harry’s reluctance to get involved with the others. Ben and Tom knock on the cellar door, demanding to be let in to get more wood. When Helen moves to open the door, Harry hits her, but relents and lets the others in when Ben threatens to shoot the lock. Ben asks what happened to Sarah, and Helen responds that she was bitten by “one of those people.” Ben suggests Harry look for the keys to the gas pump, and Helen begins searching upstairs. When Mr. Magruder, a neighbor, tries to push through a door, Barbara shoots him. Judy Rose reacts hysterically, thinking Barbara murdered Mr. Magruder, but as another ghoul enters the house, Barbara demonstrates by shooting it in the chest that the creature is already dead. Then she shoots it in the head. Harry hears a voice upstairs and finds the television. A newsman announces that bodies appear to be coming back to life, but authorities deny it. Harry unplugs the TV set and carries it toward the cellar, but when Ben stops him, Harry drops the TV down the cellar steps. Barbara carries a rifle outside, shoots a ghoul, and insists that together they can escape. Judy Rose finds what might be keys to the gas pump in Uncle Rege’s pocket and insists on making a run for the truck with Tom and Ben. She starts the truck and rides with Tom toward the pump, while Ben fights off several ghouls with a torch and follows on foot. At the gas pump, Tom realizes he has the wrong keys. When he tries to shoot the lock, the pump explodes, killing him and Judy Rose. Ben runs back toward the house. Harry orders Helen into the cellar, but when she goes downstairs, her daughter, Sarah, who has turned into a ghoul, bites Helen’s throat. Upstairs, Harry grabs Barbara’s rifle, just as a ghoul grabs her through a board-covered window. Ben returns to the house, kills a ghoul in a police uniform, and takes its gun. As Sarah enters the room, her father cannot shoot her, and as Ben tries to stop her with the policeman’s pistol, Harry fires at him with Barbara’s rifle. Barbara kills Sarah. Harry begins an exchange of gunfire that injures both himself and Ben. Harry runs upstairs and pulls down a ceiling ladder that leads to the attic. Wounded, Ben tells Barbara to run. She hurries out the door. As ghouls stream into the house, Ben goes into the cellar and locks the door. Armed with a pistol, Barbara sees ghouls eating the charred bodies of Judy Rose and Tom. She cries as she shoots a female ghoul in the head. In the cellar, Ben is forced to kill Helen. He finds a radio and listens to an announcer warn people that emergency centers have been overrun. Seeing the plainly-marked keys to the gas pump hanging on the wall, Ben laughs. Meanwhile, Barbara is rescued by a group of vigilantes. In the back of their truck, she sees her brother, Johnnie, stacked among the bodies of other ghouls. In the morning, Barbara awakens in a jeep sitting in a makeshift camp. Vigilantes torment a ghoul with sticks, and others hang the creatures from trees and use them for target practice. The men build a bonfire outside the farmhouse. Police and a television newsmen are there. Sickened by the barbarism toward the ghouls, Barbara enters the farmhouse, where vigilantes are sawing through the cellar door. Ben steps out, but he has turned into a ghoul, and the men shoot him. Harry comes downstairs and says to Barbara, “You came back.” She shoots him in the head and tells the vigilantes he is “another one for the fire.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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