I don’t ask much of the dead, other than that they stay that way and refrain from eating me. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the deceased refuse to do in Night of the Living Dead, the 1968 cult film directed by George A. Romero (1940 – ) and written by Romero and John A. Russo (1939 – ). They rise up and stagger about and doggedly pursue and devour the living. No one knows why, not even Romero, and therein lies the tragic flaw of this property.
The film was independently produced on a miniscule budget and has gone on to become the top grossing independent film of all time. The critics hated it but in 1999 the Library of Congress deemed it “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” Go figure!
Ironically, because it was so cheaply and hastily produced just to make a quick buck, the distributor failed to renew the copyright when the title was changed from Night of the Flesh-Eaters to Night of the Living Dead and so the film is in the public domain and has made far less cash for its creators than it could have. This also means that the film is available to watch for free on the Web – be my guest.
I am not a horror fan and so I have never seen the film, but I certainly know the thrill of latching on to a kitschy cult flick and yearning to have the fun of recreating it live on stage. For years I wanted to do that with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, until some British fop named Eric Idle beat me to the punch, and the millions. But well before Monty Python’s Spamalot took Broadway by storm, I knew that copyright laws prevented me from fulfilling my dream.