Monday, July 17, 2017
Trauma of the Living Dead
I remember that first TV commercial for Night, or at least a portion of it — a brief shot of one of the undead gnawing on a human hand; a shot of a desiccated, staring skull; a shrill, nerve-shattering scream. I was eight or nine years old at the time, and that advertisement cost me serious sleep over a couple of evenings. In fact, this movie looked scary enough that I was pretty sure I didn't even want to see it.
But then the kicker: Night of the Living Dead came to one of our local drive-in theaters on a double bill with Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster. Now, whatever my feelings about flesh-eating zombies, I was by this time in life a serious daikaiju geek, and the opportunity to see a Godzilla movie at the theater was not one to pass up. Naturally, I asked my parents if they'd take me. They answered with the dreaded "maybe."
What happened was that Mom and Dad went to the drive-in to check out the movies, to see if they were "okay" for the likes of me. Well, the next day, Mom very firmly told me I could not go. Night of the Living Dead was just way too much. Those zombies were eating people! I assured her I didn't want to see Night of the Living Dead, I just wanted to see Ghidrah.
"You're not going anywhere near that drive-in theater!" was my traumatized mother's reply.
And so, no Ghidrah for me that go-round. In fact, much to my dismay, it was years later before I got to see it — well into high school, if I remember. As for Night of the Living Dead, I believe I was in college when I finally got to experience that treat. By then hardly traumatizing, but it certainly entertained me. And to this day, it remains one of my favorite horror movies. My most memorable experience with it was Halloween 1983 — my first in Chicago — when Night played on a double-feature with Eraserhead at the sadly long-gone Varsity Theater in Evanston. And just a few years ago, the Rives Theater in Martinsville — where I saw the majority of the horror and monster movies of my youth — Night played as a midnight movie at Halloween.
Yeah, I don't know how many times I've seen it now, but I'll probably watch it quite a few more times before I pass on over myself. Not to mention the original Dawn of the Dead, which also rates among my favorites.
Thanks, George, for those treasured memories you've provided. I remember you for those, but I know many folks who will remember a warm and genuine soul who touched their lives in many other wonderful ways. R.I.P.