Behind the scenes pics and George Romero quotes for Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night of the Living Dead #2 (Discreet)

George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead redefined not only the zombie film but the horror genre itself, drawing a clear line of demarcation between the genre’s history of gothic monsters and enlarged radioactive creatures and the more angry, violent and transgressive contemporary horror of the 1970s. The film’s gritty black-and-white photography, its then-daring employment of an African-American hero and its ubiquitous availability on television and video thanks to a lack of copyright all played roles in Night’s success. Yet all three of those things nearly never came to be. Keep reading for a collection of Night of the Living Dead production stills and a few quotes from Romero about how a handful of fortuitous turns helped make the film an enduring classic.

Romero on how Night of the Living Dead ended up in the public domain…

“Our original title was Night of the Flesh Eaters and we stupidly as young filmmakers put the copyright bug – the little “c” with the circle around it – on (that) title card. And when they changed the title, that bug came off. And all of a sudden there was no copyright. They didn’t notice. We didn’t notice. Nobody noticed. It was just one of those things – the one that got away. And all of a sudden there was no copyright on the film. The moment that people realized that everybody was selling it on VHS. Everybody could release it without having to pay any royalties or anything else.”

Night of the Living Dead (#4)

Romero on the film’s accidental racial component…

“Everyone who was sort of noticing the film was talking about the racial issue. To us, it wasn’t a racial message at all. In fact, when we cast Duane Jones (as the lead) – when Duane Jones agreed to do it – we didn’t change the script. And when Jack (Russo) and I were writing the script, the guy in our mind was Caucasian and the same things happened to him. People (were) saying, “Here comes these posses with dogs, going after the black guy.” They were going after the guy when he was white. So that was not our point. Our point was more the disintegration of society, the inability to communicate, the disintegration of the family unit. That’s the stuff that we were (interested in)…Duane was (just) the best actor from among our friends.”

Night of the Living Dead (Discreet)

Romero on how the film was nearly shot in color…

“We came to a point about a week into shooting the film where we had some (additional) investment and we tried to decide, well, we could switch to 16mm and go color and reshoot that week or stick with 35mm and stay with black and white. And I argued at the time that (one of) the most brutal scenes that I’ve seen, one of the most gory things is the image of (Marlon) Brando after they beat him up in On the Waterfront and he’s got blood all over him. I felt that it was more gruesome and I think that had something to do with news, because news was all black and white at that time. There was no color TV yet. I always felt that the black and white blood looked more real and most of the color blood was John Wayne blood and not very realistic – a little too bright, a little too red. And I honestly felt that black and white blood looked gorier so I decided to stick with black and white.”

The pictures above come courtesy of the imugr site Join You in the Sun, the Facebook page Cinema Behind the Scenes and the blog Discreet Charms and Obscure Objects, which also has a vast gallery of Night of the Living Dead posters right here. The quotes come from an October 2012 Q&A session Romero did following a screening at Toronto’s Bell Lightbox theater. A video of that interview in its entirety can be found below.

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