“The movie is in black and white. How scary can it be?” is the old adage classic film lovers hear from newcomers when they recommend a scary film. And while George Romero’s “Night Of The Living Dead” (1968) was later colorized, the film was originally released in good ol’ black and white. It is another testament to list alongside such classics as early as “Dracula” (1931) and “Frankenstein” (1931) to “Psycho” (1960), “The Haunting” (1963) that no matter what color it’s filmed in, it can scare the stuffing right out of you.
During his student attendance at Carnegie Mellon University, George A. Romero partnered with John A. Russo and a small crew to create a horror film on a budget of $114,000. The low budget provided a limit on what the amateur film-makers could do. Romero and Russo finished a script in which a group of people trapped in a farmhouse battle against a plague of reanimated human corpses in the middle of nowhere.
The film was shot in Butler County of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and most of the filming locations still exist. The famous “They’re coming for you Barbra” opening scene was filmed at Evans City Cemetery. The rest of the film was shot at two different houses, one of which has since been demolished. In order to simulate blood, props and actors were doused in Bosco chocolate syrup. The combination of chocolate syrup and roast ham for rotten flesh made some of the extras sick after digestion. Extras were paid one dollar and a t-shirt that said, “I was a zombie in “Night Of the Living Dead.” For a decade, the film circulated theatrical releases, eventually grossing $30 million dollars worldwide and spawning “zombie” fans everywhere. In that time, Russo and Romero parted ways, each spurring a number of “zombie” films to continue their franchises.
In 1977, Romero returned to Pennsylvania to film “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Monroeville. The bulk of the film’s shooting took place at Monroeville Mall after shopping hours. Romero directed three more films including “Day of the Dead” (1985), “Land of the Dead” (2005), and “Diary of the Dead” (2008). Meanwhile, John A. Russo made a satirized sequel of “Night of the Living Dead” titled “Return of the Living Dead” (1985) and followed it with four more “Return of the Living Dead” titles.
There was also a number of remakes including the recent remake of “Dawn Of The Dead” (2004) by “300" director Zack Snyder. In 2008, Nicolas Garreau, devoted follower of Romero’s work, documented his travels from his native France to Pennsylvania in order to visit the iconic filming locations in a documentary called “Fan of the Dead.”