Sunday, February 03, 2008

Night of the Living Director

At the first of the year, I laid down (in an electronic sense) forty dollars for the chance to go and see George Romero talk about his greatest film, Night of the Living Dead. It's all part of a series at the San Marco Theater called The Talkies, which kicked off last year with a visit by John Waters. Not being a huge fan of John, I gave that one a pass. But I couldn't resist the call of George, so last night I went to listen to the great one for ninety minutes or so:

- Those looking for scene specific commentary last night were slightly disapointed. George did do his share of pointing out particular things in the film as they happened, especially in the beginning. Mostly, he told stories of his career both in making this film and other films, not to metion his opinions on everything from politics to Ron Howard.

- The first great line of the evening (and one that should by all rights become movie industry shorthand) is Romero speaking of doing one too many sequels as "reaching Thunderdome".

- Romero was not shy about pointing out the film's shortcomings such as sudden jumpcuts and poor sound effects dubbing. It put me in mind of the DVD commentary track for The Usual Suspects where Brian Singer and Christopher McQuarrie gleefully point out goofs and logical errors in their masterpiece.

- Romero's most repeated line: "This movie I just finished making". Runner up: "Just a bunch of guys from the 'burgh".

- Apparently, the Pittsburgh entertainment industry during the sixties revolved around Mister Roger's Neighborhood. Romero spoke of his time working with the show and how his first choice for the female lead in NOTLD was Neighborhood's Betty Aberlin. Fred Rogers put the kybosh on this as he didn't want the show to be linked to a horror film through her. The upside is that Aberlin, years later, played a nun at the beginning of Kevin Smith's "Dogma". I get the feeling Fred wouldn't have like that, either.

- The most interesting piece of trivia that I hadn't heard before was how the original ninety-seven minute cut was trimmed to ninety. The reason was not so they could squeeze in an extra showing, but that anything over ninety would mean an extra reel of film, which would cost that much more to ship to theaters. The downside to this was that the cut footage offered several other explantions for the zombie uprising instead of just the "Space Probe from Venus", which was the only one remaining. Much to Romero's chagrin, many reviews picked up on this and stated this as the definitive cause when in actuality Romero wanted it to remain unresolved.

- The inspiration for NOTLD's spooky lighting was, according to Romero, the Shakespere films of Orson Welles. Who knew?

- Romero has no love for running zombies, and he stated his case by referencing the old Universal Mummy films with Boris Krloff. His reasoning was sound and he admitted that Zack Snyder (who directed the speedy Dawn of the Dead remake) was a good director who simply did an action film and not a horror film. Personally, I think it excels in both genres, but George and I can agee to disagree. Besides, if we're being brutally honest, Land of the Dead sucked.

- I don't know if that clear liquid he was drinking was water or, as he said once, vodka, but he got looser with his tongue as the movie progressed and was swearing like a sailor. Either way, it was great.

- Someone in the audience mentioned Knightriders and George spoke at length about that. It made me wish I had watched that old VHS copy I owned for so long (and which was amongst the many movies stolen last September). Mostly, George had lots of great things to say about Ed Harris and lamented the unfortunate way he's treated as a "second banana" in Hollywood.

- Further proof that some of the greatest lines are ad libbed: "They're dead... They're all messed up."

Overall, there was lots of love last night for George. He was presented with a cake (his birthday is tomorrow) and several standing ovations during the course of the evening. Furthermore, he seemed genuinely happy to be there and humbled by all the adulation. I was glad to be have seen it and, depending on who they choose for the next go 'round, will definitely be up for another live commentary at the San Marco.

1 comment:

hi said...

wow, that sounds pretty awesome, i would love to do something like that soon. especially if it was with George.