The highlight was listening to the Night of the Living Dead panel discussion with several of the actors from the movie. (Watching a Bluray version of Night played on a theater-style screen came in a close second). The production of Night was guerilla film making at its most basic. Most of the cast were friends or colleagues of George Romero. Several of the main actors did double duty as crew members. (For example, Marilyn Eastman, who played Helen Cooper, also served as make-up director for the movie.) And most of the zombies and posse members were locals who thought it would be fun to play a bit part in the movie. (For anyone who wants to see a great documentary on the making of Night, purchase a copy of Autopsy of the Dead. This two-hour documentary contains interviews with dozens of individuals involved with the making of the movie, including the personal accounts of zombies and posse members. Kyra Schon's interview is conducted in the basement of Romero's production studio, which also served as the basement of the farmhouse where Karen Cooper turns and attacks her mother.)
What really came across, however, was that no one involved in making Night ever imagined at the time the impact the movie would have. There was no zombie genre until Night came along. Everyone of us who makes a living in the business today, or enjoys a good zombie novel/movie, owes a huge debt of thanks to Romero. And there are two generations of film makers who saw Night, were inspired by what Romero could do on a shoestring budget, and went out to start their own film careers. For a cheap little movie that barely got theater time when it first came out and was often relegated to drive-in fare, and which then thrilled many a Monster Kid when run on late night TV (usually as the weekend movie of our favorite horror movie host), its impact has been historic. To myself and most of those who attended the convention, we were there to meet true legends.
The cast of the original Night of the Living Dead. Seated from left to right are Charles Craig (the TV announcer); Judith Odea (Barbra); Kyra Schon (Karen Cooper); Bill Hinzman (the cemetery zombie); George Kosana (Sheriff McClelland), Russ Streiner (Johnny); and John Russo (co-writer).
Kyra (Kareen Cooper) Schon, me, and Bill (cemetery zombie) Hinzman. (No, I'm not in zombie make-up.)
Judith (Barbra) Odea, me, and Russ (Johnny) Streiner.
Me and George (Sheriff McClelland) Kosana.
(To be continued in a later blog.)