can range from the mild to the wild. A tattered suit or a fancy dress can spark a smile, laugh or spontaneous fright, especially if you throw in a touch of zombie blood. Popular Halloween costumes are generally based on what is hot in popular culture at the moment. While Spice Girl and Superman costumes may be a thing of the past, zombie costumes are a staple of the Halloween season thanks largely to the 1968 classic "Night of the Living Dead," directed by George A. Romero.
It's hard to believe that the iconic movie that inspired a whole new generation of zombie movies, not to mention Michael Jackson's classic "Thriller" video, was considered an independent film when it debuted in theaters on October 1, 1968. The black-and-white film was completed on a budget of $114,000 and has since grossed over $12 million. Just as repeated television airings made "The Wizard of Oz" a family classic, the same has happened with "Night of the Living Dead" in the forty-plus years since its debut.
Barbra (Judith O'Dea) and her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) drive to a cemetery in rural Pennsylvania cemetery to visit their father's grave. A chance encounter with a man walking with a limp sets things in motion and eventually leads Barbara to flee to a farm house where she meets "the living dead." The classic line "They're coming to get you Barbara" is uttered early in the movie when Johnny teases his sister over her fear of cemeteries.
Romero got his start as a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in the early '60s. He started out directing commercials, before turning his love of the macabre into a movie filmed around the Pittsburgh area. Romero formed a production company with his small group of investors called Image Ten. Props and special effects for the movie were kept simple. Filming in black-and-white had its advantages. The blood was actually Bosco Chocolate Syrup. The "consumed flesh" was really entrails and roasted ham donated by a crew member who owned a butcher shop. The clothes were second hand items found at the local Goodwill.
Even the black-and-white filming wasn't done necessarily for artistic reasons, as it turned out to be cheaper. While budget concerns played a part in how the film was made, it is these same qualities that gave the movie the look of an old newsreel recounting events as they happened. Romero, who wrote the final script over three days in 1967, found inspiration in "I Am Legend," a 1954 novel by Richard Matheson that inspired the movie "Omega Man" and the Will Smith remake.
The influence of "Night of the Living Dead" continues today in Halloween outfits that can be purchased in stores or online and made from homemade blood, guts and tattered clothes. The next time you open your door on Halloween and see Zombie costumes or a fancy dress or stylish suit covered in blood, you will witness the ongoing influence of this cult classic.