|World Premiere, Pittsburgh 1968|
Of course, the reverberations radiating from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD's initial impact are still being felt. AMC's THE WALKING DEAD begins its 9th season on Sunday, October 7th. Even though the show's star Andrew Lincoln is bailing out this year, which will likely tempt many viewers to follow his example, AMC has said that they hope to keep the series going for another decade. Provide your own kicking a DEAD horse joke.
|NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD|
Though not quite present in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the idea takes form in Romero's sequel, DAWN OF THE DEAD, released more than a decade later in 1979. When Roger (Scott H. Reiniger) is bitten, Romero chronicles his excruciatingly slow death, the brief peace that follows his passing, and the chilling moment of his resurrection. Later in the film, when Stephen a.k.a. "Flyboy" (David Emge) is attacked in the elevator, he is messily infected and - due to an edit away from the action - he returns to the story fully transformed. It would seem that the matter of infection was truly added to the mythos on the basis of that edit. Thereafter, the bite of the living dead made one the living dead - an idea that actually goes back to another wing of the genre, to DRACULA.
I was reminded of all this by a recent viewing of Gordon Hessler's THE OBLONG BOX, first released in 1969, the year following NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Spoiler ahead, but in the climax of this film, the horribly disfigured Sir Edward Markham (Alister Williamson) - wrongly infected by a voodoo curse intended for his brother Julian (Vincent Price), and locked away in a tower room of the family estate and passed off as dead - is shot by his brother to end his reign of murderous terror. Edward then uses his last energies to crawl to Julian, to take his hand, and bite it viciously. As one critic observed, the bite is so deep, it almost appears that Edward leaves his teeth in the wound. In a chilling coda, we find that Julian has been infected by the bite. Turning to his wife's calls as he stands in Edward's old room, he shows his face similarly disfigured on one side as he says, "It's my room now."
|THE OBLONG BOX|
The vital connections here are infection and consequence, which only becomes a point of discussion in THE OBLONG BOX. Romero's living dead needed this because, without these inherent dangers, they ran the risk of becoming the buffoons they were briefly treated as in DAWN, with the pie-fight sequence. It should also be emphasized that, in DAWN, Romero himself invited into his mythos the necessary subject of Voodoo - the basis of Sir Edward's bite.
This subject may well require a more detailed presentation than I can give it, here and now, but consider it meat for further discussion. Have at it.
(c) 2018 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.