Visiting a Classic Horror Film Location.
It was October 1991 when I visited a location that was very important to me. The place was where some of the most important scenes of an unprecedented low budget horror movie had been filmed, which coincidentally, had been the only horror movie to terrify me. Although, I suppose being a mere eight years old at the time had something to do with it.
In 1968, America was horrified by a film that immediately turned perceptions of a horror character upside down. It wasn't a Hollywood blockbuster, nor even a Hollywood product for that matter and considered to be too disturbing that not a single Hollywood distributor would give consideration.
It wasn't directed by an Academy Award winning director nor were there any established actors or actresses. And, they certainly weren't expecting the film to be destined as an eventual cult classic and Halloween favorite.
Opening as an afternoon matinee at the Fulton Theater in Pittsburgh on October 1st, 1968, the lack of a movie rating system ensured that many children would see this scary and gruesome flick, etching memories for life.
This film which cost $114,000 to make, is now in 25 languages, and grossed 12 million domestically, and 30 million internationally. In 1969, it was known as Europe's highest grossing film, and in 1999, the Library of Congress National Film Registry listed it as “Historically, culturally, or aesthetically important.”
Low budget black and white, chocolate syrup and mortician’s wax was used for special effects and the wardrobe consisted of second hand clothes.
Utilizing locations 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Evans City, specifically Franklin Road, is the quaint peaceful cemetery where the beginning scenes were shot. This is where I was fortunate enough to linger in the exact spot as this renowned filmmaker had. The eeriness, held sacred for so many years, hadn't changed and was precisely the same as it had been during that very first viewing as a child.
Casually strolling around, I explored the gravel drive leading up to the cemetery, that same drive that Barbara crashed the car against a tree. Coincidentally, the tree still harbored signs of gouge, but it had long since grown over. Regardless, I selfishly still took a small piece of bark, just enough to satisfy personal posterity need.
At the time, the bullet holes in the sign leading up to the location were exactly as shown in the film, but I now suspect they are long gone. However, the building, slightly shown behind behind Barbara and Johnny while at the grave, was and probably still is there.
Nonetheless, for no less than sixty minutes nostalgia ruled, casting scenes from the film vividly into my mind and forcefully thrusting that eeriness discussed earlier through my body from head to toe. It was a wonderful thing and I hadn't wanted to leave, but rushed home for yet another viewing, this time pausing to inspect where I had actually stood, and a smile pursed my face.
And this is exactly why the Staying Scared show has chosen Night of the Living Dead as it's yet to be announced October 2020 Monster Channel show at Eerie Late Night.
Stay Scared, The Prof.