In addition to being a fanatical film fan, I’m also a rabid reader about film, and I’ve several bowing pressboard shelves to prove it. The titles weighing so heavily on these shelves lean mostly toward horror, with dozens of books covering slasher films, gialli, cannibal flicks, and a potpourri of tomes dealing with everything Argento to Zombies (see what I did there? Huh? Huh?). Most of the books in my collection offer broad overviews of specific sub-genres (Japanese “Pink” cinema, religious-themed horror), but several focus on specific films and directors, like the Friday the 13th franchise, Evil Dead films, Hammer horror, and the collected works of Lucio Fulci.
My little library pretty much covers it all, but, until recently, I wasn’t aware of one glaring omission; George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, easily one of the most influential and important horror films ever made. I mean, sure, there are chapters upon chapters dedicated to the man and his movies in the myriad zombie cinema titles in my collection, but we’re talking about Night of the Living Dead, here, people; an absolutely game-changing film that forever changed the landscape of horror cinema. Surely this film deserves a book all its lonesome, and, thanks to Joe Kane (The Phantom of the Movies), it’s finally got one.
Kane’s new book (from Citadel Press) offers a very comprehensive look at virtually every stage of the production of Romero’s seminal classic, with chapters covering the film’s inception, casting, and filming. Essays by many of horror’s elite accompany several chapters, with reminiscences and ruminations from such filmmakers as Wes Craven, Peter Jackson, Danny Boyle, Stuart Gordon, and more. We’re also given insight into the impact the film had on Romero’s own work, with chapters dedicated to not only obvious choices like Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, but also to films like The Crazies and Martin. Heck, there’s even a few blurbs about Knightriders in there!
Kane assembles a solid collection of interviews, essays, photographs, and lists (“Five Favorite Ziti Zombies”, “The Z Awards”) as well as a nice “where are they now” chapter, and a very handy “Dead Film and DVD List” that details all of the various incarnations of Night of the Living Dead and its offshoots available, including parodies, animated shorts, and redubs! The coup de grace comes in the guise of the film’s original screenplay, included here in its entirety.
Joe Kane’s Night of the Living Dead cheats a bit in that it’s focus isn’t solely on the one film, but, even when it strays into other territory (Italian zombie films, the remakes and rip-offs) the original film is almost always returned to as a sort of touchstone. It’s a really spectacular collection of stuff, and easily earns itself a spot in every deadhead’s library. Highly recommended.