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Christmas Is Coming

Well, it’s that time of year again. Anyone who knows me well is well aware that I am a “Christmas guy” and I am proud of it. I try not to be annoying with it, but I really do love the Christmas season. The lights, the sounds, the songs, the food, all of it brings me good feelings. Most years, I break out the Christmas songs a week or two before Thanksgiving, listening on the sly and grinning ear to ear. I love Christmas so much that whenever I am feeling down, virtually any time of year, I cheer myself up by watching Christmas commercials on YouTube. Not a joke. Although I feel like that’s a good place for one, so feel free to insert your own.

Things are starting to ramp up around the old homestead, and the signs of the season are starting to fall into place. We decorated the house inside and out. The Christmas music has begun, although I did somehow manage to wait until after Thanksgiving this year to begin in earnest. The kids are finishing up their wish-lists, plans for celebrations are being made, and everything is ready to roll for another festive season. All that’s left to do is turn on the tube, bask in its glow, and watch a little Christmas magic.

I have written a few posts in my time about Christmas movies, and we all certainly have our favorites. I thought about doing the same this year, especially since I enjoyed doing the Halloween movie posts so much, but I have decided to take a different, though related approach.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about the wonderful world of Christmas TV specials. From the tried and true classics to some lesser known treasures to the truly oddball offerings, I will bring you gifts of glad tidings and good news that can only come from a mix of Santa’s workshop, a lowly manger, and Madison Avenue. Join me for the festive fun, starting next week here on MonDAVEs!

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Another Daddy/Daughter Movie Review! Black Panther:Wakanda Forever

DAVE: Welcome to another Marvel Movie MonDAVE! As usual, I am joined by a guest reviewer, my 14 year old daughter Tessa…

TESSA: What’s up?

D: Um, hi. You’re a little early.

T: Sorry Dad, that’s my bad.

D: No worries. Anyway, we will be giving you our opinions on the newest Marvel movie, Black Panther:Wakanda Forever, and rating it on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest. I will, of course, be using a scale of 1-5 Dave’s, whereas Tessa (with a change up) will be using 1-5 slays.

T: Oh my gosh, it rhymes. I love that.

D: Quality stuff here folks. Also, we try to keep these reviews relatively spoiler free, but a few minor spoilers may occur. Okay, Tess, you’re up.

T: Since Chadwick Boseman, the actor who played the original Black Panther, died a couple of years ago, everyone was wondering how the sequel will be handled. The movie starts immediately with a very powerful scene, showing Shuri trying to save her brother from dying of an unmentioned illness, which she ultimately fails at. We get to see how Wakandans handle funerals, dressing in all white instead of all black, which I thought was very interesting. The audience gets to see the many ways Wakandans and individual characters deal with grief and mourning, and we see firsthand on multiple characters the effects of loss, specifically Nakia, Queen Ramonda, and Shuri. The main antagonist, Namor, also experiences loss, which turned him into what he is. This movie does a great job at showing how much losing somebody close to you can effect your mental health and who you are as a person.

D: Agreed. The emotions behind this film are very raw. Bring your tissue, you will probably need it.

While the theme of dealing with loss is prevalent, this movie is also about maturation, and in a weird way, about unity. Both family unity and societal unity are examined to different degrees. The journey of Shuri’s character may be front and center throughout this film, there’s plenty of sub text to chew on as well. Broken people and broken homes figure prominently in this story. This is one of the more character driven films in the Marvel canon, but in the best possible way.

That being said, it is still an action heavy Marvel movie. It feels much more like a traditional Marvel movie than the last few have, which isn’t a knock on the Phase 4 movies (most of which I have really enjoyed), but this serves as an excellent close to the current phase of films.

T: Another thing I wanted to mention was the acting. Obviously Letitia Wright (Shuri) and Angela Basset (Ramonda) were great, but Danai Gurira (Okoye) really stood out to me. Okoye also went through a really interesting character arc in this film, and I think Danai was really good at conveying that.

D: Oh yeah, pretty much everybody brought their A game, which is probably the best tribute they could have made to Chadwick Boseman. If the story had been there but the acting not, it wouldn’t have been nearly as touching.

There are only a few negatives I can give this film. One is that it’s a little long, but then it’s a Marvel so, duh, of course it is. I also think it gets a little bit clunky in the middle while changing between plot lines. These are minor complaints, however, because the acting, story and surprises are more than good enough to get you through.

Oh, and Martin Freeman returns as well, and that’s always a fun treat.

Okay, Tess. Final thoughts?

T: All in all, this movie conveyed a very deep message about life, loss, and love. It also introduced Ironheart, which was pretty cool. And the cut scene is super cool, as it usually is with Marvel movies. This is definitely one of my favorite movies from Phase 4, and I’m excited to see what the MCU has in store. I give it 4.5 slays. It slays the day away!

D: Cool. I agree. I give it 4.5 Daves. It Daves the day away!

T: No.

D: Slays the Dave Away?

T: Just stop.

D: Okay.

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Movie MonDAVEs: Halloween Edition 2022 (Part Four)

It’s October again, friends. It’s the time of year when all movie geeks turn their attention towards the macabre and creepy. Here on MonDAVEs we will be doing the same thing, though perhaps in a different way.

This month I shall be focusing on some of my favorite independent horror/sci fi B movies from the early to mid 1960s. These are films that fall outside of the studio system, made by a ragtag bunch of hopefuls with limited funds and resources, but fueled by the desire to make their own movie. Sometimes the results are good, sometimes…not so much. I will give equal time to both. Join me as I discuss the stories behind the films, and the movies themselves. Then, by all means, watch them for yourself…if you dare.

Part 4: Manos: The Hands Of Fate

Hoo boy.

I could actually leave it there, as that reaction pretty much sums up the entire Manos experience and tells you all you need to know. However, since I’ve brought you all along this far, let’s dig into what I and many others believe to be the Worst Movie Ever Made. This is not a movie to be watched, or even experienced, so much as survived.

Manos: The Hands Of Fate is the brainchild of its writer/director/star Hal P. Warren. I use all of those terms loosely. Warren was an insurance agent, and later fertilizer salesman from El Paso, TX who was also involved in local theater. He somehow got himself a walk on role on the popular television show Route 66. During this time, Warren met series writer Sterling Silliphant (brother of Alan Silliphant who wrote last week’s featured film The Creeping Terror) and placed a bet with Silliphant that “anyone could make a horror movie”, and got to work. To his credit, Warren actually did it. Exactly what he did is still open to interpretation, but it is a movie, and it is horrific, although not for the reasons intended. Warren even put his name in the credits using his own signature taking up most of the screen. He won the bet, but at what cost?

Judging from what’s on the screen, it cost about $3.75. But the cost of what it does to those who watch is much higher. Never will you want an hour of your life back like you will after watching this monstrosity. Yet, inexplicably, you will watch it to the end. Mostly because you can’t look away. Once your brain begins to be able to process the colossal ineptitude of what it is seeing, this movie becomes strangely fascinating. Like a train wreck, only worse.

As with most no budget-Z grade movies, technical issues abound. This movie was shot with 16 mm hand wound film cameras that shot only 35 seconds of film at a time. This leads to reaction shots in the movie that are excruciatingly and inappropriately long. It seems as though everything that happens (in as much as anything actually happens) does so at a snail’s pace, almost as though you have entered a different world where time itself moves differently. Which would be cool if it was intentional, but no.

Oh yes, and the cameras did not record sound either. So here we have another poorly dubbed film, featuring one woman for all the female characters, and two, maybe three men. Which means that pretty much everyone sounds the same. Even the little girl, Debbie, sounds like a fifty year old woman trying to sound like a child. Apparently, at the movie’s premier (yes, they had one), when the young girl heard the voice coming through the speakers she cried. Way to go, Hal P. Warren!

Okay, so let’s go through this movie and examine its sublime awfulness as we do.

Manos: The Hands Of Fate begins with a typical 1960s family including a slightly domineering father, a wife who is incapable of doing anything without her husband, and an annoying child daughter, with a stupid little yappy dog who doesn’t yap due to the lack of sound. They are off on their first family vacation headed to someplace called Valley Lodge. We, the viewers, are treated to seemingly endless shots of Texas farmland, followed by Texas desert. These shots were intended to feature the opening credits over them, but they either ran out of money for credits or they just plain forgot to place them in. Therefore, the movie starts mostly with scenery for about nine minutes. The only credit we get is the title card, which reads as “Manos” The Hands Of Fate as though it’s a quote for some reason. Also, interestingly enough, the word “manos” translates into “hands” in Spanish so the movie’s title is actually Hands: The Hands Of Fate. Already brutal, but we’re just getting started.

While our family is lost in the desert, there is a scene featuring two young people making out along the side of the road, who are chased off by the local police. This happens more than once in this film. The reasoning behind this mostly non-sequiter of a scene is because the actress involved was supposed to have a bigger role but broke her foot so they wrote this scene for her. Which was nice, I guess, but still feels unnecessary. Eagle eyed viewers will notice the clapperboard in view at the beginning of this shot, which is the best part of the scene itself.

Soon, the family comes upon an old house. They decide to stop and get directions. Here we meet Torgo, a sweaty satyr-like man who twitches a lot, has two sets of eyebrows for some reason, and “looks after the place while the Master is away”. He is the only interesting character. Unfortunately, John Reynolds who plays Torgo had a bad life, and was “self medicating” on set, with LSD apparently, which explains the twitching. Sadly he would commit suicide a few weeks before the movie premiered. This was his only filmed role. While that sad fact does take away from the unintentional hilarity of the character, he is still a bizarre and, dare I say, the iconic presence of the piece.

So anyway, after Torgo tells Mike (the dad) that he knows of no such place as Valley Lodge, Mike basically bullies his way into an invitation to stay the night. Without the Master’s direct permission, mind you, and against Torgo’s warnings. The couple are freaked out by a painting of the Master with a Doberman/demon dog, and the many statues of hands all over the sparsely decorated house. Foreshadowing. Kinda. I guess.

At some point yappy dog runs off to investigate a wolf howl (I think) and Mike finds el doggo dead. Debbie the daughter goes missing at some point and comes back in with the dog from the painting. Oh, and in between all this Torgo creeps on the wife, who refuses his advances because, duh, but she does not share this info because Torgo kind of apologizes and promises to protect her. He doesn’t explain what from, but he did promise so that’s good enough, I guess.

Here’s where things start to pick up a little (not much). Debbie leads the family out to what appears to be a crypt or tomb or alter or I don’t know what, where the Master is dead/sleeping, surrounded by his many wives, tied to poles, doing the same. The family finally decide to try to leave. Torgo shows up again, claiming that the Master has too many wives, and he wants this new one (the mom) for himself. He declares his disgust for all the dead/sleepers but still pervs on one of the wives for good measure. He then knocks Mike out in order to proceed with his plans.

Anyhoo, ’round about this time the Master wakes up. He looks a bit like Freddie Mercury on a bad day, and wears a robe with hands sewn into it which is so laughably awful it kind of makes you want one. Turns out he is the leader of a cult who worship an unseen and underexplained diety called Manos. According to The Master, Manos is kinda pissed off, and demands a sacrifice. Also Manos decrees that the Master must gain another wife, because of course he should. This leads the wives (the only other members of the cult to my knowledge) to argue among themselves about the fate of the family. This, in turn, leads to the most unerotic and boring catfight ever captured on film.

The Master goes off in search of Torgo, who has “failed us” and uses the hands of fate to doom him. Then the cultists all go looking for the family (even poor Torgo) who have managed to run away because their car, naturally, won’t start. Of course the family don’t make it far before they get the brilliant idea of going back to the house, because, well, surely that’s the last place the cultists will look.

After this, the movie gets weird. I won’t go any further so I don’t spoil it for you, but I will say that the hands of fate do move for not only our family, but the wives, and Torgo too. We are left with a twist ending of sorts, and the always classic “The End?” title card. You know, looking at this synopsis, one might think that it’s an interesting, fun little movie, and it would be if made by people who had a budget and knew what the hell they were doing. As it stands though, this movie is more excruciating than anything else.

Manos was saved from obscurity (where it belongs) by television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1992 when they aired their own version mocking the film. This turned it from a torturous oddity into a hilariously torturous oddity and guaranteed the film cult status for years to come. I would definitely recommend viewing that version, especially if you are a newcomer, as it is one of the show’s best episodes and it makes the movie almost bearable.

As I have stated, the movie is a total train wreck, but one you can’t turn away from. There’s just something about it that’s so…pure. It is definitely unique, and like nothing before or since. Manos: The Hands Of Fate has inspired both a prequel (skip it) and a sequel (worth a watch I guess), a video game (!), and quite a bit of official and unofficial merchandise. It has become a legendarily bad film, and in its own way, beloved for it.

So I guess Hal P. Warren really did do it. He stumbled into greatness, in the most unexpected and ridiculous way possible. Which is why I love B-movies (even, begrudgingly, this one) and why I did this series on my blog. Thanks for indulging me.

You know, when I planned this series of posts out, I didn’t realize that Halloween fell on a Monday this year and I only prepared to discuss four movies. So what do I do next? Do I wrap this all up somehow? Go on to something new? I have no idea. Come back next week and be as surprised as I am when you read the next edition of MonDAVEs!

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Movie MonDAVEs: Halloween Edition 2022 (Part Three)

It’s October again, friends. It’s the time of year when all movie geeks turn their attention towards the macabre and creepy. Here on MonDAVEs we will be doing the same thing, though perhaps in a different way.

This month I shall be focusing on some of my favorite independent horror/sci fi B movies from the early to mid 1960s. These are films that fall outside of the studio system, made by a ragtag bunch of hopefuls with limited funds and resources, but fueled by the desire to make their own movie. Sometimes the results are good, sometimes…not so much. I will give equal time to both. Join me as I discuss the stories behind the films, and the movies themselves. Then, by all means, watch them for yourself…if you dare.

Part Three: The Creeping Terror (1964)

So far in this series, I have shared stories of directors and amateur film makers succeeding beyond their means to make interesting, quality films. This time, I’ll be examining a two bit hustler who made an absolute mess that stands tall as a cult classic film that is unintentionally hilarious and the very definition of the “so bad it’s good” idea that all B-movie aficionados love. Let’s dig into the making of the movie first, and then we’ll get into digging the movie. It’s pretty wild, y’all. Buckle in.

At the center of the story of the making of The Creeping Terror is a man named Alan N. White, although he worked under several aliases during his “career”, most notably Arthur (A.J.) Nelson, and Vic Savage which, admittedly, is a pretty cool stage name. Unfortunately that’s about the only cool thing about the guy. According to all sources, he was a two bit criminal involved in pretty much any crime or scheme you can imagine. I won’t go into detail here, only what is necessary for the tale of the film. Let’s just say that the man was a crooked hustler, and used his abilities in this field to make his monster movie.

Nelson enlisted aspiring screenwriter Alan Silliphant (brother of successful screenwriter Sterling Silliphant) to write the script. Alan turned in a parody of a Hollywood monster movie set in Lake Tahoe. Nelson was either too thick to understand this, or too inept to make it happen. The shooting location was changed to the Spahn Ranch (which would later become base of operations for Charles Manson) in Los Angeles County, and the massive Lake Tahoe replaced by a small pond. Nelson also shot the film as a straight up monster movie. After seeing the changes made and witnessing some of what he called the “remarkably rinky-dink” production, Silliphant exited the production in an attempt to at least somewhat save his reputation. This fact alone makes him the single smartest person involved with this movie.

As is the case with all B-movies, the cast was filled with mostly unknowns, in fact, Nelson offered parts to local business persons in exchange for a small investment in the film. The story goes that Nelson would shoot the same scene multiple times, often with no film in the camera while the investors were doing their parts, thus keeping up the ruse and being able to pocket their money, knowing full well these “performances” would never see the light of day. To the best of my knowledge, this was the original “pay to play” scam that so many aspiring performers are victims of today.

Most of the financing came from the only actor in the film who wasn’t someone’s girlfriend (or a wannabe with deep enough pockets), a certain Mr. William Thourlby, a model, actor, Marlboro Man, and future consultant to President Nixon. Taken in by the movie’s star Vic Savage (that’s Nelson again) and his passion for the project, Thourlby was convinced to write a fairly substantial check to help make the film. Where this money all went is unclear-certainly it was not used on the film. Most likely it was squandered away on Nelson’s drug habit and whatever other side hustles he had going on at the time.

Now, a monster movie needs a monster, right? Okay. Enter Jon Lackey, a known illustrator/sculptor/writer to build the beast. What he imagined was a lumbering slug like creature with tentacles that had eyes on the ends, and a gaping maw that could swallow people whole. With a proper budget this could have been quite the creepy creature, and many an artist would later have fun trying to flesh out the original vision. A few mouse clicks will show that the internet is full of interesting interpretations of the monster. In the finished film however, what we get is hands-down the most laughably ridiculous monster ever made. The neck/head is phallic looking, while its tentacles are clearly old springs, and the construction of the monster seems to be a shag carpet base with a…throw rug on top of a…tarp, maybe? It is clearly operated by a few teenagers walking in a bent over position and pulling victims into the maw by hand. Oh, and that maw? It looks disturbingly like a different orifice. I’ll let you decide for yourself what that may be.

But wait, there’s more! Most of the action in the movie relies on the monster roaming the countryside and devouring people. Mostly ladies in short skirts, which happens a lot, and probably says more about Nelson/Savage than any documentary ever could. Anyway, at one point during the production, the monster disappeared. Vanished. Gone. When inquiries were made, Lackey simply stated, “He’s in hiding. He’s not going to work until he gets paid.” Not to be deterred, Nelson just built a new monster, albeit an even sillier looking version which is actually kind of impressive when you think about it. Making the stupidest looking monster in film history look even worse? that’s quite an achievement.

The music for The Creeping Terror was composed by Frederic Kopp, a music professor at Los Angeles State College. All things considered, it’s a pretty decent score. Kopp provided $6000.00 of the film’s budget, and later would file a lawsuit against Nelson for “fraud and deceit”. He won, although Nelson was conspicuously absent from the trial.

Which makes sense, because before the film was completed, Nelson himself would make like the monster and disappear. Vanished. Gone. This happened during a break in the shooting. Convinced something was wrong, Thourlby (remember him?) went to Nelson’s house looking for his director. He found no trace of the man, but he did find a crew repossessing the furniture. Thourlby also managed to find what was left of the footage from The Creeping Terror and rescued it.

Upon watching the footage he realized that the film had been shot with little or no sound. Most scenes had no sound, and what was in place was minimal. No soundtrack reels were ever found, so to try and save something of his investment, Thourlby took it upon himself to piece together whatever he could from the footage. The gaping holes in sound required there to be dubbing by any of the actors available to do so, and large chunks of narration had to be included to fill in gaps in the story and explain what was happening onscreen. A valiant effort all around, but nothing could save this movie.

The Creeping Terror may have been screened in the 1960’s at drive ins and cheap matinees (I’m not actually sure), but was sold to television in the 1980s and began to appear on video once it fell into the public domain. Though its profile was raised considerably by an appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Creeping Terror has mostly labored in obscurity and grown into legendary myth like proportions as the “man eating carpet” movie, known mostly to those who actively seek it out, or stumble into it by mistake.

Arthur Nelson/Vic Savage never made another film, and basically fell off the face of the Earth. Some sources say he went back to his birth name (Alan White), and died of kidney failure in Kansas in 1975. Others posit that his sordid past finally caught up with him and he sleeps with the fishes after crossing the wrong people. I don’t know which is correct, or if either is.

All right, so there’s your backstory. As for the movie itself…I love it. It is truly, laughably, inconceivably awful in all the right ways. You can’t help but giggle at the ridiculousness of the monster, and the fact that none of its victims put up much of a fight-in fact some of them appear to be climbing into it. The constant narration is just a spectacularly weird touch, and the voice looping? I’ve seen Kung Fu movies from the 1970s that felt more accurate. I mean, the fact that the actors have to slide under the spaceship to enter it because they couldn’t afford a door

Whaddya mean, “what spaceship?”…oh, right I forgot to tell you the plot. Um, aliens. Small town gets invaded and eaten. Police, military, and scientists try to stop it. That’s basically it. You know what? The plot doesn’t matter. You don’t watch this film for the plot, you watch for the cheese factor. You watch because it makes Ed Wood movies feel like Spielberg epics. You watch The Creeping Terror out of sheer curiosity because it is often cited as the worst film ever made. In fact for many years I believed it to be the world’s worst movie myself.

Until I saw next week’s feature. See you next Monday at the Valley Lodge!

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Movie MonDAVEs: Halloween Edition (Part Two)

It’s October again, friends. It’s the time of year when all movie geeks turn their attention towards the macabre and creepy. Here on MonDAVEs we will be doing the same thing, though perhaps in a different way.

This month I shall be focusing on some of my favorite independent horror/sci fi B movies from the early to mid 1960s. These are films that fall outside of the studio system, made by a ragtag bunch of hopefuls with limited funds and resources, but fueled by the desire to make their own movie. Sometimes the results are good, sometimes…not so much. I will give equal time to both. Join me as I discuss the stories behind the films, and the movies themselves. Then, by all means, watch them for yourself…if you dare.

Part Two: Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

Last week I mentioned that one could pretty much draw a direct line between Carnival Of Souls and this movie. Not only do they have similarities behind the scenes, but on the screen as well. While I don’t know that the filmmakers of Night ever actually saw Souls, the resemblances are uncanny. If the intent however was to take the tropes of Carnival Of Souls and explode them into an all new (and better) thing, then mission accomplished. Now, let’s draw that line, and then we’ll discuss the film.

Stop me if this sounds familiar. Night Of The Living Dead was directed by George A. Romero, who worked as a director for Latent Image, a small company in Pittsburgh that made commercials. He co wrote the script with John Russo, and made the film with friends and colleagues from the business, local actors, and even some local townspeople, as they set about filming in rural Pennsylvania. Armed with a budget of $114,000, and 16mm black and white film, Romero and crew used their skills to make the most out of their limitations. Boy, did they ever.

Apart from their similar beginnings, both movies share similar tropes. Both films are shot in black and white. Both have a genuinely creepy atmosphere. Both movies are actually helped by not having anyone famous in the cast, and even their occasional amateurish moments somehow seem to help each film’s overall tone rather than hurt it. Both movies begin with a damsel in distress scenario, and feature a theme of alienation throughout, with a similarly bleak viewpoint. Finally, each film features ghouls (who look nearly identical, by the way) as their main antagonists.

That’s right, “ghouls”. While Night Of The Living Dead is widely considered the template for modern zombie movies, the word “zombie” is never used in the movie. That terminology came later. When Romero made his movie, zombies were still the product of Haitian folklore, and were brought to life by voodoo magic, mostly acting as slaves to the one who gave them life. In 1968, the main reference would have been the Bela Lugosi film White Zombie from 1932, which is still widely available but, fair warning, doesn’t play well here in 2022. As for how the creatures in Night went from “ghouls” or “things” to “zombies” I don’t have a clue.

Anyway. Clearly the initial images and ideas were all there for the taking, so much so that it has been stated that Carnival Of Souls is Night Of The Living Dead, only done five years earlier. This is an oversimplification, of course, but it certainly bears examination. In fact, I think the two films would make for a terrific double feature. The main difference, though is that while Herk Harvey’s film is an interesting, thoughtful, moody little film beloved by those who seek it, Romero’s film is a stone cold classic that redefined a genre, and still has influence on film makers today.

For those who may be unfamiliar (is anyone really?), Night Of The Living Dead is the story of a group of individuals who, through different circumstances, find themselves taking refuge in a farmhouse from a horde of flesh eating ghouls. As their plight becomes more and more precarious outside the farmhouse, tensions rise inside as well. The group must find a way to rely on their own cunning, strength, and sense of order and decorum to survive not only the attacking flesh eaters, but also one another.

That’s where the film really succeeds, in that it’s not just another horror movie. It could certainly be viewed through that lens if one desired. The tension amps up regularly throughout the movie as we wait to learn the fate of our heroes. The subject matter is grisly, and the filmmakers make sure we do not forget that. The gore level is fairly miniscule compared to today’s offerings, but it is handled here in a way that makes it very effective, especially in stark black and white. In fact, the black and white look and the decision to present most of the feature in real time makes the film feel almost like a documentary-one that you shouldn’t be watching. All these things line up together to make a harrowing night at the movies, and if that’s all you’re looking for, then there’s enough here to satisfy.

However, there’s so much more to this movie. You see, it’s not really about a zombie attack. I mean it is, but not totally. There are plenty of themes tackled within this story. This is a film about power and control. It’s about how we act as people when faced with extraordinary circumstances. It is a study, and an indictment, of the failings of late 60’s political and moral structure (which, let’s face it, is pretty similar to what we’re dealing with now) especially when it comes to the oppressed. Night also deals with the crumbling of the family unit. Most famously, it is also a movie about race relations, although accidentally.

The main protagonist in this story is a character called Ben, and he is an African American gentleman (played by the late Duane Jones) who finds himself in charge of what happens to the group, while being at loggerheads with the group itself. Interestingly enough, Ben’s character was written as Caucasian, it’s just that Jones was the best actor for the role, therefore he was cast. No racial commentary was intended at the time, but casting an African American hero, especially in 1968, gave the movie racial undertones all the same. Considering how the movie unfolds, it wound up bringing more power and chilling effect to the movie than it ever could have had otherwise.

These facets are all there, though not focused upon in the story. It is up to the viewer to consider the many layers and sub texts involved and figure out for themselves what it all means and what is really being said. One personal observation, though. Most horror movies, especially ones from this time period, offer solutions in the hope of normality. That is to say that the monster is killed (seemingly anyway) and the survivors can get back to their normal lives, normal in this case being the traditional, conservative, all-American “Mom, hot dogs, and apple pie” way of life. With the understanding of its subtext, Night Of The Living Dead posits that these things are all broken, and even if you survive the attacks there’s no normal to go back to. And that may be the most frightening thing of all.

Okay, so far in this series we have looked at B movies that, against the odds, have succeeded. One is a very good, over achieving think piece, and one a touchstone of both modern horror and pop culture at large. But what happens when things don’t go so right? We’ll examine that next week when we look at a film with a shady director, and a shag carpeted beast that is sure to induce nightmares for absolutely no-one. It’ll be fun. Join me, won’t you?