There is nothing that hasn’t been said about director George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). It is one of the most successful and influential horror films ever made especially in terms of forever changing the zombie genre. Its influences can be felt in the modern day zombie culture (i.e. AMC’s The Walking Dead) so it’s no surprise that there is yet another documentary on the making of the film. Birth of the Living Dead (2013) is written, directed, and edited by Rob Kuhns and chronicles the genesis of Romero’s film through the chaotic and Vietnam war-torn time of American History.
Kuhns’ film focuses on Romero’s inspiration for how the film was made as well as the economic reasons for why it was made. He takes care in his interview with Romero to get at the beginning of Romero’s career before embarking on NOTLD as his first feature. This is key for many audiences who have never heard of the story of how Romero and company cobbled together the funds to produce the film. There were so many things working against Romero and his crew that it was a miracle the film was ever finished much less saw theatrical release.
Kuhns does tread over a little info already made available to the public through the plethora of other documentaries on NOTLD but he stays more towards the political climate of the film as well as how it informed and was informed by the period of history in which it was made. It was the time of the Vietnam War and there was social rights upheaval (the film was being shopped around to distributors right after the announcement of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.) that would forever be associated with the meaning of the film due to the uncommon conventions on display in the film. The film’s main lead Ben was an African American, he slaps a Barbra (a white woman) at one part in the film, and Ben is shot by a posse at the end of the film mistaken as a ghoul. These are but a sampling of the interpretations put upon the film which has had a lasting effect on its legacy.
At a brief 76 minutes Birth of the Living Dead does an excellent job of covering the genesis of NOTLD not only from Romero but a large sampling of people associated with the film and people whom were influenced by the film most notably producer Gale Anne Hurd (of The Walking Dead), director Larry Fessenden, and many, many more. This is a welcomed addition to the legacy that is NOTLD and zombie culture in general.