Birth of the Living Dead is a 2013 American documentary by Rob Kuhns about how filmmaker George A. Romero developed and directed the seminal horror film Night of the Living Dead in Pittsburgh in 1968. It was originally titled Year of the Living Dead.
The film features interviews with George A. Romero, Larry Fessenden (who also executive produced – director of Habit and Wendigo), Gale Anne Hurd (Aliens, The Walking Dead), Elvis Mitchell, Samuel D. Pollard (Night of the Zombies), Chiz Schultz (Ganja & Hess) and Jason Zinoman.
The discussion of the socio-political-racial nature of Night of the Living Dead is certainly one worth genuine consideration. However, as it takes place at the centre of this documentary does rather get in the way of what could be a fascinating story of the film’s conception, production and distribution, which is arguably the real selling point.
It’s a shame, because this is a classic story of low budget filmmaking and the perils of distribution. It’s telling that the only NOTLD participant interviewed here (apart from a brief coda with Bill Hinzman) is Romero, with cartoon images illustrating the production. If you compare this with The Shocking Truth, where almost everyone involved in Texas Chain Saw Massacre was tracked down, it seems a bit of a shame. Maybe that’s not the film Rob Kuhns was trying to make; it’s certainly the film the title and promotion implies we’ll be getting.
David Flint, Horrorpedia
“There is nothing overtly wrong with Birth other than that it adds only minor points to what has already been a very long discussion. One of the better sections recounts Roger Ebert’s infamous reaction to the film, and the effect it had on an audience of children at a late ’60s matinee, and then shows how kids view the picture now.” John Charles
“Part biography, part history lesson and part time capsule, Birth of the Living Dead is not just the best Romero documentary to date, but a love letter to a bye gone era when friends got together to make movies that people actually saw. A love letter to the independent spirit…” Christopher Jimenez, Shock Till You Drop
“Kuhns is a veteran editor, and he expertly stitches together TV and newsreel footage from the era, Romero’s recollections, clips and stills from NLD, and plaudits from today’s zombie masters (including Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd). However, these encomiums pile up like cordwood, and Kuhns gets sidetracked by a visit to a Bronx middle school where the teacher uses NOTLD as a teaching aid…” B. Miller, Seattle Weekly
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