On-Air Highlights

It's the Birth of the Living Dead

Written by Fred Vigeant, Director of Programming and Promotions for TV and Radio | Sep 28, 2017 5:24 PM
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George A. Romero in "Birth of the Living Dead." Dir. Rob Kuhns. Image courtesy of Predestinate Productions, LLC.

These days, zombies are everywhere, from movies to TV to video games. But the worldwide undead phenomenon comes from unlikely, humble origins: a black and white film produced on a shoestring budget that would go on to become one of the most influential - and terrifying - horror films of all time.

This October WITF will broadcast The Birth of the Living Dead. The documentary tells the story of how an unknown Pittsburgh commercial director, George A. Romero, and a ragtag cast and crew of friends and locals came together to produce the film where the dead first learned to walk: Night of the Living Dead.

Before Night of the Living Dead's 1968 release, most horror films were either relatively tame monster movies made for children's matinee showings or shocking but shoddily made flicks shown in seedy grindhouse theatres. Telling the simple story of a group of strangers as they struggle to survive an onslaught of inexplicably reanimated corpses, the film pushed the boundaries of on-screen violence with its unflinching depictions of ravenous zombies devouring their hapless victims. However, it also introduced a new degree of artful cinematography and social commentary to the horror genre.

Released at the height of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, the film featured many thinly veiled metaphors for the social unrest sweeping the nation at the time. While it was initially a commercial and critical flop, it went on to become a legendary cult phenomenon through midnight showings and art-house screenings, becoming widely respected both for its violent scares and surprising artistic merit.

You'll see interviews with members of the original cast and crew and Romero himself. Birth of the Living Dead shows how the passion project of a then 27-year-old filmmaker and his friends went on to launch a franchise that would span six decades and rewrite the rules of modern horror.

Watch Birth of the Living Dead Friday October 27 at 8:30pm and Sunday October 29 at noon and 11pm on WITF.

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