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Night of the Living Dead was the first feature film directed by George A. Romero, and it has become a definitive film. Originally titled Night of the Flesh Eaters (until the filmmakers of The Flesh Eaters threatened to sue), it helped establish key tropes in the zombie genre and became the first movie in Romero’s horror series.
1. Mr. Rogers stopped a casting.
Director George A. Romero originally wanted to cast Betty Aberlin from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for the main role of Barbra. However, Rogers said no, which suprised Romero, who had worked with the TV icon. He said, “Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film.” In fact, Romero had created several educational segments for the show. “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made,” Romero remembered. Interestingly, Rogers was also a fan of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which he called “a lot of fun.”
2. The film could have been in color.
About a week into filming, Romero considered reshooting everything so that it was in color. However, he decided to stick to the original plan because black and white made it feel more like horror. He pointed to Marlon Brando’s performance when he was beaten up in On the Waterfront as an example. “I always felt that in black and white the blood looked more real,” Romero said. Filming in black and white also allowed for inventive means of gore. Bosco Chocolate Syrup was used for blood, and leftover hamburgers were used for zombie food.
3. Some crew members actually lived in the farmhouse.
The farmhouse used in the film wasn’t a set, but a real location in Pennsylvania. Just as the survivors used it as a shelter, approximately six crew members slept there during the production.
4. The idea started with aliens.
Co-screenwriter John Russo initially presented the concept of alien teenagers who team up with teenage earthlings to cause some trouble in a comedy-horror mash-up. Budget concerns scraped the idea, so Russo thought up the idea of a runaway who discovers rotting corpses who eventually turn into man-eating creatures. Romero thought that part of the idea was worth exploring and borrowed elements from I Am Legend by Richard Matheson to flesh it out.