MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 100 titles—from the ’20s through the ’80s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.
Night Of The Living Dead (1968, 96 minutes)
The opening sequences of George Romero’s gruesome horror picture Night Of The Living Dead are electric. A brother and sister drive a large Pontiac toward a deserted, slightly overgrown cemetery for an annual pilgrimage to put flowers on a family gravesite. There’s almost as much tension here as Janet Leigh’s unlucky choice of a motel in Psycho.
The pair drives by a rusted-out road sign proclaiming “Cemetery Entrance” that some drunken hunter has blasted years earlier with a shotgun. Johnny, in horn-rimmed glasses and leather driving gloves, complains to his sister, “We’ve still got a three-hour drive back to Pittsburgh. We’re not gonna be home until after midnight.”
“Well, if it really bugged you, you wouldn’t do it,” says his sister, Barbara, dressed in a Burberry raincoat with straight, long blond hair. “You think I want to blow Sunday on a scene like this?” he carps, hauling the modest-sized memorial from the back seat as they reach their destination. “Look at this: ‘We Still Remember.’ I honestly don’t even remember what the man looks like,” he grumbles. “It just takes five minutes, John,” replies Barbara. “Yeah, five minutes to put the wreath on the grave and six hours to drive back and forth. Mother wants to remember, so we drive 200 miles into the country,” he says. “Well, we’re here, John,” says his sister.
“I wonder what happened to the one from last year,” says Johnny, still irked. “Each year we spend good money on these things, and the one from last year is gone.” “Well, the flowers die, and the caretaker takes them away,” she says. “Yeah, a little spit and polish and they could clean this up and sell it to us again next year. I wonder how many times we’ve bought the same one?” Thunder rumbles in the distance as his sister lingers over their father’s grave in silent prayer. “Hey, c’mon, Barb, I mean prayin’s for church.” snipes Johnny eager to begin the return voyage.
“Do you remember one time, when we were small, and I jumped out at you here from behind a tree, and Grampa got all excited? He shook his fist and said, ‘Boy, you’ll be damned to hell!’” His sister implores, “Stop it. You’re being ignorant!”
Pointing at a man lumbering toward them, her brother intones in a mock Boris Karloff accent. “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!.” The man walks right up to his sister and grabs her in a ferocious bear hug. Johnny intervenes and is knocked unconscious on a tombstone. Now barefoot, his terrified sister races toward the car to find no keys in the ignition. As her snarling pursuer smashes the passenger’s window with a rock, she releases the emergency brake and rolls slowly downhill only to end her voyage by sideswiping a pine tree.