Sunday, January 16, 2011

Night of the Living Dead Archive: June 1969 Reader's Digest

by John Scoleri

In 1992, while we were working on The Scream Factory Presents: Night of the Living Dead 25th Anniversary Tribute Magazine,  one of my goals was to include the often discussed and yet rarely reprinted commentary that Roger Ebert had written for the Chicago Sun-Times, and that had been subsequently condensed for Reader's Digest.

My brother tracked down a micro-fiche copy of the RD article for me, which we reprinted after getting the gracious permission of Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times and Reader's Digest (it was amusing that every letter of authorization was contingent on my receiving the authorization of the other two parties).

Until recently, I had never bothered to track down an original copy of the magazine, which in today's world of Google and is a relatively easy and inexpensive task. I wanted to share it with you now, so that my fellow Night of the Living Dead aficionados might add this interesting ancillary item to their collections as well (if they haven't already).

"Just Another Horror Movie—Or Is It?" can be found in the June 1969 issue of Reader's Digest. Even better, you can read Roger Ebert's original review from the January 5, 1969 issue of the Chicago Sun-Times on his website.


Walker Martin said...

Thanks for the interesting take on "Night of the Living Dead" by Roger Ebert. My experience seeing the movie was a little different from his. I was just out of the army and so surprised to no longer be in uniform that I did not even look for a job for six months. Each day I read SF or went to movies in Trenton, NJ.

I saw the noon showing of "Night of the Living Dead" and because of the recent race riots in Trenton the theater was completely empty. I was the only customer and the kids that used to throng the aisles had moved to the suburbs and out of the city. The theater closed soon after because of lack of customers and in fact during the two years I was gone the city changed from a thriving business area to a ghost town.

Even now 40 years later, once the state workers clear out at 5:00 pm, the gangs take over during the evening hours. Trenton used to have half a dozen movie theaters; now there is not a single one. Film lovers now watch their horror movies at the mall.

Will Errickson said...

A perfect example of how Romero helped transform horror film by making it truly *terrifying* and not simply a roller-coaster ride. I can only wholeheartedly agree with Ebert's last paragraph!

Jack Seabrook said...

Walker, do you still live in the Trenton area? I live in Hopewell.

Anonymous said...

The one agreement with Ebert is that kids should not have been admitted to see the film. Somewhere I have the original page from the issue. Ironically, I seem to recall that Ebert co-scripted an X rated film not much later...

Rick said...

I remember reading the Reader's Digest article when originally published as though it was yesterday and being somewhat disturbed by it. I had not seen the movie, but a friend of mine had and he loved it. The film was then re-released on a double bill with "Night of Bloody Horror" at the Highway theater, a south Chicago grindhouse at the time. I must admit I was a bit edgy going to see the film. The theater was packed. Anticipation ran high throughout the audience, and they were extremely vocal throughout the film, not unlike a Rocky Horror screening. I like horror but not extreme graphic violence, and Ebert had really primed me for a horrific experience. What I saw was unlike any other movie I had ever seen.I enjoyed the movie, and still do to this day. It's funny how the power of suggestion can amp up one's apprehension and leave one with a permanent perception of a moment. I thought I was the only one who remembered Ebert's article and it's apparent impact.

John Scoleri said...

Welcome, Rick!

Thanks for sharing your story! You're the first person I've heard from who didn't come to the article AFTER having seen the film.

I had never thought about it this way, but imagine if I had read an article describing a film in such a way, it would definitely make it on to my must-see list!