Scott and Jenn visited the Evans City Cemetery. The very place where The Night of the Living Dead was filmed in 1967.
This film was so iconic and groundbreaking for its time, that is DEFINED the Zombie Movie Genre…forever being known as the father of the zombie film. However, what is the HISTORY of those iconic graves? Who was actually buried there?
We talk about why we filmed this YouTube video there and answer those very questions in our video.
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[00:00:00] Scott: greetings and welcome back to the talk with history podcast. I am your host Scott here with my wife and historian. Hello on this podcast, we talk about history’s continuing impact on us today and our personal journey through YouTube. As we continue to explore, record and share our history walks with you now, before we start, um, this is.
[00:00:34] Section where we will have the five-star question of the week.
[00:00:41] And we’re still looking for those five-star reviews in iTunes. So if you could leave us a review that helps the show, it helps us grow and get the word out.
[00:00:54] You may not know this movie we’re going to talk about today, but you’ve probably seen many pictures of. This was a groundbreaking film that defined and gave birth to a film genre that lives stronger today than ever. But did you know that it was produced on a shoestring budget at a no-name cemetery outside of Pittsburgh by two filmmakers who had never made a motion picture?
[00:01:21] So, Jen, what film are we talking about today?
[00:01:25] Jenn: And keeping in accordance to Halloween coming up in a couple of weeks, we’re doing night of the
[00:01:31] Scott: living dead, right. Of the living dead. So. If nobody’s ever seen night of living dead. Tell us a little bit about that. And then we’ll
[00:01:39] Jenn: you need someone like yous Scott?
[00:01:41] Scott: I had no clue.
[00:01:43] Jenn: So, you know, Scott and I had been married for 15 years and one of the first things we did, one of our first dates was a haunted house. I don’t think Scott was excited about it, but since we’re newly dating, I said, let’s go to a haunted house. He was, he was all game for it. Little did I know he had really never seen a horror movie, let alone go to haunted houses.
[00:02:04] And as we’re standing in line for this haunted house, they’re playing scenes from horror movies. So nightmare on Elm street, Friday, the 13th. And I’m naming off these newbies as they just show in little scenes, I’m naming them off and I’m like, don’t, you know, this, he didn’t know any of,
[00:02:23] Scott: I didn’t know, a single one. And it was just, we didn’t watch those kind of movies.
[00:02:27] Jenn: And I did. And I’m lean, needless to say, going through that haunted house was one of an experience I’ll never forget. Um, because I was pushed through at mock speed because Scott was right behind me. And as much as I enjoy a good haunted house and the thought that goes into making a room and making someone scared, I didn’t get a chance to really even see anything because I got just pushed through.
[00:02:54] Scott: And I’m so glad that Jen brought this. Because I’ll probably edit out this entire bit
[00:02:59] Jenn: when I think it’s great because so Night of the living dead, he had never seen it and I was raised on it. So I was raised on it. Not only because my parents. Or big movie buffs and enjoy all types of movies, but it was because it was filmed close to where my dad grew up, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh.
[00:03:19] And so he always talked about it and he didn’t talk about it in the regards of this is a great horror movie. He talked about it in regards to that, this was just an amazing movie made by college kids on a shoestring budget. Just changed. Horror movies in general was a huge influencer. And so he was, I think, always proud of, and this
[00:03:41] Scott: now Night of the living dead just for anybody who has never seen it before is not familiar with it.
[00:03:48] Jenn: it was filmed in 67. It was filmed from June to December of 67, released in 68. And
[00:03:54] Scott: there was nothing else that had been done like
[00:03:56] Jenn: that before, you know, so they’re very much influenced by, I am legend that book. I am legend that comes out in the fifties and that book influences their writing.
[00:04:07] Scott: Oh yeah. That’s the book that eventually will Smith made the movie will Smith and make the movie.
[00:04:11] Jenn: So nothing had really been made like this, but. Things have been written kind of like this, and if you’ve never seen night of the living dead, we’re going to give some spoilers away. So just be ready. And
[00:04:25] Scott: it’s like a 60 year old movies. So, you know, it’s, it’s been out for a while.
[00:04:30] Jenn: It’s been out for awhile and. It’s been done over and over and over again now, but it’s, it’s basic and that’s, what’s so great about it. It’s black and white. It’s it leaves more to your imagination than actually shows you. It’s just these, the whole premise is they don’t really go into it, but something has happened in this area where people have been infected by this virus.
[00:04:56] And this virus has basically, we animated. Recently dead. And they went with recently dead because they said they figured they couldn’t have the makeup budget to me animate long-term dead. So most everybody is. I mean, their makeup process is just dark, underline makeup and white faces and boom, you’re a, you’re a ghoul.
[00:05:22] Scott: You know, the walking dead stock level of production. Now
[00:05:26] Jenn: there’s like this, not even like thriller with like arms falling off or anything, nothing like it’s literally just
[00:05:31] Scott: like hunch over a little bit, walk, slow piece, sort of walking, super slow. Wasn’t even really a thing yet. They kind of defined yeah.
[00:05:39] With this movie. One thing that I learned with you and we’ll get into the history aspect of, of why, of what we did filming the, the Mo the video. They really kind of for film, they defined the genre
[00:05:53] Jenn: they did, because even if you’ve seen the movie the very first. Ghoul cause they use school and they even adamantly say they never used the word zombie in the whole movie, even though it’s the father of the zombie film and this army movement, they don’t use that word.
[00:06:08] Scott: I don’t think I realized that.
[00:06:09] Jenn: And so Ghoul is the word they use, but the very first ghoul they’ll encounter just looks like a normal person. Right. So they just see him in the back of the cemetery. Don’t who’s at guy. Walking around back there. So it’s not like they even see someone looking
[00:06:24] Scott: and there’s some, there’s some relatively famous lines that come out of this.
[00:06:27] Like they’re coming to get you Barbara. You’ll probably see that on t-shirts if you’re an, I am not a horror movie fan or a history fan. So this was a very interesting one for me to make. Once I started, once I saw the clips right. Making the video, I saw these and I was like, some of these actually sound familiar to me and I am not a horror movie film guy at all.
[00:06:48] Jenn: No. And it was, um, it was a lot of the script was ad-libbed a lot of it was written as they were doing it. And like I said, it was just. It was the basics, which sometimes the basics can be more scary. Right. So when you think of things like jaws and you don’t see the shark, but you can imagine the shark it’s scarier for the viewer and they, they kind of banked on that same thing.
[00:07:17] You don’t see everything, you don’t see what they’re doing to people you’re being told they’re flesh eaters, but you don’t see it.
[00:07:27] Scott: Ted the technique they brought with that that’s a technique was, was not as common then
[00:07:34] Jenn: the keeping the big parts off screen for the viewer to imagine it. And your imagination is sometimes worse than what you could be shown on screen.
[00:07:45] Scott: And the film kind of had like an extra kind of punch at the end.
[00:07:48] Jenn: Yes. And they fought for that. So the punch at the end is a. They had there, their main character makes it through the night and him, he survived
[00:07:58] Scott: survives the night he survives. He does away with all the zombies, the ghouls or whatever.
[00:08:03] Jenn: And basically you learn like no one else survives. Who he was with, but he survives. And at the end, there, there are people who are coming out helping because I guess sheriff. Yeah. Cause I guess it was, it was localized. Right? Didn’t go far. It wasn’t a worldwide. Yeah. And so they’re rounding them up and burning them the ghouls and they see movement in the house.
[00:08:27] They think it’s a ghoul and he’s coming out.
[00:08:32] And he’s coming out, going I’ve survived. And as he comes out, they shoot him. Yeah. And they fought for that ending because a lot of people said, oh, there needs to be a happy ending. And they’re like, no, this is not a happy movie. This needs to have this ending. So, um,
[00:08:46] Scott: in that, when you were telling me about that, this was there, weren’t a lot of films that had done that. Now I was kind of like the, really the kick in the stomach that everybody walked out of the theater with. What just happened. Like even you can, you can look it up on YouTube. You can, if, if anybody’s curious, you can Google night of living dead ending scene and you’ll find it.
[00:09:08] And I look and I watched it and I was like, yeah, that’s not a movie. You would walk away, like feeling happy about, but again, that’s kind of the genre.
[00:09:21] Jenn: Influences movies, because now it’s more common to watch a movie that is realistic in the way that it’s not always happy in the end. And you get to a real dose of, you know, what could be a real moment. And. Some tragedy. And so that is more real nowadays in movies. And so they’re kind of on the first people to do that and they influenced, so there’s a couple of things.
[00:09:49] Their main character is also African-American that’s right. And so they did not set out. For their main character. We African-American, but the actor who auditioned was so good that they just said, yeah, make it him. And what was also interesting is their main character was supposed to be a truck driver and kind of, I wouldn’t say an educated, but basic basic dialogue.
[00:10:14] And this, this man who plays Ben, Ben, is that lead character. Is educated. And so he doesn’t, he, he doesn’t want his lions to be dumbed down. So he, he plays him as if he was.
[00:10:27] Scott: So, and people have to remember the time, right? The 67 68, like Martin Luther king had not been assassinated. He had not been assessing, but that like civil rights movement was in full swing.
[00:10:37] Right? So like the, the marches and the bus protests and all that stuff was going on.
[00:10:44] Jenn: So this is a big deal to have your main actor and,
[00:10:47] Scott: and the movie just exploded. It was made for what, a hundred thousand,
[00:10:52] Jenn: 114,000. So they got six people together. And they each put in like a thousand and then that was like $6,000.
[00:11:00] And then they got like 10 more people that put in a couple thousand more and then they just kept like asking people for money. And that’s why it took so long for it to film. And one of the reasons why they use the Evans city cemetery, which where we filmed the YouTube video ad and where.
[00:11:15] Scott: Half an hour outside of Pittsburgh.
[00:11:16] Jenn: And it’s, it’s a little cemetery, but they chose it because it’s off the road and you can’t really see it. So they could film there without being bothered by people. And they really didn’t have to ask permission to use it. Now, you’ll see a lot of YouTube videos going to that cemetery. And tons of people want to recreate the iconic scenes of they’re coming to get you Barbara and Barbara runs away and she leans on a tombstone.
[00:11:45] And at one point, her brother. Fights, eh, the ghoul and he gets hit, his head gets hit and he dies and he dies. He dies. And he becomes a goal, which is probably one of the scariest things. So it’s interesting. He puts on gloves at one point when he’s talking to her and then when he becomes a ghoul and he breaks into the farmhouse that they’re in, he puts his gloved hand up on the wall just to make sure you know, it’s him.
[00:12:11] And so, um, People love to recreate those scenes. But I wanted to do a video where I actually talked about who was buried in those graves that they use
[00:12:23] Scott: for the movie. So you researched the actual, like when she’s leaning against the headstone
[00:12:29] Jenn: who is, Blair headstones there and, and who is Kramer? That’s the heads other headsets she’s leaning on.
[00:12:35] So who are those people? So that’s. That’s what I want you, because no one had done that. And here are these graves. Like I tell you, these are iconic graves, but who are the actual people that are in these graves? Yeah. So, um, that’s what the, that’s what I really wanted the YouTube video to focus on. As I talked about this history of the movie.
[00:12:55] So if you’re interested in that, the video really goes into the history of those people. And, um, but yeah, the movie is just. So influential and I, nobody realized it was going to be that influential. So it, it, it breaks. I think it makes, from what I read, it’s 12 million domestically and an 18 million internationally.
[00:13:22] Scott: So this is the late sixties,
[00:13:24] Jenn: late sixties. So that’s what, $30 million. It makes total on $114,000 budget. It premieres October 1st, 1968 in Pittsburgh. And that’s 53 years ago. So, and it was filmed, like I said the year before and yeah, they, they just really, they want it. It went through some rewrites. So you have like Ramiro is who wrote and directed it.
[00:13:50] And he had gone to Carnegie Mellon. He had worked in Pittsburgh. He had actually filmed some stuff for Mr. Rogers neighborhood. Okay. And then it’s, co-written by Rousseau who went to university of, um, West Virginia or West Virginia university, but he had friends at Carnegie Mellon. So he went, he would visit Carnegie Mellon and we always talked.
[00:14:11] Pittsburghers call it Carnegie Mellon. Is that Carnegie Mellon Carnegie.
[00:14:15] Scott: Yeah. I remember the first time he ever started talking about Carnegie Mellon and he kept saying Carnegie, I was like, what are you talking about? I don’t like, why do you keep saying it that way? It’s Carnegie male. And I’ve heard it that way. My entire life
[00:14:27] Jenn: Pittsburghers say Carnegie, we put in the extra syllable. Um, and so Russo. Who was his friend had actually been in the army for two years. And so he had this idea of black and white. Documentary style that’s right. Make it cheaper, make it feel realistic, make it feel like they actually filming a documentary about something that’s happening in this small town to these people.
[00:14:55] And you would feel like you are breaking that fourth wall with them. Right. So that was his vision.
[00:15:06] Scott: And it’s so funny when I started learning about this because of the video. You know, you think about the Blair witch project, that wasn’t the first movie of its kind to film this like realistic documentary style, right night of the living dead. You think of, uh, all the pop, you know, the walking dead TV shows like these were shows that were kind of raised and inspired by this movie and spin-offs of this movie.
[00:15:35] Yeah, it was once I started learning that I was like, oh my gosh, like this. This movie is just like, so seminal in this entire huge genre. I mean, scary movies have just grown and grown and grown and grown. I mean, they’re much more common and popular nowadays than they were when we, even when I was growing up.
[00:15:52] Jenn: Sure. And they, they wanted to capitalize on the contemporary commercial interest of that genre as well. So you have like psycho coming out around that time and cycles also shot in black and white. So. They’re capitalizing on. Like, I wouldn’t say it’s a new genre because horror movies were kind of, you know, think of Dracula and Frankenstein, but something that was more contemporary, like you’re not telling us a story like this could happen.
[00:16:23] In your hometown and that’s kind of what horror is kind of reversing. When you think of psycho, when you think of nodded living dead, these stories are abusing real people and real scenarios that are undergoing something that’s scary. And, um, at first they kind of like had, they wrote kind of like horror comedy, like the, these schools.
[00:16:50] Hang out with teenagers and stuff. Yeah. So, but then they had changed it to this and again, it all really came down to what they could afford to film and they couldn’t afford ghouls makeup. They had to make it better. Basic.
[00:17:09] Scott: Yeah. And you talked about it being off the beaten path. I mean, we went there and there’s not a lot that’s changed in the past 53 years.
[00:17:16] Jenn: No, the graves look the same. There’s no tree beside the first grave anymore.
[00:17:19] Scott: There’s no tree beside, I think like the, the, the entry sign to the cemetery is ever so slightly different, but we were able to match up shots. The grave stones are obviously all still there. The headstones. There is very little that has changed at this off the beaten path cemetery that was, you know, basically the base for an incredibly.
[00:17:43] Jenn: Yeah. And so the farm house is no longer there. That’s been torn down. And I think at one point there over a covered bridge, the covered bridge is no longer there, but the bridge is still there. And then the, where they filmed the basement of the farmhouse, they actually filmed that in there. Office basement.
[00:18:01] So like where their work, where they’re working from, they’re like, we’re just going film it downstairs in the basement. So you can actually still go there. And I think that’s an Evan city as well. And, um, one of the things they had said, if you remember that scene, it’s the daughter had gotten bitten by one of the ghouls and her parents are sitting with her very concerned and worried.
[00:18:24] And then. The father gets attacked by the daughter. And then the daughter attacks the mother and the, I don’t know if it was Russo or Ramiro, who was like, that’s every girl’s dream to attack her mother.
[00:18:39] Scott: I don’t remember that.
[00:18:40] Jenn: I thought that was so funny. I was like, oh my gosh. She thinks that that’s why he wanted to keep that in there.
[00:18:45] And so that’s another realistic moment. They really show because. Neither the mother of the father fight back. Right. Because that’s their child. And so this is something, again, basic to film, but very strong on the psyche because you’re realizing that the Google has taken over the mind because. The child is killing the person they love and the person they love can’t fight back because they loved that person.
[00:19:14] So it’s one of those things that’s so hard to work around, um, but has such a lasting impact. That it did. And it’s, I mean, people still watch and I are living dead at birth, all these movies, all these sequels. And even today, I mean, walking dead and things like that, but either living dead has been remade a couple times and I even love the basicness of the title.
[00:19:38] Yep. It’s just night of the living dead. So it’s nighttime. Yep. Who are alive, which is completely polar.
[00:19:47] Scott: And I, and even the, the typography is very iconic, right? So, so if you’re listening to this Google really quick night of living dead, look at the topography and that’s been used and reused. So many times in horror movies, or at least used as, as inspiration for, you know, that kind of stuff.
[00:20:06] And again, this was 19 67, 68 when they came out. So again, it was a super fun one to make because it was just outside of Pittsburgh. Easy to get to, if you ever want to visit it, you can just look up Evan city, cemetery. Zombie apocalypse, zombie movies, all that stuff came from neither living dead. So scary movies and zombies, storylines of bound in today’s cinema scape.
[00:20:29] All thanks to two film school graduates who dreamt big, asked big and made something even bigger. Neither the living dead is the father of zombie zombie film genre. And we were lucky enough to be able to visit the location where American cinema was changed for. So again, thank you for listening to talk with history podcast, and please reach out to us at our website.
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