Friday, 16 December 2011

Save the Night of The Living Dead Chapel

The chapel in Evan's City Cemetary that features in the famous opening scene of Night Of The Living Dead (1968) is under threat of demolition, sparking a campaign headed by Gary Streiner (one of Romero's associates in the film) to raise funds to fix it up. 

NOLTD fans with a few pennies to spare at Christmas can check out the campaign here Fix the Chapel.

The campaign has gone global, helped partly by a email from George Romero pledging his support.  Here's the message from George:

In 1967, the citizens of Evans City, Pennsylvania permitted us to use their community cemetery for a very unusual purpose... to make a movie.

      At the time, nobody in the Pittsburgh area was making movies, certainly not feature-length movies, but that's what we had set out to do.  We hoped to someday complete a film which might actually be worthy of distribution.  We were young and reaching for the stars.  We had no reason to believe that anyone would support us in our aspirations.  But the people of Evans City did.  They welcomed us, in some cases fed us, and occasionally even agreed to play small roles in the film.  They gave us all their support and then some.  In this way, they became the first people to not only approve but endorse what we were attempting to do.
George A. Romero - Night of the Living Dead
      The people of Evans City in effect 'teamed-up' with us, subscribed to our hopes and dreams as if they were their own.  It was as if, in accepting us, they were willing to accept the far-fetched idea that a film made by what could only be called 'amateurs' might just possibly have a chance at success.  The film,Night of the Living Dead, was as its title suggests, a horror film, which further prejudiced its chance at any sort of lasting attention.  But the people of Evans City knew nothing about box-office shares or audience-response polls.  We believed, so they believed.  And, in a hundred ways, they enabled us to complete the film.

      In the end, our litte movie was distributed worldwide, was invited into the permanent collection at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and was selected by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 films of all time.  We have all gotten careers out of its success.  The film has somehow remained a favorite of audiences ever since its release in 1968, and a cult has formed around it.  Hard as it is to believe, people travel from all over the world just to visit the place where the film was photographed.

Only the people of Evans City have the ability to say, "Oh, yes, Night of the Living Dead was filmed right here in town."  I'm sure this hasn't created an economic 'boom' for the town, but to some minor extent, it has given Evans City a permanent place in some people's hearts.  Not the more important, though mournful place occupied by men and women who perished in service to community and country, but a happier place born out of success, a sense of accomplishment against very long odds.

      Our first day of filming in Evans City was spent in tne cemetery.  There seems to be a 'Zombie' craze sweeping the nation right now, and indeed the world.  I was in Strasbourg, France last week where more than 3000 people turned out in make-up and costume for a 'Zombie Walk' through town.  Next week, I'm going to Mexico City, where upwards of 5000 are expected to attend.  Well, the very first Zombie (not your grandfather's vintage Caribbean-style Zombie, but one of the 'New Order') made his premiere appearance on a cloudy afternoon in 1967 in the graveyard at Evans City.  I'll never forget the day.  I was fulfilling a lifelong dream: directing a motion picture.  My long-time friends and partners were there with me (Russ, Jack, Gary, Vince, Bill...) and the people of Evans City played a big part in making it all possible.

      I'm writing this as a way of thanking Evans City and voicing my strong vote for the preservation of the chapel at the cemetery there.

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