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"Obviously what's happening in the world creeps into any work, it just fits right in. Because that's where it comes from, where the idea comes from, where you get the idea in the first place." 
- George A. Romero
 
"Burn 'em out"
 

In 1932 17,000 ex-service men - marched on Washington to demand cash payment redemption of their service certificates. Many veterans had been unemployed since the start of the Depression. Washington's response was to have the marchers and their families - many of whom set up camp - forcibly removed (shown above).

The burning down of the 'Bonus Army' camp is reminiscent of the monsters being burned out of their dwellings in the 1930s horror films, such as this one (shown below) in Frankenstein (1931). Director, James Whale, was himself a WW1 veteran.

Frankenstein (1931) (image courtesy Universal Studios)
"Eugenics and Freaks"


It wasn't unusual to find advertisements in movie magazines which played on feelings of physical inferiority created by the Eugenics movement, which was 'popular' in the 1920s and 1930s. This advert is remarkably candid about the values of that era:

"In this day and age attention to your appearance is an absolute necessity if you expect to make the most out of life... you will find the world in general judging you greatly, if not wholly, by your 'looks'."
 
(image courtesy of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)
1932 was the year of the 3rd International Eugenics Conference held in New York. This exhibit (shown above) presents the patients of Letchworth Village, a mental institution in New York State as examples of 'degenerate heredity'.

One of the patients is a microcephalic - a pin-head- like 'Schlitze' in Freaks (1932) (below). Tod Browning portrays Schlitze and his companions in a sympathetic light, subverting the Eugenics way of thinking.
Freaks (1932) (image courtesy of MGM)

(image courtesy of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)
Alcoholism, according to the Eugenicists, was a sign of 'degenerate heredity', tied in to 'social immorality', criminality and 'feeble-mindedness': Tod Browning was himself a life-long alcoholic. Shown above is 'research' presented during the 3rd International Eugencis Conference in 1932.

"What about Juvenile Delinquency?"




This 'mental hygiene' film (shown above) from the 1950s shows the pressures on teenagers to conform to authoritarian values of the time, using the moral panic over  'juvenile delinquency' for means of social coercion and control.

Meanwhile government films like "Duck and Cover (1951) (shown below) instructed high school students on how to deal with the atomic bomb - which, they are told, could drop on them at any moment.
 




Is it any wonder that a sensitive teenager might 'turn' at the sound of a bell, like Michael Landon in I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)? - (below)



I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957) (images courtesy AIP)
 
"Pittsburgh, Channel 11"


(image courtesy of Bill Cardille)
This rare behind the scenes photograph from Night of the Living Dead (1968) (shown above) shows director George A. Romero (left, with camera) discussing the TV interview scene between 'anchorman' 'Chilly' Billy Cardille (centre) and 'posse leader' George Kosana (right).




(above) Bill Cardille was host of Pittsburgh's Chiller Theatre, which played on Channel 11 from 1963 to 1983.  George A. Romero admits to The Last Man on Earth (1964) having an influence on Night of The Living Dead (1968). Intriguingly, The Last Man on Earth showed on Chiller Theatre in Pittsburg in the summer of 1967, when Romero was filming Night of the Living Dead.


"The Fragility of Things"



This Night of The Living Dead poster (shown above) evokes Time Magazine's cover (above-top) of August 1967, in its depiction of a society on the brink of collapse.


"Here is the News"
 

News footage of the posse in Night of the Living Dead (above - top) (image courtesy Image Ten) evokes real news footage of Civil Rights protesters brutalised by police in the southern states (above - bottom).
 

"That's another one for the fire". At the end of Night of Living Dead, Ben's body is burned on a pyre (above - top) (image courtesy Image Ten): in the deep south, blacks were lynched and burned (above - bottom).
 
Military force in The Crazies (1973) (above - top) (image courtesy Lee Hessel) and Rabid (1976) (above - bottom), (courtesy Cinepix) referenced the often brutal force used by police and the military in containing anti-Vietnam war protesters. (above centre two images)
 

The posse used hooks so they did not have to touch Ben's body in Night of The Living Dead (above centre and bottom) (images courtesy Image Ten). In the Vietnam war (above top) American soldiers used wire when disposing of dead Vietcong, for the same reasons.
 
"Coming of Age"

"Those kids running down the road screaming naked after the napalm attack (shown above) - that was my coming of age into realising that American weren't always the good guys and that things that we could do could be horrendous or evil or dark or impossible to explain - My Lai for instance"
- Wes Craven

The napalm attack on a small Vietnamese village (shown below) was captured by ITN cameramen. Much news footage of the Vietnam war was supressed by broadcasters and the government, but this was allowed to be shown, reflecting the shift of public opinion against the war. Warning - contains graphic images. (images courtesy ITN).




Last House on The Left (1972) (image courtesy Sean S Cunningham Films)
The famous photograph of a child's violated body that so disturbed Wes Craven is evoked in  Last House on the Left (1972) in the forced stripping and rape of the woman-child Mari (above) (image courtesy Sean S. Cunningham Films)
 
"Methodical Execution"

Last House on The Left (1972) (image courtesy Sean S. Cunningham Films)


"That methodical execution style was translated right to the shooting of Mari at the lake" - Wes Craven


Craven was referring to this famous Eddie Adams photograph of a vietcong soldier being executed by a North Korean general (shown below)
(Image courtesy Eddie Adams)

The full cold blooded horror of this act is apparent in the film footage taken at the same time as Adams' photograph (shown below) Warning - contains graphic images.



"Immolation"

Thich Quan Duc's self-immolation
In 1963 Buddhist monk Thich Quan Duc immolated himself in a busy Saigon street in protest at South Vietnam's treatment of Buddhists (shown above)
 
George A. Romero directly references this in The Crazies (1973) (shown below) where a priest sets himself alight after his authority is repudiated by the military. An act of insanity - or is it?
The Crazies (1973) (image courtesy Lee Hessel)
The Crazies (1973) (image courtesy Lee Hessel)

"Kids, Isolation, No Gas"
 
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) (image courtesy Vortex)
 
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) (shown above) (image courtesy Vortex) references the effects of the OPEC Oil Crisis of 1973, when Arab countries placed an embargo on oil supplies during the height of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
 


"We were really afraid, you know, that things may change if we're really out of fuel."
 News footage(shown above) from 1973.
 
"Moral Schizophrenia"



'Moral Schizophrenia': Jim Siedow's wolf-like features in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (shown above) (image courtesy Vortex) bear more than a passing resemblance to Richard Nixon's. Siedow's character "don't take no pleasure from killing" but seems barely able to control his own sadistic urges. Richard Nixon (shown above - top) advocated peace in Vietnam - and then escalated the conflict by bombing Cambodia.
 
"Sympathetic Monsters?"



Michael Rooker's physionomy in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer  (1989)(shown above) (image courtesy Maljack) resembles Karloff's in Frankenstein (1931) (image courtesy Universal Studios)

"Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder"




'Guard your diamond' - the kind of a creepy Abstinence logo (above) that Teeth (2007) satirises in its shots of censored biology text books (below)