zombie movie

zombie movie

The Business of Zombies

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THE BUSINESS OF ZOMBIES Todd Palmer This video describes the birth of the modern zombie movie. We look at how George Romero created the classic zombie movie, Night of the Living Dead, and then through a simple copyright mistake lost all rights to the movie. TRANSCRIPT: Like a lumbering hoard of the undead, zombie movies have pushed their ways into mainstream media. Today we feel the barriers splintering as big Hollywood pictures like World War Z invade theatres and our laptops. While video games like Resident Evil rack up even more money. And even television has managed to slow down its dwindling numbers by inviting in The Walking Dead. But it wasn’t always like this. Back in the 30s, 40s and 50s zombie films were the epitome of B movie awfulness. The term “zombie” was popularized in flicks like “Plan 9 From Outer Space” in which mindless carcasses were raised from the dead. Zombies came in at the bottom of the monster food chain. With vampires, mummies and even--giant radioactive lizards--outranking them. But that all changed in 1968 when Pittsburgh director George Romero released Night of the Living Dead. Romero was directing commercials and shorts for Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood when he decided to make his own horror film. With a small group of friends, Romero raised a total of $114,000--shockingly low for a movie budget even back in the 1960s. Co-written with John Russo, the flick morphed from a teen horror comedy to something new, a blunt object of cinema terror. Filmed in less expensive 35 mm black and white, Romero employed a documentary style with many non-actors who gave a “real world” feel to the movie. Now picture this. It’s October 1st, 1968 at the premiere. Hoards of kids come in for a Saturday matinee. Raised on such light horror flicks as Attack of the Crab Monsters, these kiddie viewers were completely unprepared for the mayhem they were about to see. The movie has a worldwide box office of $42,000,000. With its tiny budget it may be one of the most profitable movies of all time. (Spoiler alert) So despite the hero getting killed in the final frame, all of the film’s investors must have came out pretty well on this deal, right? Well, not exactly. And it all has to do with copyright law. They screwed up because of this… (copyright sign) The working title of the movie was “Night of the Flesh Eaters.” The distributor decided to change the title and redid the credits. But they forgot to put the required official copyright notice on the final print. The result for George Romero: No copyright. The movie went immediately into the public domain. He received almost no money from the film’s profits. Sad for Romero, but strangely it had an enormous positive impact on the horror movies. Romero didn’t just make a movie--he created a world. A world filled with zombies. And the rules he created became universal. Romero made sequels. He had a falling out with his former writing partner, Russo, who made his own sequels. But more importantly, lots of filmmakers made sequels. Since the film (and the rules) were in the public domain, directors were free to copy any aspect of the movie. This solidified these rules creating an incredible brand, the Romero zombie. Over 500 zombie movies have been made since 1968. And yes, most were terrible but they kept the brand lumbering forward. In 2011 the Wall Street Journal estimated that the zombie “industry” was worth over five and a half billion dollars. Over the years, Romero’s zombies have been depicted as metaphors for a number of ills facing modern society: racism; epidemics; uncontrolled capitalism. Due to no copyright, zombies have become a canvas that all of us can paint on. MUSIC: "Unseen Horrors" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ REFERENCES: 1. https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2011/10/10/how-a-copyright-mistake-created-the-modern-zombie/ 2. http://en.wi...