Tomorrow is the world premiere performance of Modern Robot’s Alive: Music for Night of the Living Dead.
As he prepares to share his work on this project for the first time with his hometown audience at the Crown in Greensboro, North Carolina, our very own Ben Singer explores the origin of the film – and offers hints on what to expect.
‘George Romero and his crew shot mostly at a Pennsylvania house scheduled for demolition, so the place could be torn part. The costumes came from the actors, or second-hand shops. One of the actors owned a string of butcher shops, so he donated roasted ham and entrails (that part will make more sense if you’ve seen this film). With gallons of blood-like Bosco Chocolate Syrup, “Night of the Living Dead” might define what an independent horror film is.
The ending is so truly bleak, almost anti-movie, that “Night of the Living Dead” was turned down by a string of distribution companies. But in 1968, this film managed a theatrical release. It went on to be a huge and worldwide success; millions saw it. It was even the top-grossing film in Europe in 1969 — made for just $114,000.
While audiences loved it, the critics were mostly grossed out, or disturbed.
I like this quote from Variety:
“Until the Supreme Court establishes clear-cut guidelines for the pornography of violence, Night of the Living Dead will serve nicely as an outer-limit definition by example. In [a] mere 90 minutes this horror film (pun intended) casts serious aspersions on the integrity and social responsibility of its Pittsburgh-based makers, distributor Walter Reade, the film industry as a whole and [exhibitors] who book [the picture], as well as raising doubts about the future of the regional cinema movement and about the moral health of film goers who cheerfully opt for this unrelieved orgy of sadism…”
But this has changed.
As well as launching the entire genre of zombie films, “Night of the Living Dead” is on a score of critics’ lists, “most-scary” lists, “most-significant” lists and so on. It’s a recognized classic.
And then I have my own opinion. Inside this B movie (and it is a B-movie!) lurks a better movie. It just needs some trimming.
At this Crown show, Modern Robot is premiering a new and original score, performed live to this “Night of the Living Dead”. It’s tense and disturbing music, to highlight the true human drama of society, empathy, power, survival, and betrayal.
Joining me is Galax-based drummer Nicholas Falk. A Berklee graduate, Nicholas was selected to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, where he studied with Ron Carter, Jason Moran, Lewis Nash, Jack Dejohnette, and others. Nicholas was a member of The Boston Boys, the Rondo Rigs and performs regularly with singer-songwriter Dori Freeman.
Kris Hilbert will open the show with an exclusive solo set. Kris is the owner and operator of Legitimate Business, a staple of Greensboro’s music and recording scene.
In May, Modern Robot will take this show to the Orlando Fringe, and then on to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for a three-week run in August’.
-Ben Singer, Modern Robot