Oct 31, 2023

They're Coming To Colorize You, Barbara

Night Of The Living Dead
The 1968 George A. Romero horror classic Night Of The Living Dead premiered in theaters in Pittsburgh 55 years ago today.  It almost single handedly reinvented the zombie genre and went on to become one of the most influential movies of the 20th century  Eighteen years later, the movie was broadcast on television across the country on Halloween night, but in a controversial move, it was not shown in its original black and white.  The film had been colorized by Hal Roach Studios.

I found this recording on a VHS tape that I picked up at a flea market when I was in college.  Night Of The Living Dead is in the public domain, so I decided there would be no harm in sharing this recording on YouTube with its original commercials.

There are at least two other recordings of this film from October 31st, 1986 that have been shared on YouTube: one that was broadcast on WTAF TV-29 Philadelphia and the other one which aired on WOR TV-9 New York.  They're both very good quality and include the original commercials which definitely help to put you back in the time and place when this was broadcast, but the KDKA recording is unique from these in two ways.  First, it was broadcast in the area where the movie was filmed.  Night Of The Living Dead is to Pittsburgh what Rocky is to Philadelphia.  It's an iconic film that the city is rightfully very proud of.  Second, this broadcast was hosted by famed movie critics Siskel & Ebert.

During the commercial breaks, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert informed the viewing audience that a poll was being held to decide if fans liked or disliked the colorization of black and white movies.  This was broadcast ten years before dial-up internet became common enough to hold such a vote online and about fifteen years before cell phones and texting went mainstream, so viewers who wanted to cast their vote had to do so by calling a 1-900 number at a cost of 50 cents per call.  I strongly advise that you do not call either of these numbers today, but if you want to risk getting charged by whoever owns it today, be sure to let me know who answers the call.

The viewing audience of Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities on Halloween Night 1986 had good taste, and now you can have the same experience that they had.  Go ahead and pop some popcorn, scroll up to the top of this post, click the full screen icon and press play to be magically transported back in time to 1968, by way of 1986 and its disastrous colorization of a classic film, and immerse yourself in a world of zombies and commercials for ridiculously inexpensive fried chicken.

Seriously... an 8 piece KFC bucket costs over $20 today.  That's two less pieces of chicken and without the four biscuits that are included in this deal from 1986.  Give it another 30 years and it'll probably be over fifty bucks.