Episode 7

Night of the Living Dead - Visiting and Filming the Cemetery Where it All Happened

Scott and Jenn visited the Evans City Cemetery. The very place where The Night of the Living Dead was filmed in 1967.

This film was so iconic and groundbreaking for its time, that is DEFINED the Zombie Movie Genre...forever being known as the father of the zombie film. However, what is the HISTORY of those iconic graves? Who was actually buried there?

We talk about why we filmed this YouTube video there and answer those very questions in our video.

Video: Famous Graves at Night of the Living Dead Filming Location

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Transcript
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greetings and welcome back to the talk

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with History Podcast I'm your host Scott

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here with my wife and historian Jen

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hello on this podcast we talk about

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history's continuing impact on us today

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in our personal journey through YouTube

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as we continue to explore record and

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share our history walks with you

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you know before we start

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um this is the section where we will

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have the five-star question of the week

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[Music]

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and we're still looking for those five

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star reviews in iTunes so if you could

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leave us a review that helps the show

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helps us grow and get the word out

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[Music]

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you may not know this movie we're going

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to talk about today

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but you've probably seen many pictures

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of it

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this was a groundbreaking film that

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defined and gave birth to a film genre

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that lived stronger today than ever

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but did you know that it was produced on

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a shoestream budget at a no-name

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cemetery outside of Pittsburgh by two

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filmmakers who had never made a motion

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picture so Jen what film are we talking

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about today

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in keeping in accordance to Halloween

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coming up in a couple weeks we're doing

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Night of the Living Dead Night of the

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Living Dead so

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if nobody's ever seen Night of Living

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Dead tell us a little bit about that and

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then we'll kind of talk about you mean

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someone like you Scott yeah I had no

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clue

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so you know Scott and I have been

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married for 15 years and one of the

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first things we did on our first dates

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was a haunted house I don't think Scott

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was excited about it but since we're

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newly dating and I said let's go to a

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haunted house he was he was all game for

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it

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little did I know he had really never

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seen a horror movie let alone go to

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haunted houses and as we're standing in

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line for this haunted house they're

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playing scenes from horror movies

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so Nightmare on Elm Street Friday the

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13th

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and I'm I'm naming off these newbies as

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they just show in little scenes I'm

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naming them off and I'm like don't you

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know this and he didn't know any of them

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I didn't know a single one it was just

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we didn't watch those kind of movies

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yeah and I did

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and um we need us to say going through

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that haunted house was one of an

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experience I'll never forget

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um because I was pushed through at Mock

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speed because Scott was right behind me

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and as much as I enjoy a good haunted

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house and the thought that goes into

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making a room and making someone scared

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I didn't get a chance to really even see

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anything because I got just pushed

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through

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and I'm so glad that Jen brought this up

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because I'll probably edit out this

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entire bed when I think it's

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I think it's never seen it and

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I was raised on it so I was raised on it

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not only because my parents

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are big movie Buffs and enjoy all types

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of movies but it was because it was

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filmed close to where my dad grew up

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Pittsburgh Pittsburgh and so he always

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talked about it and he didn't talk about

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it in the regards of this is a great

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horror movie he talked about in regards

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that this was just an amazing movie made

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by college kids on a shoestring budget

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that just changed horror movies in

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general was a huge influencer and so he

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was I think always proud of that and

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this now no not a living dead just for

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anybody who has never seen it before is

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not familiar with it it was made in the

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60s so it was filmed in 67 it was filmed

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from June to December of 67 released in

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68. okay and and there was nothing else

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that had been done like that before you

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know so they're very much influenced by

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I Am Legend that book I Am Legend that

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comes out in the 50s and that book

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influences their writing oh yeah yeah

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that's the book that eventually Will

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Smith made the movie Will Smith make the

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movie so nothing had really been made

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like this but things have been written

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kind of like this okay and

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if you've never seen Night of the Living

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Dead we're gonna give some spoilers away

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so just be ready and it's a like a 60

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year old movie so you know it's it's

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been out for a while it's been out for a

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while and it's it's been done over and

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over and over again now but it's it's

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basic and that's what's so great about

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it black and white it's black and white

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it's it leaves more to your imagination

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than actually shows you it's just these

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the whole premise is they don't really

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go into it but something has happened in

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this area where people have been

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infected by this virus and this virus

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has basically reanimated recently dead

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and they went with recently dead because

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they said they figured they couldn't

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have the makeup budget to reanimate

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long-term dead so most everybody is I

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mean their makeup process is just dark

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underline makeup and white faces and

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boom you're a you're a ghoul yeah it was

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is not uh

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you know with The Walking Dead you know

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level of production now this like it's

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not even like Thriller with like arms

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falling off or anything nothing like

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that it's literally just like hunch over

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a little bit walk slow sort of that

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walking's super slow wasn't even really

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a thing yet they kind of defined yeah

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with this movie one thing that I learned

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with you and we'll get into the history

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aspect of of why of what we did filming

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the the video but they they really kind

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of for film they defined the genre they

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did because even if you've seen the

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movie the very first ghoul because they

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use ghoul and they even adamantly say

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they never use the word zombie in the

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whole movie even though it's the father

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of the zombie film and the zombie

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movement they don't use that word I

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don't think I realized that and so

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Google is the word they use but the very

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first ghoul they'll encounter just looks

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like a normal person yeah right he's

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like wearing a business so they just see

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him in the back of the cemetery going

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who's that guy walking around back there

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so it's not like they even see someone

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looking and there's some there's some

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relatively famous lines that come out of

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this like they're coming to get you

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Barbara like you'll probably see that on

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T-shirts if you're and I am not a horror

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movie fan or history fan so this was a

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very interesting one for me to make

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once I started once I saw the the clips

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right making the video I saw these and I

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was like some of these actually sound

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familiar to me and I am not a horror

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movie you know film guy at all no and it

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was um

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it was a lot of the script was ad-libbed

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a lot of it was written as they were

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doing it and like I said it was just

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it was the basics which sometimes the

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basics can be more scary right so when

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you think of things like jaws and you

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don't see the shark but you can imagine

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the shark it's scarier for the viewer

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and they they kind of banked on that

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same thing you don't see everything you

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don't see what they're doing to people

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you're being told they're flesh eaters

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but you don't see it yeah so they're so

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really their film Ted the technique they

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brought with that that's a technique yes

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was was not as common then yeah that

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keeping the big parts off screen for the

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viewer to imagine it right and your

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imagination is sometimes worse than what

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you could be shown on screen and the

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film kind of had like an extra kind of

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punch at the end yes and they fought for

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that so the punch at the end is um

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they their their main character makes it

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through the night yeah he survives he

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survives the night he survives he he

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does away with all the zombies the

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ghouls or whatever and basically you

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learn like no one else survives who he

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was with yeah but he survives and at the

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end there there are people who are

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coming out helping because I guess I'm

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the town sheriff yeah because it was it

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was localized right didn't go far it was

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in a worldwide yeah and so they're

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rounding them up and burning them the

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ghouls and they see movement in the

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house and they think it's a ghoul and

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he's coming around yes it thinks it's a

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goal and he's coming out going I've

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survived and as he comes out they shoot

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him yeah and they fought for that ending

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because a lot of people said oh they

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needs to be a happy ending and they're

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like no this is not a happy movie this

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needs to have this ending so and that in

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that when you were telling me about that

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this was there weren't a lot of films

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that had done that now it was I was kind

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of like the really the kick in the

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stomach that everybody walked out of the

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theater was like

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what just happened yeah like and even

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you can you can look it up on YouTube

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you can if if anybody's curious you can

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Google neither Living Dead ending scene

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and you'll find it and I look and I

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watched it I was like

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yeah that's not a movie you would walk

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away like feeling happy about but again

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that's kind of the genre

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and it influences movies because now

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it's more common to watch a movie that

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is realistic in the way that it's not

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always happy in the end and you get to a

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real dose of you know what could be a

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real moment and

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some tragedy and so that is more real

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nowadays in movies and so they're kind

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of when the first people to do that and

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they influence so there's a couple

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things their main character is also

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African-American that's right and so

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they did not set out

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for their main character to be

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African-American but the actor who

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auditioned was so good that they just

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said yeah make it him and what was also

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interesting is their main character was

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supposed to be a truck driver and kind

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of

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I wouldn't say uneducated but basic

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basic dialogue and this this man who

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plays Ben Ben is that lead character

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is educated and so he doesn't he he

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doesn't want his lines to be dumbed down

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so he he plays him as if he was him

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so he gives and people have to remember

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the time yeah right the 6768 like Martin

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Luther King had not been assassinated he

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had not been assassinated but that like

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Civil Rights Movement was in full swing

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right so like the the marches and the

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bus protests and all that stuff was

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going on so this is a big deal to have

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your main actor and and the movie just

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exploded it was made for what a hundred

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thousand hundred and fourteen thousand

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so they got six people together and they

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each put in like a thousand and then

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that was like six thousand dollars and

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and then they got like 10 more people

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that put in a couple thousand more and

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then they just kept like asking people

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for money and that's why it took so long

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for it to film and one of the reasons

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why they use the Evan City Cemetery

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which where we filmed the YouTube video

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at and where it's really what like half

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an hour outside of Pittsburgh yeah and

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it's it's a little Cemetery but they

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chose it because it's off the road and

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you can't really see it so they could

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film there without being bothered by

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people and and they really didn't have

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to ask permission to use it

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now you'll see a lot of YouTube videos

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going to that cemetery and tons of

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people want to recreate the iconic

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scenes of they're coming to get you

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Barbara and Barbara runs away and she

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leans on a tombstone and at one point

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her brother

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um fights the ghoul and he gets hit

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um his head gets hit and he dies and he

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dies yeah he dies and he becomes a ghoul

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which is probably one of the scariest

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things so it's interesting he puts on

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gloves at one point when he's talking to

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her and then when he becomes a ghoul and

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he breaks into The Farmhouse that

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they're in he puts his gloved hand up on

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the wall just to make sure you know it's

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him and so um

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people love to recreate those scenes but

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I wanted to do a video where I actually

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talked about who was buried in those

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Graves that they used for the movie yeah

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so you so you researched the actual like

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when she's leaning against The Headstone

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like headstones there and and who is

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Kramer that's the heads other headstone

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she's leaning on so who are those people

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so that's that's what I want to do

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because no one had done that and here

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are these Graves like I tell people

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these are iconic Graves but who are the

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actual people that are in these Graves

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so um that's what they that's what I

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really wanted the YouTube video to focus

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on as I talked about this history of the

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movie so if you're interested in that

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the video really goes into the history

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of those people and

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um

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but yeah the movie

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is just so influential and I nobody

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realized it was going to be

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that influential so it it breaks I think

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it makes

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from what I read it's

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12 million domestically in an 18 million

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internationally so again this is the

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late 60s it's late 60s so that's what 30

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million dollars it makes total on a

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hundred and fourteen thousand dollar

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budget it premieres October 1st 1968 in

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Pittsburgh

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and that's 53 years ago so and it was

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filmed like I said the year before

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and yeah they they just really they

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wanted

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it went through some rewrites so you

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have like Romero is who wrote and

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directed it and he had gone to Carnegie

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Mellon he had worked in Pittsburgh he'd

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actually filmed some stuff for Mr Rogers

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Neighborhood oh okay and then it's

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co-written by Russo who went to

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University of um West Virginia or West

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Virginia University but he had friends

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of Carnegie Mellon so he went he would

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visit Carnegie Mellon and we always talk

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about pittsburghers call it Carnegie

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Mellon it's not Carnegie melon it's yeah

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I remember the first time he ever

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started talking about Carnegie Mellon

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and you kept saying Carnegie I was like

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what are you talking about I don't like

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why do you keep saying it that way it's

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Carnegie mail and I've heard it that way

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my entire life pittsburghers say

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Carnegie we put in the extra syllable

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um and so Russo

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who was his friend had actually been in

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the Army for two years and so he had

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this idea of black and white

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documentary style that's right because

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make it cheaper make it feel realistic

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make it feel like they're actually

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filming a documentary about something

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that's happening in this small town to

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these people and you would feel like you

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are breaking that fourth wall with them

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right so that was his vision

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yeah and it's so funny when I I start

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learning about this because of the video

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you know you think about the Blair Witch

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Project that wasn't the first movie of

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its kind to film this like realistic

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documentary style right Night of the

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Living Dead you think of uh all the pop

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you know The Walking Dead TV shows like

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these were shows that were kind of

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raised and inspired by this movie and

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the spin-offs of this movie yeah so it

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was once I started learning that I was

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like oh my gosh like this

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this movie is just like so seminal in

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this entire huge genre I mean scary

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movies have just grown and grown and

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grown and grow I mean they're much more

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common and popular nowadays than they

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were when even when I was growing up

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sure and they they wanted to capitalize

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on the Contemporary commercial interest

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of that genre as well so you have like

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psycho coming out around that time and

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psycho's also shot in black and white so

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they're capitalizing on like I wouldn't

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say it's a new genre because horror

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movies were kind of you know think of

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Dracula and Frankenstein but something

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that was more contemporary like you're

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not telling us a story like this could

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happen

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in your hometown right and that's kind

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of what horror is kind of reversing when

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you think of psycho when you think of

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United Living Dead these stories are

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using real people and real scenarios

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that are undergoing something that's

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scary and um

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at first they kind of like had they

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wrote kind of like horror comedy

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like the these ghouls hang out with

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teenagers and stuff oh really yeah like

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and they so but then they had changed it

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to this and again it all really came

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down to what they could afford to film

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and they couldn't afford ghoul's makeup

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they had to make it very basic yeah and

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you talked about it being off the beaten

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path I mean we went there and there's

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not a lot that's changed in the past 53

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years no the graves look the same

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there's no tree beside the first grave

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anymore there's no tree beside I think

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like the the entry sign to the cemetery

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is ever so slightly different but we

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were able to match up shots the

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gravestones are obviously all still

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there the headstones like

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there is very little that has changed at

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this off the beaten path Cemetery that

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was you know basically the home base for

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an incredibly famous movie yeah and so

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the Farmhouse is no longer there that's

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been torn down and I think at one point

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they're over a covered bridge The

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Covered Bridge is no longer there but

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the bridge is still there and then the

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when they filmed the basement of The

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Farmhouse they actually filmed that in

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there like

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office basement so like where they're

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working yeah oh wow where they're

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working from they're like we're just

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gonna film it downstairs in the basement

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so you can actually still go there and I

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think that's in Evan city as well and um

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one of the things they had said if you

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remember that scene it's the daughter

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had gotten bitten

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by one of the ghouls and her parents are

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sitting with her very concerned and

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worried and then

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the father gets attacked by the daughter

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and then the daughter attacks the mother

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and the I said I don't know if it was

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Russo or Romero who was like that's

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every girl's dream to attack her mother

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I don't remember that I thought that was

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so funny I was like oh my gosh she

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thinks that that's why he wanted to keep

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that in there and so that's another

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realistic moment they really show

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because neither the mother of the father

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fight back yeah right because that's

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their child and so this is something

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again basic to film but very strong on

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the psyche because you're realizing that

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the ghoul has taken over the mind

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because the child is killing the person

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they love and the person they love can't

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fight back because they love that person

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so it's one of those things that's so

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hard to work around

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um but has such a lasting impact that it

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did and it's I mean people still watch

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90 Living Dead it burns all these movies

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all these sequels and even today I mean

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Walking Dead and things like that but

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neither Living Dead has been remade a

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couple times and I even love the

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basicness of the title yep it's just

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Night of the Living Dead so it's night

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time dead

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who are alive which is completely polar

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opposite and even the the typography is

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very iconic right so so if you're

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listening to this Google really quick

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Night of the Living Dead look at the

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typography and that's been used and

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reused so many times in horror movies or

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at least used as as inspiration for you

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know that kind of stuff and again this

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was 1967-68 when they came out so again

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it was a super fun one to make because

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it was just outside of Pittsburgh easy

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to get to if you ever want to visit it

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you can just look up Evan City Cemetery

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zombie apocalypse zombie movies all that

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stuff came from Night of Living Dead so

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scary movies and zombie story lines

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abound in today's Cinema Escape all

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thanks to two film school graduates who

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dreamed big

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asked big and made something even bigger

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Night of the Living Dead is the father

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of zombie the zombie film genre and we

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were lucky enough to be able to visit

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the location where American Cinema was

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changed forever

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so again thank you for listening to talk

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with History Podcast and please reach

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out to us at our website talk with

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history.com that's talk with history.com

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but more importantly if you know someone

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share this with them especially if you

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podcast today shoot them a text tell

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Podcast or better yet just send them a

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we appreciate you all every day

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talk to you next time

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[Music]

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Talk With History
A Historian and Navy Veteran talk about history inspired travels, their YouTube channel journey, and examine history through conversations with the curious, the explorers, and the history lovers out there

About your host

Profile picture for Scott Bennie

Scott Bennie

Host of the Talk With History podcast, Producer over at Walk with History on YouTube, Editor of the Hashtag Historic newsletter.