NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

 

Screenplay by:

GEORGE A. ROMERO and JOHN A. RUSSO

 

Copyright 1968 by George A. Romero and John A. Russo 

______________

 

It is an ordinary dusk of normal quiet and shadow.  The gray sky contains a soft glow from the recent sun, so that trees and long blades of grass seem to shimmer in the gathering night. There is a rasp of crickets, and the rustle of leaves in an occasional whispering breeze.

 

Transitions are easy and gradual, with relaxed studies of earth, grass and leafy branches on a high-mounded hill.  Revelation of cemetery markers does nothing to disrupt the peacefulness of our established mood; when awareness comes, it is almost as though we have known where we were all along.  We are in a typical rural cemetery, conceivably adjacent to a small church….

 

Although the presence of a church is felt rather than confirmed.  The stones range from small identifying slates to monuments of careful design…an occasional Franciscan Crucifix, or a carved image of a defending angel.  Over a hundred years of death indicated in stones syllabic with their year and the status of the families they represent.

 

Over the other night sounds is added the gravel-rumble of a slow-moving car.  A wider shot reveals the car and the mounded cemetery, as the car pulls into the gate and moves down one of the cemetery roads, the car passes in extreme foreground and moves away from the camera.  In the breeze of its passing, the dead leaves that clutter the little road swirl and move.  

 

Beyond the distant trees, the last receding gray of dusk in surrendering to the black.  The car continues.  When the car stops, we feel the absence of its sounds…replaced by the crickets and the subtle wind.  Even as the car is still rocking slightly form its stopping action, we cut to a shot through the driver window at the occupants of the car.  The driver is a young man in his mid-twenties, and his passenger is a young woman, his sister.  The man is in shirtsleeves with a loosened tie. His suit-coat is on the clothing hook over the back seat.  The girl is wearing a simple but attractive summer suit, with the jacket removed and folded on her lap.  She is fussing with her purse, while the man shuts off engine, lights, and leans back to yawn and stretch his legs.  The girl closes a potato chip bag, brushes crumbs, fluffs her hair… typical feminine gestures after a long ride.  The man stretches again.

 

BARBARA:

THEY OUGHT TO MAKE THE DAY THE

TIME CHANGES THE FIRST DAY OF

SUMMER.  THEN TWO GOOD THINGS

WOULD HAPPEN ALL AT ONCE.  

 

A little laugh from the man as he straightens his tie.

 

BARBARA:

I LOVE THE LONG DAYS AND

THE EXTRA SUN.

 

JOHN:

A LOT OF GOOD THE EXTRA DAYLIGHT DOES ME. 

I LOST AN HOUR’S SLEEP.  AND IT’S DARK ALREADY,

AND WE STILL HAVE A THREE-HOUR DRIVE,

AND WE WON’T GET BACK TILL AFTER MIDNIGHT.

 

Barbara reaches down to put her shoes on:

 

BARBARA:

IF IT REALLY DRAGGED YOU THAT MUCH,

YOU WOULDN’T DO IT.

 

JOHN:

ARE YOU KIDDING?  I CERTAINLY DON’T

WANT TO BLOW SUNDAY ON THIS SCENE.

WE’RE GONNA EITHER HAVE TO MOVE

MOTHER TO PARKVILLE OR MOVE THE

GRAVE TO PITTSBURGH.

 

BARBARA:

OH, YOU’RE JUST BEING SILLY.  MOTHER

CAN’T MAKE A DRIVE LIKE THIS.

 

John reaches to the back seat and produces a flowered, cross-shaped grave ornament. In the center of the cross, in gold script on a red field, is written “We Still Remember”

 

JOHN:

LOOK, TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS…”WE STILL

REMEMBER’… I DON’T, YOU KNOW IT…

I DON’T REMEMBER WHAT THE

GUY LOOKS LIKE.

 

BARBARA:

JOHNNY… IT TAKES YOU FIVE MINUTES.

 

JOHN:

THREE HOURS... NO, SIX HOURS…SIX

HOURS AND FIVE MINUTES.

 

Barbara continues to primp and straighten her outfit.  John hands her the grave ornament and leans forward to struggle into his suit jacket.

 

JOHN:

MOTHER WANTS TO REMEMBER.  SO WE

HAVE TO DRIVE FOUR-HUNDRED MILES

TO PLANT A CROSS ON A GRAVE.

AS IF HE’S STARING UP THROUGH THE GROUND’TO

CHECK OUT THE DECORATIONS…

(He points at the cross inscription)…

WE HAVE TO REMEMBER…

AND SHE STAYS AT HOME.

 

BARBARA:

JOHNNY, WE’RE HERE…ALL RIGHT?

 

She opens her door and turns to step out. John takes the keys from the ignition and drops them into his pocket.

 

JOHN:

HEY…HEY, BARB, YOU KNOW THE

RADIO’S BEEN ON ALL THIS TIME…

 

(Tighter Shot of Radio)

 

VOICE:

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN…PLEASE

FORGIVE…WHAT…HEY,

YOU GOT A SIGNAL, CHARLIE?…  

 

JOHN:

IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE STATION

 

VOICE:

…DO NOT BE AL…

 

John clicks the radio off.  He gets out of the car and walks around the front of it, trotting to catch up with his sister.  It is obvious that she didn’t hear him.  He catches up to her and starts to repeat his discovery about the radio.

 

JOHN:

HEY, THE RADIO IS OKAY, IT’S JUST…

 

Barbara is more interested in finding the row containing their father’s grave.

 

BARBARA:

YOU REMEMBER WHICH ROW ITS IN?

 

JOHN:

(Momentarily forgetting the radio)

HUH?  OH, IT’S OVER HERE, IT THINK…

 

They start in his suggested direction.

 

JOHN:

DID YOU HEAR THE RADIO?

 

BARBARA:

(Looking ahead, trying to spot the grave)

HMMM?

 

JOHN:

THE RADIO’S FIXED.  MUST’VE BEEN THE

STATION, NOT THE RADIO.

 

BARBARA:

(Still searching intently, she tosses this Line away)

GOOD…  YOU WON’T BE AS BITCHY

DRIVING HOME.

 

Their jibes at each other are not really in anger, but are typical of brother-sister annoyance.  They walk through the row of gravestones in the growing darkness.

 

JOHN:

(Making conversation, with no more Significance than a 

comment about the weather)

NOBODY AROUND.

 

BARBARA:

WELL, IT IS LATE.  IF YOU’D GET UP A

LITTLE EARLIER…

 

JOHN:

I ALREADY LOST AN HOUR’S SLEEP ON THE

TIME CHANGE.

 

BARBARA:

ON, SOMETIMES I THINK YOU COMPLAIN JUST

TO HEAR YOURSELF TALK.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18