It is a quirk of film history that the rise of the zombie picture grew directly out of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Nothing against the wonderful Fred Rogers, that soft-spoken dean of children’s television, but there is a connection.
Back in the 1960s, when Rogers was making his TV series in Pittsburgh, a local filmmaker shot footage for various parts of the show. One segment was a chronicle of Fred’s visit to the doctor to have his tonsils out. “Which remains the scariest thing I ever made,” recalls George A. Romero, the man who filmed the sequence.
He’d know about that. Romero mentions this bit in Birth of the Living Dead, a cheerful documentary about his 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, a legendary moment in independent film and the granddaddy of the modern zombie movie. With Romero’s good-humored participation, director Rob Kuhns presents a swift-moving examination of the story behind the movie. Romero made his film independently, with investors pitching in to portray zombies and a local meat-packer contributing the internal organs needed for a key cannibalism scene.