night OF THE LIVING DEAD
For the most part John Russo, in
writing the novelization of Night of the Living Dead, stayed
closely to the original script, filling in pages of the 22 chapters with
many unfilmed scenarios. Seeking George Romero’s
blessing (and selling power), Russo sought a preface for his book.
Ages are given for Barbara (19) and
Johnny (26). The cemetery is very much the same as it was visualized in
the movie – no entrance gate, no lawn, no walls. Just tombstones and
dead leaves scattered about. A different touch borrowed from the script
is an old church nearby that serves as a landmark in Johnny finding the
remote cemetery. When Johnny hears the radio announcer come back on, it
is line for line identical to the original script, though Russo adds in
that Johnny figured the radio is either dead or not dead, but not coming
to life every now and then.
Johnny smokes a cigarette instead of
putting on his gloves. He accuses his sister of being afraid of the dead
people and warns that they’re coming out of their graves, spotting the
first zombie – mistaking him for a caretaker.
Barbara screams for help but stops
realizing no one would be around to hear. The zombie described as the
attacker, uses a rock to crack Johnny’s skull. The way it’s
described is through Barbara’s P.O.V. She cannot make out who is
winning the struggle, and sees the one of the figure’s skull crushed.
Then she sees in the moonlight it’s her brother, and the attacker is
ripping flesh from his face. Just as she did in the original script,
Barbara escapes toward a rural highway and reaches a low stone wall. She
runs toward the soft glow of a window in the distance. Reaching the
storage shed written in the script but not seen in the filmed version,
she continues to the house screaming. Luckily she finds a skeleton key
in the doorknob of the entrance and is able to lock the approaching
attacker out. Looking out the house window, she sees another man
approaching – even spotting a truck coming up towards the house. Her
attacker is waiting under a tree, as if he is resting, gazing toward the
house. Of course, Ben is first mentioned as just a truck driver as per
the original script then his identity assumes that of the black drifter
we come to know in the film. The living room/tire iron zombie played by
John Russo, unlike his screen equivalent, is described as severely
rotten – with an eye hanging half out of his socket. A white fluid,
not blood, oozes out of the jack handle blow to its skull.
The only sounds described are that of
the rasping crickets and the dead lungs of the zombies. Radio broadcasts
and Ben’s account of the incident at Beekman’s Diner are identical
to the original script, although he mentions that he is a father of two
boys assuring himself aloud that they can fend for themselves if he
doesn’t return. We also learn that the truck Ben is driving belonged
to a man he found dead by a roadside.
Moving her corpse into a vacant bedroom,
Ben observes that the elderly woman upstairs had been gnawed on right
through her spine. He investigates one room that contains the mutilated
corpse of a little boy same age as one of his. He figures this child was
the lady’s grandson, and that he had been attacked while sleeping,
noticing the disturbing sight of bloodstained bed sheets.
Tom’s age is 16 years old and he wears
a denim jacket instead of Judy’s character. Harry fiddles with a radio
(as in the original script) but gets nothing but static in the cellar.
He also makes a stretcher for Karen while Tom and Judy handle the
molotov cocktails. Ben removes the bodies again so Harry can throw the
molotovs out one of the bedroom windows onto the lawn.
On the television broadcast, Chief Conan
McClellan advises not only beating and burning the attackers but also
chopping their heads off. In fact, each time a ghoul is killed by the
men it’s head is hacked off with a machete as an extra safety measure.
A bus crash had just been surveyed by McClellan’s posse moving through
rural Pennsylvania (integrated in Russo’s Return of the Living Dead
novel). The posse rest at a makeshift camp in the fields near the Miller
farmhouse they’ve spotted on the map. Deputy George Henderson (a
character from part of the unfilmed script) also assists the
posse and speaks a bit.
On television, the doctor’s name is
Lewis Stanford not Grimes as in the film. When Barbara’s now undead
brother grabs her, his fingers dig in her throat, and she is torn apart
and eaten by a pack of starved zombies. Ben also gets bitten during his
struggle with Karen.
Ben is woken up not by the barking of
dogs but first by a helicopter. The posse enters the farmhouse and finds
the bodies upstairs of Miller and her grandson when an anonymous posse
member shoots Ben in the head as he comes through the cellar door.
McClellan follows his lines as in the first draft of the script -
"be careful! There might be people in there!"
Warner Books released the novel (ISBN: 0-446-76410-8-125) January 1974
with a photo cover of white arms reaching through a boarded up window.
As a bonus, 16 pages in addition to the 192 pages of text had multiple
photos per page. These very first pressings should have a Kent cigarette
ad intact. A second printing by Pocket Books (ISBN: 0-671-83573-4)
arrived seven years later with 176 pp, 16pp of different photos.
Mylar back poetically reads: "They are coming, filling the night
with a furious howl, and staining the earth blood-red…their powers are
swelling, from feasting on flesh and gnawing on bone, now they are drunk
on the sweet taste of blood…and they march to the rhythm of death. Now
they will crash down the gates, take all that is theirs, and wipe the
blood from their lips…" A simultaneous, scarcer, Canadian Pocket
pressing with a non-mylar cover (ISBN: 0-671-43768-2) exists,
recognizable by its white spine. Both had rather dull covers of a
woman's hair being pulled from behind by a zombie’s hand whose ripped
through the book cover itself!
July 1983 saw the British pressing from New English Library (ISBN:
0-450-05583-3). Though the back text reads similar to the Pocket edition’s
write-up, the cover is probably the best of all Night
Italy was first to issue a foreign
language translation (Il Libro della Paura 02588) in Oct. 1978. The
cover art suggests the NOTLD myth that the corpses rose from the
cemetery ground. 1979’s German pressing from Pabel/Moewig Verslagunion
(Vampir no. 73) was also traditional in its cover art – A ghoul
painted after Peter Cushing’s zombie in the 1972 movie Tales From
the Crypt is attacking a young girl.
The 1993 reissue from Goldmann Filmbuch (ISBN: 3-442-08108-4) with a
still of the zombified Johnny entering the house door was a much more
appropriate cover. Other nations continued to stray from the intended
concept. Spain’s Martinez-Roca publishing house used a skull candle
and ghostly image, Denmark’s Midnattsgrosseren used a shrouded
skeleton, Brazil used the Belgian poster art and France a painting for
theirs, book one in the 1985 GORE series (Fleuve Noir ISBN:
To date, Canada was the last to reissue
the novel. Ravenmor, part of Commonwealth Publishing (ISBN:
1-55197-508-4) did so in 1996 for only a year; they were sued and put
out of business by unpaid authors. The cover again, erroneously implied
even the buried dead rose from the grave and furthermore reads "the
terrifying novel that inspired the internationally acclaimed cult
classic". Supernatural powers are suggested by the blurb
"feasts of flesh and bone fuel their powers of evil". The
publisher also made sure to print "by John Russo: Author of The
Awakening" though that title is hardly a distinguished work in
A very poor Audiobook (ISBN:
0-671-66200-7) was released in 1988 by Simon & Schuster (who owned
Pocket Books). Adapted by Michael Brooks from Russo’s novelization,
with mentions of Mrs. Miller and her grandson), the hour-long
dramatization features voicework of actor William Hootkins (Star
Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark) as Ben, Ed Bishop as Harry and Linda
Hayes as both Helen Cooper and Barbara. Bishop incidentally also
narrates. Most of the story is dialogue exposition and necessary sound
effects (i.e. window breakings, zombie moans) were left out. The little
Karen zombie actually speaks, tricking her mother into picking her up.
Brooks chose to replace the radio commentator with a lame impersonation
of President Ronald Reagan. Coarse language was injected as well as
stronger racial tension between Ben and Harry; Ben appears to be a
combination of the unsophisticated truck driver of the original script
and the smart and sensible character in the film. Even at its original
price of $9.95, this piece doesn’t seem to have much value even as a
THE COMPLETE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD FILMBOOK
(Imagine ISBN: 0-91137-03-3) 1985
by John Russo. 120pp. Orig. sold for $12.95. Preface by George Romero.
Karen Cooper face cover;
1986 reissue by Harmony reprint orange/black
collage cover ISBN: 0-517-56170-0)