Director: George A. Romero
Writer: Wally Cook
Starring: Lincoln Maazel, Harry Albacker, Phyllis Casterwiler, Pete Chovan, Sally Erwin,
Shortly after finishing Season of the Witch, director George A. Romero was approached by the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania to make an educational film about ageism and how the elderly are neglected by the youth of society. The film was Romero’s only work-for-hire film, and one of only three that Romero directed but didn’t write, with the screenplay instead being written by Wally Cook. The idea was to show the film at community centres but was ultimately shelved due to the more experimental and unsettling tone of the film.
For over forty years the film was considered lost, until a friend of Romero gave him and his wife a copy a few weeks before his death in 2017. Even Romero’s wife had never heard of it before, but was shocked when she saw it, not only because he had never mentioned it before, but also because of how relevant it feels today and how edgy it feels. The film starts with Lincoln Maazel, who would go on to work with Romero again in Martin, out of character telling the audience the purpose of the film. It is designed to make you feel the issues that the elderly goes through daily without just regurgitating facts and stats that we’ve all heard time and time again.
After the short introduction Maazel is in a white sterile room with a bloody forehead and looks broken, he’s then approached by a more optimistic version of himself, who asks if he’s going to go outside. Not heading the advice of the bloody version of himself to not go out there, Maazel goes out into the amusement park with a hopeful feeling, but instead goes through a series of events that lead him to become the bloody version of himself at the start, and the cycle starts again.
It’s not really a narrative film, even though there’s a loose plot. Instead, it’s a series of abstract and dreamlike events that drive the main character to lose all hope. The film completes what it sets out to do by creating the feeling of isolation and separation from the rest of the people in the park. As younger people seemingly have a good day out, Maazel aimlessly wanders about, being taken advantage of by pickpockets or being forced into a room for the elderly as if he was a child. It’s a deeply strange and unsettling experience that does get under your skin.
This isn’t something you would watch as a good horror film, but it is interesting to see a piece of Romero’s career that has been all but forgotten. It’s a curiosity piece that still works almost fifty years later and is worth watching for that alone.
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