George A. Romero: his terrifying pamphlet from 1973 finally hits theaters

A formidable plea against ageism shot in 1973, The Amusement Park had been rejected by its Lutheran sponsors. Unearthed from the archives, it appears this week in a restored version.

Thrill on the fun fair. A rather slow individual prowls in the middle of the general animation. A zombie ? A bloodthirsty killer? No, just an elderly gentleman, dressed in a neat white suit. Amidst the increasingly open hostility of the crowd, his lonely stroll through the amusement park will turn into a nightmare, a surreal nightmare. Little forgotten film by American horror pioneer George A. Romero, The Amusement Park is released this week in theaters, a little less than 50 years after its creation and its abortive release.

Stored under wraps immediately after being produced in 1973, this strange nugget of anguish long presumed lost only resurfaced in the fall of 2018, thanks to the research carried out by Suzanne Deschent-Romero, the widow of the filmmaker, in archives. Since then, restored in 4K version, and presented last year at the Lumière Festival, the film has come a long way, especially since its origin is funny to say the least. Commissioned work placed with the director of Night of the Living Dead By the Lutheran community in the city of Pittsburg, Pa., the 53-minute medium was to illustrate the subject of elder abuse, educate and alert local viewers like a parable. No bloodthirsty ghosts appearing in history, therefore; and yet, the master of explicit violence has found his account in spite of everything, pushing his specifications to the limits.

A misguided but visceral order

With a modest, but sufficient budget, as well as a comfortable number of extras (Lutheran volunteers from Pittsburg), George A. Romero seized headlong on this commission, which he shot a few months later. The Night of the Living Fools : he hires Lincoln Maazel (whom he will find for Martin) in the role of the old man, and leaves to shoot at West View Park, which has now disappeared. Far from the somewhat crude prevention film envisioned by his sponsors, the director gives birth to a terrifying production coupled with an acid commentary on American society. Worse still, it eludes the religious end desired by the Lutherans! This is too much for its patrons who put the project in the closet, where it will remain for nearly fifty years.

Seen by a small handful of privileged people, The Amusement Park has long remained one of George A. Romero’s most sought-after Arlesiennes, aided by effective word-of-mouth. Critic Tony Williams, to whom the filmmaker himself showed his work in 1980, had praised the most flattering terms – for a horror film anyway – which he had just experienced: “The film is far too powerful for American society … It must remain locked up and never see the light of day”. A point of view that he still shares, forty years later. “George Romero was not a director of zombie films. He was much more than this label which is improperly attached to him, he indicated in May to the specialized magazine International Film . He used this genre to talk about social and historical issues, in the same way that traditional Gothic fiction reacted to the turbulent events of the late 18th century.e and the beginning of the XIXe century in Europe ”.

Failing to stage cohorts of gaunt creatures, the medium-length film would be even more relevant today than at the time, as suggested in October by Maxime Lachaud, who presented the film at the Lumière Festival. “There are incredible resonances between the film and the current pandemic which points the finger at the old, sends them to the hospital, locks them in an unbearable loneliness, cuts them off from the rest of the world”, he analyzed last fall, for Telerama . A bitter experiment against ageism and validism, shot in the heyday of George A. Romero, The Amusement Park is to be found from Wednesday in specialized cinemas. This suffocating fiction on the third age is said to have not aged a bit.

  • The film is screened in particular at the Grand Action (5, rue des Écoles, Paris), at the Cinématographe (12, rue des Carmélites, Nantes), or even at the Baleine (59, cours Julien, Marseille).


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