Few issues make a cinephile’s coronary heart flutter just like the emergence of a “misplaced” movie. Discoveries just like the lacking reels of Fritz Lang’s 1927 movie Metropolis, which have been unveiled in 2010, give hope that at some point the lacking Lon Chaney movie London After Midnight, or any of the 1000’s of actually misplaced movies, will magically be found, safely preserved of their tins, patiently ready to be proven to hungry movie followers. Due to studios’ flippant early attitudes about cinema, and the flammability of older film applied sciences, being a movie-lover can typically imply understanding that sure films now not exist, however nonetheless hanging onto hope.
That’s why Shudder’s launch of the not too long ago restored and quasi-lost 1973 George A. Romero movie The Amusement Park ought to be celebrated. The film is an artifact, and an identifiable early step into his profession as a grasp of horror. However there’s additionally no disgrace in admitting that it isn’t a holy grail, a secret masterpiece from an early horror maestro. At finest, it’s principally a heavy-handed, inelegant Twilight Zone episode that was finally rejected by the non secular group that commissioned it.
Whereas Romero is rightly worshipped because the godfather of contemporary zombie cinema, he didn’t essentially got down to make the undead — or as he known as them, “ghouls” — into his life’s work. Like most mortals, the man needed to eat, and to maintain that, he began his movie profession as an industrial and business producer and director. A cursory look at his filmography through the years would possibly give the impression that his rise to horror auteurdom was swift after he made Evening of the Dwelling Useless in 1968, however the trajectory was far bumpier. Evening of the Dwelling Dead was initially panned by critics within the U.S. (famously by Roger Ebert), and it didn’t earn audiences or vital acclaim till after its launch in France, to nice appreciation. The truth that he tousled the copyright on the movie and by no means earned any cash from it didn’t assist. The yr after its preliminary launch, it was re-released stateside, and Romero then started moving into narrative feature-film directing, and away from his day job.
However films are costly to make, and Romero nonetheless wanted to earn a residing, so the business work carried on. That is the place The Amusement Park neatly nestles itself into his filmography. It was commissioned and financed by the Lutheran Society as a PSA of kinds for elevating consciousness for elder abuse and mistreatment. They finally shelved the movie as a result of they weren’t pleased with it, even after reshoots, and on a shelf it sat till IndieCollect’s 4K restoration.
It’s robust to argue that the movie was “misplaced” within the conventional means. The Amusement Park was by no means meant for large launch, and even theatrical launch. It was by no means adored by audiences, solely to mysteriously disappear from catalogues and artwork cinemas, solely to hang-out our collective reminiscences. Nope. The Amusement Park was paid for by some well-intentioned, however maybe barely confused Lutherans, who determined it wasn’t going to serve their functions. So that they tucked it away, and that was that.
However whereas horror writers and theorists at all times knew in regards to the existence of The Amusement Park, that they had no means of watching it. Tony Williams’ 2003 ebook The Cinema of George A. Romero: Knight of the Dwelling Useless” briefly discusses the movie, although Williams hadn’t seen it himself. The peculiar nature of the movie’s manufacturing is a footnote of curiosity for film followers, however for anybody with a primary working information of Romeo’s historical past in business productions, its financing and existence make plain sense.
And nonetheless, the movie’s unavailability in an age of availability constructed a mystique. And that may result in some main letdowns for individuals anticipating it to be one other Daybreak of the Useless, or perhaps a Season of the Witch. As a result of in the long run, it’s straightforward to see why The Amusement Park spent many years in cinematic limbo: it simply will not be that good.
The Amusement Park primarily explains its anti-elder-abuse agenda within the prologue, the place a kind-voiced man walks by an empty amusement park and warns us what we’re about to see. This introduction, and a equally introduced epilogue have been tacked on after a requested reshoot to make the movie’s objective clearer.
The Amusement Park largely consists of vignettes which can be loosely strung collectively to indicate metaphorical and satirical variations of the methods seniors battle and are forgotten by society. It’s framed inside an amusement park, the place every attraction or sales space is a microcosm of one thing unsuitable with the way in which we deal with the aged, from monetary issues to medical or bodily ones. Romero reveals hucksters, first-aid tents, and bumper automobiles as examples of the systemic abuse towards the older generations. The parable is apt, however the remedy of it’s clunky.
Nobody will ever accuse Romero of being delicate, however the heavy-handed, repetitive nature of The Amusement Park is tedious. It presents one instance after one other of the methods we mistreat seniors with out nuance, perception, or hope. It’s mean-spirited, however by no means builds to any conclusion or raises the dialog past that. Seeing one incident or seven incidents makes no distinction within the message it’s getting throughout. It provides nothing to its personal dialog.
The movie can also be technically unsophisticated. It suffers from pretty critical sound points, and sometimes the hand held camerawork is ineffectively pointed within the unsuitable route, or the digicam is out of focus. The movie isn’t polished and packaged in the way in which followers would possibly count on from a soon-to-be well-known filmmaker.
However The Amusement Park has appreciable worth, when it’s taken in context. As an artifact of Romero’s profession, it’s tremendously necessary. There are nuggets in there that trace at his extra political and social themes, which might later emerge in the remainder of his zombie saga. The Amusement Park can also be a transparent gateway for him from one profession to the following. It’s the bridge between his business and industrial filmmaking and his horror-centric feature-film directing. It straddles each of these worlds, with out a lot success, however that doesn’t make that step any much less necessary to acknowledge.
Horror followers are moreover themselves to find a new-to-them movie by one of many grandaddies of their beloved style. However anybody who queues up The Amusement Park on Shudder this week anticipating a feature-length, lovingly crafted horror movie is prone to be disenchanted by this lackluster PSA. With a bit consciousness of Romero’s earlier life, although, and a few thought of the place this movie got here from, that disappointment has the possibility to no less than morph into historic appreciation.
The Amusement Park is now streaming on Shudder.