Thursday, May 14, 2009

Haunting the Night of the Living Dead

I am relieved to have the teaching week over. The real week isn't over yet, but the part of it in which I have to teach is over. It's been a bear of a week, what with a four day a week class, four hours a day. Although I have to say I've have a great group of students -- who require little in the way of nudging to get conversations going -- and a fun topic.

Yesterday we watched the Robert Wise-directed The Haunting with Julie Harris and Claire Bloom (in her fabulous Mary Quant wardrobe). It's a beautiful, subtle and incredibly effective film. I am always amazed at the way the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I hear the sounds of the haunting begin. Wonderful!

And Night of the Living Dead! What a well crafted film -- it draws on so many of the late 60s anxieties: race tensions, generational rifts, gender anxieties, class difference. It's all there and subtly presented in the film. We had a great time reviewing all the scenes -- and contrasting their views of the 60s from the media with what the "reality" was (the 70s were FAR MORE UGLY than you think, no really far more ugly!). Funny to see huge old phones, giant radios and ice boxes. A very different time!

9 comments:

Peg A said...

I'm interested in the way that the ghouls (I hate when people call them "zombies", I dunno why) represent the era's most subversive Others: hippies and Vietcong in particular...

K. A. Laity said...

Well, true enough -- in Night of the Living Dead the "z" word is never uttered. The Ghouls are clearly rendered "others". There are a multiplicity of readings possible.

The splits are generational, racial, national as well as along class and gender lines. Chock full of significance!

Karen Walker said...

Sounds like a wonderful class. Enjoy your next few days off. These are not films I have seen, but I like reading your take on the analysis.

Karen
http://www.karenfollowingthewhispers.blogspot.com

Jina Bacarr said...

Sounds like an intensive class--I'm sure your students appreciate your insights into the culture of the times as well as the "horror."

Jina

http://tinyurl.com/BerlinSexDiary

Todd Mason said...

One thing I'd note, particularly to Karen Walker, is how badly representative of the films they advertise these posers are. NIGHT OF THE DEMON particularly, where nearly everyone involved wanted no visible demon, but golly what were you gonna splooge all over the lobby card then?

K. A. Laity said...

Excellent point, Todd. In fact we've had a bit of a discussion about misleading trailers (including Mildred's inverse law of trailers) and I made good use of the recut trailer for The Shining.

The contexts are so important -- if you say the 60s, all the students have an iconic vision in mind, especially around here: Woodstock. They need to be aware of the many tensions that NotLD plays to, e.g. when Ben slaps Barbara the contemporary audience will be seeing a black man hitting a white woman in the midst of the rise of the Black Power and Black Panther movements. When they're trying to barricade themselves, they're quite literally tearing apart the American farm house. To say nothing of the generational splits embodied in Mr Cooper and his nuclear family -- quickly exposed as a facade.

It's funny to have to explain the authority that the media once had in the days of Walter Cronkite.

Alexis Grant said...

Sounds like a fun class!

Cranky Yankee said...

Like I said, I wish I had a class like this!!

K. A. Laity said...

Cranky, I'd love to have you in a class! What fun that would be. I must admit I seem to have a good group. They have a lot to say and seem to be really on the ball. Great fun!