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The Last Drive-In — Season Four, Week Uno: Night of the Living Dead and Anthropophagus

The Last Drive-In — Season Four, Week Uno: Night of the Living Dead and Anthropophagus 1
Art by T.J. Denton (@TDenton_1138 on Twitter)

Like that human-sized cicada from The Beast Within or the grown dude that emerges very painfully from that prone lady in Xtro, we emerged from our Last Drive-in offseason dormancy, and lo and behold, lookie here, we find out that it’s been 100 flicks (give or take because math in Grapevine is different than other places) shown by Joe Bob, Darcy and the rest of the crew on Shudder.

And what better way to get a season rolling by revisiting the hoary, gory (for its time), public-domain, genre-changing four-star 1968 George Romero zombie flick that captured the zeitgeist, roasted it over a flaming pickup truck and has chowed down on audience’s fears, expectations and interpretations for more than half a flipping century?

As Joe Bob readily admitted, it’s very difficult to say something new about Night of the Living Dead because, oh, just about every horror host, wannabe horror host and their pet bearded dragon have seen it thanks to the late-stage title change when they were getting ready to release it in ’68 and the ensuing copyright snafu that unleashed, much like a pack of ravenous decaying ghouls, the hordes of film distributors, TV programmers, video tape companies, DVD manufacturers and streamers to show the flick whenever and however they wanted.

So what San Francisco Creature Features host Bob Wilkins started pretty much right after the flick came out, even as it was still playing as a midnight movie at theaters and at drive-ins through the late 1960s, 1970s and even into the 1980s, well, you knew The Last Drive-In would need to continue that. 

But for this very special century celebration, it wasn’t enough to learn about the connection between Calgon and cannibal ghouls, Mr. Rogers and George Romero and also have a bin filled with a metric ton of VHS releases of NOTLD, all with the same (we think) Drive-In Totals.

As always, thank you Shudder Twitterer!

Nope. In addition to all of the above, that which T.J. Denton prophesied came to pass: A Svengoolie, JBB and Darcy horror-host team-up that covered such diverse topics as vaudeville bits, getting pied in the face, the care and feeding of rubber chickens, how sometimes films just have to get chopped to make room for the commercials when you’re working network and the secret history of Berwyn.

And, upon rewatching NOTLD, that Venus probe launch factoid was a revelation and so it was all the Russians’ fault. If only the military hadn’t shot that sucker down and the people in the farmhouse (all of em, even Ben), woulda cooperated, maybe the majority of em wouldn’t have ended up coming out of the wrong end of the zombie.

And speaking of launch, Joe Bob revealed that his drive-in reviewing career started out with a nasty, vile deception at the Gemini in Texas. More than four decades ago, Edward Montoro got ahold of an Italian cross of Cannibal Holocaust and Gilligan’s Island called Anthropophagus, switched the title to The Grim Reaper and then cut out all the good parts. It explains why on Jan. 15, 1982, readers of the now-long-defunct Dallas Times-Herald’s Weekend section missed out on these totals:
Courtesy Shudder Twitter.

But let’s pause for a moment to give some praise to Joe D’Amato, the Italian director of many aliases with a real name of Aristide Massaccesi. With no illusions of being an artist, he brought stuff into the world like The Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, Beyond the Darkness, Black Sex and Porno Holocaust. And also mad props to the double-threat actor-writer George Eastman (real name Luigi Monteflori), who played Anthropophagus and munched on some gross stuff in the name of drive-in art.

And while Mia Farrow’s sister wandered around a fake Greek isle and Eastman lurked for the vast majority of the flick waiting for people to chew on, Darcy got JBB a cake and initiated a Mail Girl handicap match situation when Honey Gregory, the Original Mail Girl from Drive-In Theater and the early episodes of MonsterVision, came back to hang out and stop Joe Bob from talking about donkey trips on Route 67.

Honey, it’s been a minute! Was great to see you again!

So the birth of a drive-in reviewer career was celebrated and a 40-year wrong was righted in Season 4, Episode Uno. (You can read the original review of The Grim Reaper on The Lost Drive-In Patreon.)

But while Joe Bob finally got to see the uncensored Anthropophagus, he never got around to looking at the next D’Amato-Eastman team-up of Absurd. Fortunately, I got you covered.

So check that out, and check you later for Season Four, Episode Two-o with some witchy doings promised.

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