Night of the Tom Savini

Tom SaviniOn or about this day in 1558, the great Elizabethan playwright Thomas Kyd was born. He more or less invented the revenge play—a genre that is still with us today. Think: The Expendables 2 where the hero is far more concerned with killing the villain than stopping him from flooding the world with Plutonium. Kyd was one of the biggest playwrights of that time. In fact, he seems to have been roommates with Christopher Marlowe. This eventually led to his downfall. In 1593, the authorities searched his lodgings and found a heretical book, which he most likely got from Marlowe. This ended in Kyd’s imprisonment and the loss of his patronage. And he died shortly after. We don’t know what the cause was, but a great conspiracy could be developed given that it wasn’t long after Marlowe’s death.

Comedian Dennis Miller is 60 today. I hate him. I remember that he had a liberal political show on some pay channel many years ago. And then he just changed on a dime and became conservative. Now this isn’t surprising. His opinions when he was a liberal didn’t seem any more wedded to reality than his conservative opinions do today. That’s true of most people. I don’t find Democrats or Republicans to be very clear in their political thinking, although you pretty much have to be delusional to be a Republican today. And if the country took a sharp left turn, I’m sure that Miller would find his way back to liberalism. The main problem with him is that his entire act is now and has always been attitude. There isn’t much substance there. It’s good he’s found his place at Fox News because he doesn’t have much to offer as a comedian.

Actor Kevin Murphy is 57. He is best known as Tom Servo V. 2 in one of my favorite shows Mystery Science Theater 3000. But let’s face it, Crow he ain’t. And Tom has latent negative feelings toward Crow as you can see in the following scene:

Comedian Dylan Moran is 42.

Other birthday: Baroque painter Annibale Carracci (1560); the father of Texas Stephen Austin (1793); politician Michael Dukakis (80); comedian Roseanne Barr (61); musician Adam Ant (59); and the great film writer and director Gary Ross (57).

The day, however, belongs to the great filmmaker Tom Savini who is 67 today. It is probably best to describe him as a special effects make-up artist. But he does a whole lot more than that: general special effects, acting, stunts, productions. But I’ve put him here because he directed the stellar remake of Night of the Living Dead. I can do no better than quote Joe Bob Briggs’s review of the film:

I admit it, I was a scoffer. I didn’t believe they could do it. Me of little faith. Night of the Living Dead—regarded by the drive-in-going public of the world as the greatest movie ever made—was rewritten two years ago, and a remake was announced. Not only did it have the blessing of George Romero, but George Romero was gonna write and produce the remake.

Excuse me, but this would be like Mark Twain waking up one morning and saying “You know that Huck Finn thing I did? I don’t like it anymore. I’m doing it again.” And so everybody went “George! No! Please! You must be senile! Don’t try it!” But he did it. He turned over the direction to Tom Savini, his special-effects makeup guy, the man whose made a whole career out of building slimy pus-filled ghoul faces. We kept trying to talk him out of it. “George, don’t do it! We love the black-and-white! It won’t work in color!” But he kept on…

This time, with professional actors, with color, with special effects, with zombies that out-zombie the original zombies, they’ve told the exact same story, with about five minutes of changes in the plot, just enough to give it a great surprise at the end, and even though you’ve seen it before, and even though you know what the zombies are gonna do, and even though you know what each of the people inside the house are gonna do, it still scares the bejabbers out of you and satisfies the first rule of drive-in moviemaking: anybody can die at any moment.

I’m humiliated that I was such a doubter. I apologize to Mr. Savini and Mr. Romero. Wheel in the Academy members from Palm Springs. Hook up their IV’s. Force em to watch this. Because, as Barbara says, “They’re us. We’re them and they’re us.”

Here is a great clip of Tom Savini with David Letterman. It’s very funny and Savini seems very sweet, but maybe that’s just in comparison to Letterman.

Happy birthday Tom Savini!

2 thoughts on “Night of the Tom Savini

  1. Nobody reads Joe Bob anymore. It’s sad. His scholarly tidbits of film history between commercials on TNT’s "Monstervision" were fabulous. And his books are really good film history, too. He’s just a terrific writer, whose redneck schtick had its day, and now he’s ignored. A shame. His piece on Tarantino in "Profoundly Disturbing" should be the go-to reference point on that talented, self-satisfied little prick.

    Here’s his fantastic bit on Amtrak:

    Stuff like that should be published in "Salon" or "The New Yorker" and Joe Bob a regular guest on NPR. It’s not and he isn’t. I don’t quite get why not, except that he was briefly semi-famous for creating a persona that isn’t who the guy is at all.

    A lot of popular writers have a "if you’re good enough, success will come" mindset, because that’s what happened to them. Joe Bob is damn good enough, and he’s more-or-less gone. I try and encourage every good new writer I read (no point in telling them they might fail), but the successful ones who are arrogant about their own brilliance, I just wish I could slap upside the ear.

  2. @JMF – I don’t think he’s gone for reasons other than that he wants to be. I think he just does whatever he finds interesting. I respect artists who don’t feel the need to maximize their public profile. But you are right, he would be perfect for [i]Salon[/i] or even better, [i]Slate[/i]. He could write headlines like, "What’s the Best 1968 George Romero Horror Film? Hint: It’s Not Night of the Living Dead!"

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