Dawn of the Dead (1978) and The Quest for Information

At the Saturday Nightmares convention, one of the big draws was a screening of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead. The pull was a reenactment of the opening reporter scene with the original newscasters David Crawford and David Early. The room went dark with only the logo for the convention projected onto a large pop up movie screen. The speakers began to play the soundtrack from the film without any dialog: the score and the sound effects. The lights came up on the actors sitting to the side of the screen.

What I don't think anyone realized was that the reenactment was just going to be the newscasters' dialog while all hell breaks loose in the film. This was actually a very enlightening exercise. Crawford and Early acted out the entire dialog they acted out in the film. The thing is that not all of their dialog made it into the final cut of the film.

The basic argument comes across in the original release: one reporter believes that the government has the entire situation under control. The other believes that the government is hiding information that would let people handle the situation themselves. This edited version makes it seem like the two reporters are on opposing sides of the argument.

The interest comes from what is revealed in the full version of the scene. The two reporters are arguing for the same solution. They both know that these reanimated bodies need to be destroyed. The method is their only impasse.

The first reporter believes that government compliance is the key to solving the epidemic. The soldiers are specially trained to handle the threat. People hiding by themselves and hoarding supplies aren't going to make the situation go away any faster. If we all cooperate with the government, we will all be saved.

The second believes something quite different. We just don't know enough about this undead uprising. Are they really just driven by food? Do they have any memories or desires? Is there a way to cure the corpses? And can anyone destroy them if threatened by the onslaught?

The brilliance of Dawn of the Dead comes through in these politically charged scenes. Even the TV station employees can't agree on a proper course of action when an emergency broadcast system is in place. Do they send everyone out into the streets to possibly die when following the government's plans or do they encourage citizens to stay home?

The choice is even more muddied by the time we see the specially trained soldiers initiating an evacuation. The people in the building are in a panic. Their loved ones are dying and no one is telling them what's happening. Men come in firing guns and smoke bombs so they can clear the building. Some people won't leave. Those who won't leave are forcefully dragged out where many are killed by the wandering dead. Even the soldiers start dying when their government-issued weapons fail.

The initial newscaster scene is the thesis of the film. Romero is not trying to offer a solution to this undead threat. He is showing how no one solution to any major national crisis can be solved in one way for everybody. His driving force is the availability of information. TV station employee Francine Parker becomes Romero's voice throughout the course of the film. She constantly demands to be kept in the loop until there is no more information available. She can assess what she knows to make the best decision every time because she doesn't blindly take everyone for their word.

In conclusion, please to enjoy these two rocking photos of the original Hare-Krishna zombie joining in on the reenactment shenanigans. That blue make-up is haunting in person and he did not break during the entire performance.