Many fans know that Night of the Living Dead was originally titled Night of the Flesh Eaters. The name was changed at the last minute, at the behest of the distributor, and the rushed adjustment had unfortunate consequences. Since the new title frames lacked a copyright notice, the movie passed into the public domain immediately—and the filmmakers lost out on a lot of money. But what if the movie had retained its original title? For one thing, the title frames would probably have looked something like this:
Also, as long as we’re in this alternate reality, it’s fun to speculate on possible names for the sequels. Would Romero have followed a similar tack to what actually happened, giving us Dawn of the Flesh Eaters, Day of the Flesh Eaters, Land of the Flash Eaters, Diary of the Flesh Eaters and Survival of the Flesh Eaters? Unlikely. I think he would have taken a more varied approach. After all, “Flesh Eaters” has a slightly goofy ring to it, despite the bald-faced, cannibalistic meaning. Imagine George Zucco or Bela Lugosi, circa 1950, surrounded by cardboard sets and cheesy flesh eaters. Easy, right? “Living Dead,” on the other hand, is like a snatch of grim poetry. The word combination is impossible, intriguing, and wrong in the best kind of way. The complete title, Night of the Living Dead, has rhythm and balance, almost like a line from a haiku. It rolls right off the tongue, while that first title is jerky and more difficult to enunciate.
Seems like Night of the Living Dead got its title because that’s how it was meant to be. With any other moniker, despite the unmistakable quality of the movie itself, it might have sunk without a trace, and the Zombie Godfather of Pittsburgh would have gone back to making commercials and industrial shorts. Sometimes, bad luck is good luck in disguise.
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