The Amusement Park (1975) – Film Review

The Amusement Park (1975) – Film Review bluray

Director: George A Romero
Cast: Lincoln Maazel, Harry Albacker, Phyllis Casterwiler
Certificate: 12

By Sarah Morgan

George A Romero was the father of the zombie movie, and remains a horror icon five years after his death following a battle with lung cancer.

In a 50-year career, he made many memorable films, including the groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead. His follow-up projects, including There’s Always Vanilla and The Crazies, were less well received.

The Amusement Park (1975) – Film Review coverAlso around this time – the early 1970s – Romero accepted a commission from the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania to make an educational film about elder abuse and ageism. The resulting 52-minute short was the only movie Romero made as a director-for-hire – he originated everything else himself – and perhaps that’s one of the reasons why it’s been largely ignored, until now.

“Turns into a nightmare”

The Amusement Park is also a real curiosity piece shot in 1973 which didn’t see the light of day until 1975 when it was premiered at the American Film Festival in New York. It was shelved immediately afterwards, with Romero’s third and final wife, Suzanne Desrocher-Romero, suggesting the movie was rather edgier than its backers had expected.

And so it was unseen for more than 30 years, before eventually being shown at a Romero retrospective in 2001. That poor print has since been restored with the backing of the George A Romero Foundation, and the result is now receiving a welcome widespread release.

Lincoln Maazel (who later starred in Romero’s 1978 cult hit Martin) plays an unnamed elderly man whose day at the titular amusement park (the film was shot over three days on location at the now-closed West View Park in Pennsylvania) turns into a nightmare.

He is witness or subjected to a number of abusive situations, the kind we’re led to believe OAPs face every day, from poor living conditions to bullying and a lack of empathy. Each tale is told via one of the park’s rides or attractions.

The Amusement Park (1975) – Film Review

“Shiver down the spine”

Even Romero himself appears in one scene, playing a dodgem driver who tries to blame the crash he caused on the elderly woman in the vehicle behind before pouring scorn on Maazel’s eyewitness statement.

Although meant to inspire more empathy for the elderly, and to encourage the public to volunteer their help to various charitable organisations, the film is more likely to terrify everyone – if this is what lays ahead, you can bet some viewers would prefer to be more like The Who, who famously claimed they hoped they’d die before they got old.

Those who are familiar with Romero’s work will recognise his visual style, and for fans, it’s a must-see. Others who may get something from the piece are those who love the Public Information Films of the 1970s that still send a shiver down the spine; they are almost cut from the same terrifying cloth.

Special features include:
• Audio commentary with Michael Gornick
• ‘Re-opening The Park’ with Suzanne Desrocher-Romero
• ‘Bill & Bonnie’s Excellent Adventure’ with Bonnie Hinzman
• ‘For Your Amusement’ with artist Ryan Carr
• Panel interview with Suzanne Desrocher-Romero, Sandra Schulberg, Greg Nicotero and Daniel Kraus, moderated by Shudder’s Samuel Zimmerman
• The Amusement Park official brochure
• The Amusement Park script
• Behind-the-scenes photo gallery
The Amusement Park is released on Blu-ray by Shudder

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