George A. Romero’s
The Amusement Park
review by Bobby Blakey
Iconic director George A. Romero is obviously well known for developing the zombie into everything we still hold onto today with his 1968 zombie masterpiece Night of the Living Dead. In 1973 he was commissioned by the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania as an educational film about elder abuse called The Amusement Park. Sadly outside of a few screenings they were unhappy with the bizarre shocking nature of it all and the film was shelved not to be seen again for 46 years. Now the film is getting a proper release, but is it worth the trip to the park or will it fail to get on the ride?
The Amusement Park follows an elderly man who finds himself disoriented and increasingly isolated as the pains, tragedies, and humiliations of aging in America are manifested through roller coasters and chaotic crowds.
The film stars Lincoln Maazel who opens the flick with a monologue like an infomercial which initially had me confused before knowing the history of the film. Those that don’t know will likely have the same feeling throughout the entire thing. Knowing what it was meant to be and its full execution it is a piece of ahead of its time brilliant cinema that perfectly deals with the elder abuse scenario in a bizarre way.
The films run time is barely an hour, which makes sense to what it is and hearing that the film was recently discovered after essentially being lost all these years made it one I really wanted to experience. It is not scary, gory or even overly violent, but instead a look into the mistreatment, degradation and insulting behavior on the older crowd and is all the more terrifying in that alone.
It is such a strange narrative that often times doesn’t even feature dialogue, but still speaks volumes to the situation at hand. Every turn showcases a real life situation, but injected into the world of this amusement park that makes no sense and yet all the sense in the world.
Romero had a vision and it is brilliance. The film honestly isn’t good in the formal sense, but knowing its history and what it was meant to be it is ahead of its time and well done. I enjoyed it for the strangeness of it all and happy to know that it had been found and sent to Romero himself before he passed.
Check out The Amusement Park available now on Blu-ray and DVD from RLJE Films and Shudder.