Don't gaze at the cover too long, it might give you nightmares...
after it puts you to sleep.
When I recently posted scans of a 1971 Newsweek article on "Night of the Living Dead," some readers shared their memories of a Reader's Digest article from back in the late 60's that described the movie's horror so vividly that it alone gave them nightmares.
My curiosity was piqued, so I looked up the article online and found a copy of the June 1969 issue of Reader's Digest on eBay. Now I have it in my sweaty hands, and am sharing it with you. If you remember it, this will bring all the details back in crystal clarity. If you have never read it, it will not only amuse you, but educate you to some history; both about the movie, and the reviewer, a then little-known critic by the name of Roger Ebert.
Apparently, the article, entitled "Just Another Horror Movie - Or Is It?" did both the movie and critic a world of good; the movie became more of a legend that simply had to be seen; and the critic won notice by reviewing it and went on to more fame. It's an interesting read; as one has to wonder what happened to the "poor traumatized tykes," and also to read Roger's take on the film. Referring to Ben only as "the Negro," he was a bit racially insensitive, even considering the times. He watched the movie; couldn't he have remembered that his name was Ben? Even a simple line at the beginning that said "a young Negro, named Ben..." and then referred to him by name; but as it is he reduces the character to a racial type, and in the process, demeans him.
Ebert was also insensitive to the idea of "spoilers," since he reveals the whole plot and even the shocking ending. At least, it would have been shocking to the readers that saw it later if he hadn't told them about it in advance. Thanks, Roger... when you reviewed "Planet of the Apes" did you tell everyone "and they were on ***** the whole time"?
The whole article is less of a review than it is a righteous rant on parental and film-maker carelessness in protecting children from stuff too strong for them. He's right, as far as the responsibility of the parents. If I had seen it at that age, it would have terrified me beyond my ability to deal with it also. The same warning should go to parents today who let their young children view "R" rated horror films too soon.
Anyway, here it is as promised, along with some extra tasty treats from the digest in the form of nostalgic ads. Eat it up!
Update: Thanks to reader Mike V. who supplied the link to the entire article as it is found on Roger Ebert's site. Much more gruesome in it's description, this is probably the one that people remember most. Also, Ebert explains a little more about his position on the film and the reason the review focuses more on the audience than the film.