Cert – N/A, Run-time – 53 minutes, Director – George A. Romero
An elderly gentleman (Lincoln Maazel) finds himself segregated and abused by the staff and visitors of an amusement park.
If you’re wanting to make a relatively friendly public information film then, of course, the person you want to direct is the name behind such horror films as Night Of The Living Dead. When George A. Romero submitted his film designed to bring awareness to ageism and mistreatment of the elderly to the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania they refused to do anything with it due to it being too horrifying – or as the late Romero’s wife, Suzanne Desrocher-Romero, has put it “a little edgier than they would have liked”.
For the most part the film, initially made over the course of three days in 1973, is relatively plain and simple. We see an elderly gentleman played by Lincoln Maazel, roaming around an amusement park, dressed in a white suit which gets increasingly bloodied and dirtied over the course of the film, simply trying to spend a day enjoying the thrills of a number of the rides. However, it appears that most of the attractions are off limits to the elderly, many restrictions are put in place that don’t specifically ban them by name, but still prevent them from boarding. Those that are open are dilapidated haunted houses of abuse and swindling – extensive tokens are plucked straight from older patrons hands for minimal return.
There are plenty of moments throughout that echo as slightly absurdist takes on the way older people are treated in society. Many moments play out like a silent film, minimal dialogue and the viewer simply observing the exaggerated actions of the ideas that the film poses. Through this also comes evidence that this was clearly made as a public information film, made to encourage volunteering. Maazel appears at the start and end of the short piece to state that this is indeed a film made to encourage volunteering to help, or just be kinder to, the elderly.
The ‘scares’ certainly aren’t anything strong, in fact this doesn’t exactly appear to be a film with the intention of being anything horrifying. The Amusement Park acts as an interesting set of perspectives that mostly manage to just about engage thanks to Romero’s vision and the angles he chooses to add. Brief inclusions such as sudden appearances and disappearances of grim reaper and zombie like figures in the middle of scenes certainly add something, even if slightly, to the piece.
The second half perhaps doesn’t click as well as the first, which perhaps feels slightly less forced at times than a handful of moments in the latter half of the piece. However, the short run-time – 53 minutes, including the intro, outro and credits – does help avoid this from being a major distracting factor. Perhaps the novelty that the film was considered lost for almost 50 years, after being rejected, does help The Amusement Park along. But, for what it does provide and the Romero-tinged points it has to make in its volunteering encouragement stance there’s enough to keep you interest within this somewhat unconventional public information film.
It might loose itself a bit in the second half, but for the most part The Amusement Park has enough absurdist public information points to keep you interested, mostly thanks to the hints of Romero’s style.