George A Romero (director)
08 June 2021 (released)
08 June 2021
Recently discovered, The Amusement Park was made in 1973 by George Romero, written by Wally Cook, for the Lutheran Society who weren’t happy with the results and shelved it. It has since languished for some 46 years until 2019 when it was restored by the George A Romero Foundation.
Be aware that visually it is a bit on the rough side but the essential point is that, with Cook’s writing, we can see that Romero already had a sharp eye on society and its shortcomings.
Bookended by Lincoln Maazel in a white room, it is he, resplendent in a white suit who walks through a door into an amusement park expecting to have a great day out despite the comments from an identical bloodied figure in the waiting room.
Expectations are somewhat dashed from the start when just to get in he joins a queue of senior citizens selling their possessions to get into the park. From there he has difficulty getting onto rides, has drinks spilt over him and generally there’s a feeling of indifference and intolerance from certain elements of the crowd though to others he presents an opportunity, as towards the end they pass through a 'gift' shop where they are callously exploited.
The day gets more miserable as the fractures in society and people’s attitudes to seniors are exposed. Sitting down to eat he’s served poor food while others receive served absurdly large lobsters these people later asked to be moved so they don’t have to sit and see those not on their level.
An obvious social commentary and satire on the treatment of the elderly (and less well off) Romero swipes at both the elite and society as a whole. There is also a palpable anger here, that maybe isn’t so apparent in his later films. The scenes of senior citizens in the ‘gift’ shop being ripped off for insurance, being paraded in a freak show and heartbreaking when Maazel is beckoned over to read to a little girl, given some food and kindness, lulled into some sense of acceptance, only for it all to be viciously torn away when they just pick up and leave.
The horrors for the most part are mental (though there is some physical abuse) as encounters begin to prey on Maazel’s as he turns inward with the fear of being unwanted, irrelevant, then ignored and set aside.
There’s not a great deal of subtly about this film all told, which was probably the intention. Regardless it is imaginatively shot with an excellent sound design and choices of music that counterpoint the images to great effect.
Its not bereft of humour of Romero’s sly humour as it incorporates an extended sequence when we shift away from the man in white to a young couple who consult a fortune teller about their futures later maybe wishing they hadn’t.
It’s a hard film to watch at times in the knowledge that not a lot seems to have changed in fifty years. Depressingly, and with some portent, Cook and Romero didn’t expect things to get any better, when they made it all that time ago.
The Amusement Park is available on Shudder now.