Throwback Thursday: “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things”

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things movie poster

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things

From the director who gave you a sadistic teenage department store Santa, gleefully bellowing “Ho! Ho! Ho!” at the kids as he kicks them away from his throne, we can also watch his very first movie from 1972 with this catchy title. The title was the first thing Bob Clark wrote, and then he finished the screenplay in ten days, heavily influenced by 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. Because why not?  Night was the epitome of zombie movies at the time, and that’s a really cheap monster.

On the credits you will see Benjamin Clark, because he didn’t want to be typecast as a horror director, but he shouldn’t have bothered because this film became one of those midnight classics.  It’s campy, colorful, and a lot of fun if you’re not looking for a good movie.  The simple story won’t sweep you away, but you will sit slackjawed as the characters talk and talk and then talk some more.  That way the expensive action sequences happen at the end.  Once you get past the costuming – if you can – marvel at the art work and makeup, both of which are really outstanding for the budget.  You can see the budding director had a good grip on the director’s trade from the get go.  Some of the scenes and shots are creepy and beautifully rendered, just as long as you keep your eyes off Alan’s pants.

On a secluded island near Miami, a troupe of college thespians go to spend the weekend rollicking with some corpses dug up from the ancient graveyard near the antediluvian house they’re squatting in. They’ve done Shakespeare, don’t you know, and so they are now actors.  This is actually a bit of typecasting, because all the young film actors are also oh so serious because of their “Shakespearean training”.* This makes all the wild overacting even more fun. Finally, at the end, there is a deed so foul, “Even the zombies are shocked.”

Because it was still a new genre, there are images you will see here that are unique, like the mass exodus of dead from the graves.  If you listen to the incredible commentary you’ll discover just how difficult it was to create graves for the zombies to climb out of.  These days it’s a virus or a terrorist attack or a drug reaction that kills the living who come back dead, because that’s what we’re afraid of now.  I got a very nostalgic feeling to see the actual dead actually rise.

And you must listen to the commentary, which is superior to the film itself. The actors remember a lot of detail about working on Children, and tell story after story on themselves.  You will also discover why Alan is wearing those pants. The script supervisor was either stoned or oblivious, and the cast will point out how luggage and lanterns mysteriously change hands time and again.  Watch Paul’s puka necklace as well, as it changes back and forth from colored beads to white shells. And if you look REALLY closely, you will notice that the book of the dead that Alan reads from looks a LOT like the book of the dead that Ash reads from in the first The Evil Dead film in 1981.

If you want to see a classic film that is part of zombie lore’s early history, I recommend you see this some time.  Treat yourself to the commentary, and watch out for Alan’s pants.


Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972) trailer

CFR: In Addition: It is now time to praise Mildred. She has helped me so much with this blog and brings me great joy at work. She is the best. I love her writing and enthusiasm in her support and her posts. In short, she rocks! Thanks Mildred!

* Saying you are trained in Shakespeare doesn’t mean you can act. – CFR

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