The Amusement Park (Blu-ray Review)

Imagine learning George A. Romero, acclaimed horror director and godfather of the zombie genre, had shot a horror film that became lost, only for it to now be uncovered. About a year ago, I became aware of such a thing, and now The Amusement Park is upon us. Following an elaborate restoration process, this lost Romero film has been given a new life, and finally premiered on Shudder. Now the feature has a pretty packed Blu-ray release to help further fill out the details concerning all anyone would want to know about this short but creepy film.


[Note: film review originally published via We Live Entertainment]

Originally commissioned by the Lutheran Society to serve as an educational film about elder abuse and ageism, Romero’s 1973 film was shelved due to its disturbing concept. That’s enough to leave anyone intrigued. What could this PSA contain that was so shocking to the innocent Lutherans? Having seen this outstanding 4K restoration of the discovered print of the film, one can easily see all of Romero’s style on display, including his ability to make the best of limited means and his ways of making the familiar feel surreal. For such a simple concept, The Amusement Park is quite the ride.

The film opens ominously enough with a somber bit of information delivered by an elderly narrator. He explains how the elderly are being mistreated, which is not farfetched for the 70s up to now, sadly. Only adding to this opening is a sharp warning, “One day, you too will be old.” He may as well widen his eyes and point at the camera with a cane. Instead, we cut to a white room where our protagonist, an elderly man (Lincoln Maazel, delivering a terrific performance) dressed in a white suit, finds himself seated and defeated. He is greeted by a fresh and clean version of the same man, who proceeds to then leave the room and experience the amusement park for himself.

Being intended to play as an educational film, this is not a splatterfest. Made in the time between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead (and film around the same time as The Crazies), Romero believed he knew how to adjust for the intended audience. With the screenplay by Wally Cook, there’s no real need to play into a level of violence and gore when the material is just as affecting in observing this older man interact with society at large. Granted, the entire film is a living metaphor, as the amusement park is a symbol for the world, but taking in the various moments this man and other elderly folks must deal with, there’s a sense of unease felt throughout.

As people and time keep moving around the man, we watch him try to keep up. It’s not meant to be simple. He’s pushed around, condescended to, and even injured with no ramifications. The various rides, attractions, and other parts of the park serve as different facets of life. Bumper cars find the elderly blamed for the actions of others. The food is restricted in most cases. The park’s seemingly nicer areas are traps to gather the old people together and strap them into various workout machines. With no context revealing much about these elderly people, we simply feel sorry for them, as the intention is to break down their spirits just as much as their bodies.

Reportedly, the scholar Tony Williams saw the film 30 years ago and stated, “The film is far too powerful for American society…It must remain under lock and key, never seeing the light of day.” I can understand where that would be coming from. Rather than deliver a school assembly-level project, Romero not only did his best to create an abstract freak-out, his sensibilities kicked in to make the film relatable. It’s certainly odd, and the quirkiness of the period, style of editing, and cinematography make this film feel like a relic of sorts (the texture of shooting on 16mm doesn’t hurt either in that regard), but the material is still quite potent.

In 2022, it’s not like much has changed in the world regarding how the elderly are treated. While it’s more text than subtext, Romero, a filmmaker lauded plenty for his ability to combine his visceral frights with biting social commentary, never lets the core theme of this film get away from him. It’s only a shame that the movie itself was buried, but the topic he was assigned to spotlight was carried forward. Still, as a lost artifact given a new life for fresh eyes to see, The Amusement Park is an intriguing, peculiar, and often harrowing feature. At merely 54 minutes, it packs quite a punch for a tripped-out carnival ride.



Encoding: MPEG -4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Clarity/Detail:  I feel like this score should be higher based on what’s clearly a video transfer doing the best with what is available. Suzanne Desrocher-Romero (George’s wife) makes it clear that the restored footage came from a pair of very weathered 16mm prints. As it stands, it’s not the Blu-ray’s fault that much of the film is in rough shape. It’s a bit hard to praise the amount of detail on display, but this transfer is still the strongest way to view the feature, as it best highlights what clarity there is in this picture.

Depth: Depth is fine. The character spacing registers as well as it needs to, which is helpful for a unique film such as this.

Black Levels: Black levels come through as well as they can. Crushing is certainly not a problem for the disc, but elements that feel much softer than one would think come from the restored print’s quality.

Color Reproduction: Again, thanks to the restoration process, there’s at least some color on display. However, it’s an extremely washed-out color palette, which, if anything, actually adds to the uneasy atmosphere the film is attempting to rely on to better convey the story. Still, the colors of a fair certainly exist, and this transfer does what it can.

Flesh Tones: While the bookends do well thanks to a pure focus on one character and his doppelganger, the flesh tones are largely quite devoid of life – fitting for the man behind Night of the Living Dead.

Noise/Artifacts: It’s a product of the feature, as opposed to the disc itself, but there’s plenty of dirt and debris to be found, which a Blu-ray can’t really clean up on its own.



Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The Blu-ray features a modest 2.0 track, which is expected. Also expected is how limited it feels. The source can only do so much, and the balance is not always where it needs to be. Again, this can add to the tension the film wants the viewer to have, but it’s clear things aren’t perfect here.

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard well enough.



As the film lasts under an hour, Shudder and RLJE Films have fortunately seen fit to equip this disc with a nice variety of featurettes and a commentary to better round out this package.

Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary with Michael Gornick – Assistant cameraman and actor Gornick and moderator Michael Felsher step in to discuss the film, its production, other Romero films, and more.
  • Re-Opening the “Park” with Suzanne Desrocher-Romero (HD, 12:02) – The wife of the late director brings a good energy to her discussion of the film, the restoration process (she supervised), and her husband’s career.
  • Bill & Bonnie’s Excellent Adventure (HD, 10:00) – Script girl Bonnie Hinzman discusses her thoughts on Romero, the film’s production, and the work of her late husband, Romero’s usual cinematographer S. William Hinzman.
  • For Your Amusement (11:05) – George A. Romero Foundation artist Ryan Carr discusses the upcoming graphic novel adaptation of The Amusement Park, along with his collaborations with the foundation, and more.
  • Panel Interview (HD, 23:12) – Desrocher-Romero, restoration producer Sandra Schulberg, Romero collaborator and SFX guru Greg Nicotero, and author Daniel Kraus are gathered together by Shudder’s Samuel Zimmerman to discuss The Amusement Park, Romero, and more.
  • The Amusement Park Official Brochure (HD) – A small gallery featuring scanned images from a vintage black and white brochure promoting the film.
  • The Amusement Park Script (HD) – Scanned images of the film’s script.
  • Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (HD)


I was all in on what The Amusement Park had to offer. Romero’s wife described the film as possibly being “The most George Romero film ever made,” and it’s hard not to agree, given where he was at this point in his career. As a wild offshoot designed to be a PSA, it’s a trip to consider how it would become this lost film that’s just now being released. As far as the Blu-ray is concerned, the disc does the best it can, given the quality of the film that’s been transferred. Fortunately, there are a number of solid extra features to make this a strong choice for Romero and horror fans to pick up.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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