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George Romero
Lincoln Maazel, Harry Albacker, Phyllis Casterwiler
Walton Cook

An elderly gentleman goes for what he assumes will be an ordinary day at the amusement park but finds himself in the middle of a hellish nightmare.
Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 54 min.
Price: $29.97
Release Date: 9/13/2022

• Audio Commentary with Crew Member Michael Gornick
• “Reopening the Park” Featurette
• “Bill & Bonnie’s Excellent Adventure” Featurette
• “For Your Amusement” Featurette
• Panel Interview
• “Official Brochure”
• Script
• Photo Gallery


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The Amusement Park [Blu-Ray] (1975)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 19, 2022)

Legendary filmmakers gotta eat too, so in 1973, Night of the Living Dead director George Romero took a project “for hire” in 1973. The Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania wanted a flick to highlight social issues that impact the elderly and gave Romero a tiny budget and three days to shoot the film.

Romero created The Amusement Park, a tale that leaned more heavily into the realm of psychological thriller rather than the educational project the Lutherans wanted. Park received little exhibition for years but eventually found broader release on home video.

2022 brings the film’s first Blu-ray issue. Not coincidentally, this becomes my initial screening of the obscure flick.

Then-septuagenarian actor Lincoln Maazel opens the film with a discussion of how society ignores and neglects older folks. We then meet Maazel as an unnamed battered/bloody elderly man who sits alone in a white room.

A tidier version of himself enters and tries to get the abused guy to leave the location and go outside. Bloody Maazel refuses and warns Clean Maazel that he won’t like what he encounters, but Clean Maazel goes anyway.

Clean Maazel winds up in a bustling amusement park packed with much younger people. Although he initially seems delighted, Clean Maazel soon runs into a myriad of challenges and difficulties.

Man, I’d love to know what made the Lutherans think Romero was the right guy for a straight educational film. Hey, I respect their desire to shed some light on the topic, but the notion that a director best known for horror would make a conventional story seemed like a stretch.

While the dark, nightmarish tone of Park comes as no surprise, the movie’s general incoherence does catch me off-guard. Granted, maybe I expect too much from Romero given the brief production schedule and the lack of funds involved.

Nonetheless, Park delivers a heavy-handed mess. A good movie can be made to highlight poor treatment of the elderly, but Romero can’t find a sensible through-line here.

I assume that the jerky manner in which Romero tells the tale attempts to put the viewer off-balance in a way that theoretically represents the way old folks feel on a daily basis. I would contest that POV, though, especially given the age of the characters.

Park appears to depict people in their 60s and 70s – technically “elderly” but not exactly helpless. Granted, I get that 71 years old in 1973 was different than 71 years old in 2022, as people simply age better now.

Nonetheless, it feels like a stretch to view people in their late 60s/early 70s as so unable to fend for themselves. Park treats folks in that range more like they’re in their 90s, and this just seems odd.

It doesn’t help that a lot of what Park depicts as “elder abuse” could apply to anyone. For instance, at one point a man “befriends” Maazel just to pick his pocket, and that could affect folks of any age.

Yeah, I get the symbolism: the elderly tend to feel lonely and will fall for financial swindles from those who treat them kindly. Nonetheless, the movie’s literal depiction comes across as forced.

Other scenes feel like they imply wrongdoing when none occurs. For instance, an elderly man fails a vision test and loses his driver’s license.

I guess Romero wants us to view this as a crime, but I prefer that people who can’t see stay off the road. Similarly, a cop treats Maazel as a poor witness to an accident because he doesn’t wear glasses he needs.

The officer doesn’t discredit Maazel due to age, as he finds flaws in Maazel’s testimony solely because of vision issues. As an audience, we know he saw the event correctly, so Romero intends for us to sympathize.

Again, the cop does nothing wrong. Maazel offers a flawed witness not due to age but due to iffy vision.

Park occasionally hits some impactful notes, but too much of it just makes no sense. Other scenes paint the elderly as victims for reasons that simply don’t have anything to do with age.

For a glimpse of where a better movie would have gone, we get a scene in which a young couple asks a fortune teller to convey their future. This shows them various issues that impact the elderly.

Had Romero used that motif for the entire movie, we would get a more coherent and impactful production. We could see progression and how society changes toward us as we age.

Instead, we wind up with a flawed collection of scenarios that only occasionally make any sense in terms of the movie’s themes. Amusement Park ends up as too pretentious and too silly to hit the mark.

The Disc Grades: Picture D/ Audio D/ Bonus B-

The Amusement Park appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Should one expect a nearly 50-year-old 16mm film believed lost for years to offer appealing visuals.

Heavens no! As anticipated, Park looked terrible.

Sharpness seemed mediocre at best. While rarely especially soft, the movie also failed to display much real accuracy.

At least no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Grain felt lighter than I would expect but given that the film was shot in bright settings, this made some sense.

Print flaws turned into an unsurprising but still obvious issue. Throughout the film, spots, lines, and marks abounded. Nary a shot remained unaffected.

Colors came across as a dull brown-red. They lacked a sense of reality and felt flat and bland at all times.

Blacks came across as reasonably dense. Low-light shots became a minor concern since so much of the movie featured bright settings. This turned into a persistently unattractive image.

Should one expect anything better from the DTS-HD MA monaural audio of a low-budget nearly 50-year-old movie?

Heavens no! As anticipated, Park sounded terrible.

Speech remained fairly intelligible but the lines tended to sound distorted and edgy. Effects lacked accuracy and sounded rough and harsh.

Music fared no better, as the score – which tended toward carnival-esque material mixed with folky tunes – showed the same metallic vibe as speech. Like the visuals, the audio aged poorly.

As we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from crew member Michael Gornick. Along with disc producer Michael Felsher, he offers a running look at aspects of the production as well as his time with filmmaker George Romero’s production company and other aspects of his career.

Though the track occasionally goes screen-specific, it functions more like an audio interview than a traditional commentary. That seems fine with me, as Gornick offers a nice collection of memories.

Gornick doesn’t devote a ton of running time to Park, but he nonetheless provides a decent view of the shoot. The other areas add interesting notes and help make this a good chat.

Some video features follow, and Re-Opening the Park goes for 12 minutes, two seconds. It brings comments from director’s widow Suzanne Descocher-Romero.

She discusses her discovery of Park and her attempts to get it onto the market as well as her thoughts about the movie itself. This becomes a decent view of these topics, if not especially insightful.

Bill & Bonnie’s Excellent Adventure spans 10 minutes and includes notes from actor/script supervisor Bonnie Hinzman. She relates her experiences with George Romero’s production company and some aspects of the Park production. This becomes a brief but reasonably informative reel.

Next comes For Your Amusement, an 11-minute, five-second chat with artist Ryan Carr. He tells us about the graphic novel version of Park he created. This feels more like a promo piece than anything informative.

A Panel Interview involves Desrocher-Romero, IndieCollect president and freaky hat aficionado Sandra Schulberg, makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero and author Daniel Kraus.

It runs 23 minutes, 12 seconds and looks at the movie’s “lost” status and its revival as well as its restoration and some general thoughts about Park. This tends to feel fairly general and blah.

After this we find the film’s Official Brochure. It spans three screens of stills and shows the movie’s selling points. It tells us little but acts as a decent archival component.

More stills display the movie’s 19-page Script. It offers a cool way to see the material from which Romero worked.

Finally, a Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery offers 26 stills. Nothing memorable results but it becomes a decent compilation.

George Romero buffs will take interest in his little seen education film The Amusement Park. Others will find little of value, though, as the movie seems like a clumsy and heavy-handed piece. The Blu-ray comes with problematic picture and audio as well as a mix of bonus materials. Park offers historical value but largely flops as a film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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