The Amusement Park (1973) By Mickster

George Romero’s long lost educational film commissioned by the Lutheran Society in 1973 has been found and restored. Upon viewing the finished product in 1973, the Lutheran Society found it too disturbing to be seen. I guess the truth of how the elderly are treated was too much to bear. Luckily for us, the George A. Romeo Foundation restored this lost film, so it can be viewed by the public, if you dare to watch it. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a horror film per se, but it is a highly upsetting and depressing depiction of the mistreatment of the elderly. This depiction comes in the form of a surreal, dreamlike (nightmare) experience Lincoln Maazel’s unnamed character has at “The Amusement Park.” Many will remember Maazel’s performance in another Romero film, Martin (1977). He is the only “real” actor in the movie. All the other “actors” were volunteers, which makes this all the more impressive.

Maazel introduces the film and speaks again at the end. He implores viewers to have empathy and also be cognizant of the fact that they too will be old one day. What happens in between is something everyone should watch and consider. It is quite powerful, and I wish the Lutheran Society had been brave enough to use it back in the day.

Maazel starts his day in the park by encountering himself in a room of white. The beaten down version of himself warns that there is nothing out there, but the freshly dressed and hopeful version wants to see for himself. And boy, does he ever see! Each portion of The Amusement Park has vignettes illustrating how the elderly are systematically degraded. The only exception to this rule comes in the form of a wealthy older man who is treated with great respect because of his wealth. Sound like real life? Yeah, I thought so too. There is even a sequence where a young couple goes to the fortune teller’s tent to see if they will be together forever…the vision is NOT what they were expecting! Elders losing the right to drive, check! See the bummer car sequence! There is even a part with two carnival barkers that made me think of “reverse” mortgages! Romero was ahead of his time! Throughout, a masked “grim reaper” can be seen lurking in the background. For the most part, all the the elderly people in this film are ignored and at worst, pushed around by the younger people at the park, but there is one exception. This exception is the breaking point for Maazel’s character. A young girl is kind to him and wants him to read to her (she even shares a piece of fried chicken with him), but as this sweet exchange is taking place, viewers can see the cruel action that is about to befall Maazel. After this, he is utterly defeated, and as a viewer, I was too.

At 54 minutes, this educational film is a heartbreaking critique on aging in America. The Lutheran Society picked the right person to critique society, but they just didn’t have to guts to let this scathing examination see the light of day. It is sad to me that this film remained lost until Romero, who has a cameo in the bumper car sequence, was deceased. I wonder what he would think of his “lost” educational film finally seeing the light of day?

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bdwilcox
bdwilcox
1 month ago

“We mock what we are to become.” Mel Brooks

Ghastly1
Ghastly1
1 month ago

Interesting. I will definitely need to check this out. For the most part, I feel Romero was an overrated hack who gets more credit than he deserves because he shoehorned ridiculous 1960’s popular leftist political propaganda into his films and consequently they are deemed “deeper” than they really are. His one undeniably good film in my opinion however is, Martin; I even went so far as to buy the book at a considerable price a few years ago.
On the subject of growing old and dying; it is unfortunate that we live in an age when the notion of the “wise elder” no longer holds. It used to be that age was a sign of wisdom from which the young could draw, but the baby boomers, our “elders” have no such wisdom, so the reverence which we still feel should belong to them plainly and simply, doesn’t. They selfishly traded our future for the inticement, the promise of immediate and temporary material comfort and amusements.
They were negligent in their duty to leave the world a better place than they found it and so we owe them nothing; the saying “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we are borrowing it from our children” they failed to heed.
So now, when children turn on their parents, I am not surprised.

SmallDarkCloud
SmallDarkCloud
1 month ago

I’m a big Romero fan who goes against the grain and loves his last two Dead films. I think both have merit (Diary maybe a bit more so than Survival). Diary strikes me as a film commenting on its era every bit as much as Night of the Living Dead did for 1968, with Romero using the technologies of both eras to tell the story (television in 1968, the Internet in 2007). Romero’s style had evolved in all of that time, but his vision was very much the same.

Ghastly1
Ghastly1
1 month ago

Unk,
I like some of his films, don’t get me wrong, but purely as entertainment (with the exception of Martin) and yes, my views are totally antithetical to his. The only reason I bring up his politics is because he injected them into his film making and Night of the Living Dead in particular has been very prominently politicized further in the intervening decades, so unfortunately they are indelibly linked.
As for his getting screwed over monetarily, yeah but that is on account of poor business skills and probably lack of foresight; unfortunately everybody seems to be out to make a buck and some are simply better at it than others.
I’m not inordinately good at it myself, but then I never had any delusions I am, nor any desire to be and I content myself with what I’ve got and try not to live beyond my means. Plus, hey, in certain political persuasions sympathetic to his own, isn’t property theft? and don’t they eat the rich and all that? lol.
You bring up films about human-animal relations (a topic near and dear to my misanthropic heart) I have to place Umberto D. (1952) or Harry and Tonto (1974) or Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) or The Bear (1984) or something else I can’t recall off the top of my head ahead of Monkey Shines as the greatest cinematic representation of human-animal relations/the nobility of animals.
It is hard not to be bitter and hateful toward the boomers because they did screw us good both personally and collectively, but that’s the sign of a superior human being; one that transcends their base emotions.

Ghastly1
Ghastly1
1 month ago

*Sorry, I meant The Bear (1988); The Bear (1984) is something else entirely, haha.
His politics are also germane because they are emblematic of the boomer generation mindset in the main and all the disastrous consequences stemming from it which lead to the disappearance of the “wise elder” and the disrespect of elders by youth which he depicts in this film.

mickster
mickster
1 month ago

Unk, I appreciate you posting this one for me. As soon as I watched it, I could NOT stop thinking about it until I wrote this.
I need to go back and revisit Martin (1977) now that I have watched this one because I have not seen it in probably 13 or 14 years.

bdwilcox, I agree with Unk, great quote, and it fits this film well.

Ghastly1, you sound like an interesting person to discuss things with.

SmallDarkCloud, I also enjoyed Diary and Survivial, and I think Diary is the better of the two.

Sorry it took me so long to respond to the comments. I just spend 56 hours over the last 7 days scoring 1030 rhetorical analysis essays from the AP Lang & Comp exam. My eyes may never recover. Time to enjoy what is left of my summer. Thanks again, Unk! You’re the best!

Ghastly1
Ghastly1
1 month ago

Mickster,
Very good post. A+, top marks, gold stars, two thumbs up, etc. I like to discuss things and I’m open to doing so anytime; things interest me, lol.

Unk,
As an aside, one of the most vivd memories in my mind is seeing the box art for Monkey Shines and imagining it to be a Child’s Play-esque movie about a killer toy monkey, then being horribly disappointed when it wasn’t so.
I did not know you are a Pennamite; I am a New Yorker by way of birth and weight of inertia, though I expect no plaudits for this biographical minutia, lol. You should definitely do a post about Monkey Shines if it means that much to you; I’d read it.
I’m an ailurophile as well and I’ve got three cats of my own at present so I’m interested to see what connections a Capuchin monkey has with a cat in your mind.

Ghastly1
Ghastly1
1 month ago

Very cool. I’m Park Slope, Brooklyn born and raised; I’ve lived in the same apartment my entire life. I’m atypical though, I suppose, because despite having lived in the city my entire life, I don’t like it; I’m used to it but I don’t like it.
I don’t move because I have a very acute sense of place and despite it not actually being so, this is the closest I have to a family hearth. I feel very much out of place everywhere, but from experience, I feel even more out of place in unfamiliar surroundings. At heart I’m a rustic, rural person; my ideal is very much a Unabomber-style shack in the woods.
I like the parts of Pennsylvania I’ve been to (around the Delaware Water Gap and the Poconos) because they correspond with my like of wide open areas with nothing but trees and mountains; the Amish are also cool to see.
Your niece sounds awesome, I always wanted one of those things but never acquired one. I wonder if they sell ones with a bloody straight razor like on the VHS box cover. I’d buy that for a dollar.
I’ll trade you; you do a Monkey Shines write up and I’ll do one for Martin (I had been planning on doing one for a while). Deal?

dadaism_jive_slew
dadaism_jive_slew
1 month ago

One other great reason to celebrate the release of this film is that it was shot in West View Park, which sadly no longer exists. The Rolling Stones played there in 1964! It’s always nice to see long-gone places pop up in films and TV.