Most of what makes us nervous in this life presents no imminent existential danger. We’re more likely to find ourselves frightened by job interviews, or crowds we’re tasked with speaking in front of, or the onset of “adult” responsibilities than, let’s say, undead monsters who want to crack open our skulls and eat our brains.
So when the recently-deceased father of modern zombie stories George Romero said the prospect of working with children’s television icon Fred Rogers terrified him, he only meant that half-ironically.
“It was shot in a real, working hospital,” said Romero, quoted by Bloody Disgusting, addressing his first gig as an honest-to-gosh big-time director, “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.”
“I had to quickly, and quietly, use my pin-lights to get exposure in the waiting room, in Fred’s bedroom, and in the O.R. I still joke that ‘Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy’ is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared shitless while I was trying to pull it off.”
The fact that Romero worked with the eminently soft-spoken, non-threatening Rogers a few years before he changed the horror genre forever with Night of the Living Dead is amusing, but this particular clip has historical significance beyond novelty value. “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy” was considered lost to history for years. It might’ve gone the way of those early Doctor Who episodes that got incinerated in a storage fire, had an intrepid Bloody Disgusting reporter not devoted himself to tracking it down.
As we bet you can determine from the title, the clip itself is pretty self-explanatory. But as a bonus, Rogers follows up the saga of his minor surgery by serenading his audience with, “I Like to be Told,” a tune extolling the virtues of predictability.
Betcha Romero stopped being nervous after Mr. Rogers arrived on set. If that guy could make getting cut open and having his organs removed look like a smoothing experience, dude could make just about anything seem pleasant.