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George Romero (1940 - )

Related: American cinema - zombie

Night of the Living Dead (1968) - George A. Romero [Amazon.com]

The film comments slyly on racism in the United States and reverses a number of stereotypes. Perhaps the most sympathetic character is a young black man who takes refuge within a farm house. It must be noted, however, that Romero has denied choosing Duane Jones as a black actor specifically for the part, claiming that he merely gave the best audition. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Living_Dead [Feb 2005]


George A. Romero (born 4 February 1940) is an American director, writer, editor, actor and composer.

He was born and grew up in New York City, and attended Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. After graduation, he began shooting mostly short films and commercials. He and friends formed Image Ten Productions in the late 1960s and they all chipped in roughly $10,000 apiece to produce what became one of the most celebrated horror films of all time, which he had written together with John A. Russo: Night of the Living Dead (1968). The movie became a cult classic in the 1970s.

Romero's next films were less popular: There's Always Vanilla (1971), The Crazies (1973), Season of the Witch (1973) and Martin (1978). Though not as acclaimed as Night of the Living Dead or some of his later work, these films had his signature social commentary while dealing with issues (usually horror-related) at the microscopic level. And like almost all of his films, they were shot in or around Romero's favorite city of Pittsburgh.

In 1978, Romero returned to the zombie genre with Dawn of the Dead (1978). Shot on a budget of just $1.5 million, the film earned over $40 million worldwide and was named one of the top cult films by Entertainment Weekly in 2003. Romero completed his "Dead Trilogy" in 1985 with the less-heralded Day of the Dead.

Universal Studios produced and released a remake of Dawn of the Dead in 2004, which was moderately successful, though critics and fans generally prefer the original 1978 film. Romero was not involved in this production.

Romero, who still lives in Pittsburgh, is currently filming a fourth "Dead" movie, Land of the Dead formerly known as Dead Reckoning, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with a $16 million production budget (the highest in Romero's career). Actors Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento and John Leguizamo will star in the film. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_A._Romero [Feb 2005]


You'll be forgiven for thinking that George Romero has a zombie-fetish, were it not for the brilliance of his one vampire film, the magnificent Martin (1976?). John Amplas is Martin, whom we first meet slashing a woman's wrist and drinking her blood on a train (the realism of the scene is as far from traditional vampire films as possible, and indeed, the film serves as an ironic commentary on the assumptions of such films - garlic and crucifixes don't work on this vampire). Romero attempts to place the vampire myth in the real world (much like Frank Miller did for the Batman myth in his graphic novel "The Dark Knight Returns"), and the result is a masterpiece. The Crazies (1973), although not a horror film in the strictest sense of the word, manages to offer some thought-provoking scares in relation to the dividing line between madness and sanity, and Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Terror (1988) proves that Romero can still cut it. I'm a little tentative about the news that Romero has decided to direct a film version of the Playstation game "Resident Evil", but let's hold off judgment until we actually see the finished film, okay? For now, it is enough to study his Dawn of the Dead and call it the definitive zombie flick. --Noel O'Shea

Representation of Women [...]

In the opening scene of George Romero’s 1978 film Martin, a teenage sexual psychopath kills and drinks the blood of a young woman in her sleeper train compartment during a struggle that is protracted, messy and far from one-sided. Although women are often victims in Romero’s films, they are by no means passive ones. Indeed, Romero is seldom in danger of objectivising or pornographising his female characters; on the contrary, Romero’s women are typically resourceful and autonomous. This paper analyses some of Romero’s representations of women, with particular reference to the four ‘living dead’ films which Romero made over a period of more than thirty years. These are Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1979), Day of the Dead  (1985) and the 1990 remake of Night. All of these films feature a group of human survivors in an America overrun by zombies. The survivors of Night hole up in a house; in Dawn the sanctuary is a shopping mall; while in Day, the darkest of the films, it is an underground military installation.

Unsurprisingly, these savage and apocalyptic zombie films contain some of Romero’s most striking representations of active and even aggressive women. This in itself hints at a feminist approach. While Hollywood films typically eroticize and naturalise male violence and emphasise female passivity, Romero uses his zombies to undermine such assumptions. Romero’s female zombies are not only undead but virtually ungendered; for instance, they are responsible for as many acts of violence as their male counterparts. In their apparent immunity to ideologies of gender (except in the outward form of their clothing), Romero’s female zombies are excellent vehicles for the subversion of gender roles. The scandalous brutality of these ungendered “female” monsters makes for uncomfortable viewing from a patriarchal perspective, but it crucially prepares the audience for representations of human women as active and even violent agents. As a phrase that occurs in both Dawn of the Dead and the remake of Night has it: ‘they’re us’. Crucially, however, the moral complexity of Romero’s zombies, especially in the sequel films, is mobilised for feminist purposes. By implying that zombies are not always or wholly evil, Romero encourages a diverse, heterogeneous conception of womanhood. --Stephen Harper, "They’re Us": Representations of Women in George Romero’s ‘Living Dead’ Series, Intensities, the journal of cult media, spring 2003 http://www.cult-media.com/issue3/Aharper.htm [May 2004]

Night of the Living Dead

George Romero's subversive masterpiece Night of the Living Dead came like a bolt from the blue in the late Sixties (it even played on kiddies' afternoon double bills, scaring the life out of precocious teenagers, before the distributors copped on - how has that gaffe affected the psychological history of America?). I mean, here we had a movie showing the dead rising from their graves to feed on the living, all in grainy black and white (like the newsreel footage from Vietnam at the time), and with a black hero who is killed at the end. This was more like it: this was the emphatic answer to the key question, aren't horror films supposed to be scary? (The answer was usually seen bent double in the aisles, diced carrot congealing around his or her ankles). Running concurrently with the steady stream of big-budget/big-name productions, there was a different, much more subversive strain of primarily American horror films. These were the films horror fans wanted to see. --Noel O'Shea

Zombies, Malls, and the Consumerism Debate [...]

In George Romero's satirical film about consumerism, Dawn of the Dead (1978), an American shopping mall becomes the site of battles between the zombies who have overrun the country, four human "survivors" who exterminate the zombies and appropriate the mall for themselves, and a gang of marauding bikers which, in the movie's violent climax, seeks to take over the mall. These battles serve as a useful, if melodramatic metaphor for recent theoretical disputes over the nature and value of consumerism, disputes which remain of central importance among cultural critics of differing political persuasions. At the risk of crudely dichotomizing, these critics have tended to affiliate with one of two camps with respect to what might be called the "consumerism debate." --Stephen Harper, University of Glasgow, George Romero's Dawn of the Dead Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture (1900-present), Fall 2002, Volume 1, Issue 2 http://www.americanpopularculture.com/journal/articles/fall_2002/harper.htm [May 2004]

Absurd [...]

Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Edward Albee… George Romero? Of course George Romero, isn’t it obvious? Romero, along with Ionesco, Beckett, and Albee, is one of the great absurdists, dramatically speaking. The first three men are typically thought of as the founders, the bases, for the movement known as the theatre of the absurd, a term first coined by Martin Esslin in his 1961 book, aptly titled Theatre of the Absurd (Esslin). (The concept of absurdism has some very clear distinctions from other types of theater, which I will discuss shortly.) George Romero, director of the 1978 movie Dawn of the Dead, is also an absurdist, and Dawn of the Dead, is a classically absurd drama. Melissa Lewis in http://www.geocities.com/bucketofribs/fact/dawn.html


  1. Dawn of the Dead (1978) - George A. Romero [Amazon US]
    George Romero's 1978 follow-up to his classic Night of the Living Dead is quite terrifying and gory (those zombies do like the taste of living flesh). But in its own way, it is just as comically satiric as the first film in its take on contemporary values. This time, we follow the fortunes of four people who lock themselves inside a shopping mall to get away from the marauding dead and who then immerse themselves in unabashed consumerism, taking what they want from an array of clothing and jewelry shops, making gourmet meals, etc. It is Romero's take on Louis XVI in the modern world: keep the starving masses at bay and crank up the insulated indulgence. Still, this is a horror film when all is said and done, and even some of Romero's best visual jokes (a Hare Krishna turned blue-skinned zombie) can make you sweat. --Tom Keogh for Amazon.com

  2. Martin (1978) - George A. Romero [Amazon US]
    Martin (John Amplas) is a modern sort of vampire--he gains his victims' cooperation with the use of a hypodermic needle instead of hypnotism, and uses razors in the place of fangs. "There's no real magic," he says. "There's no real magic, ever." He says this to his elderly Romanian cousin, Tati Cuda (Lincoln Maazel), a true believer in the old religion, and self-appointed keeper of Martin, who threatens to do away with the boy if the vampirism doesn't stop. According to Cuda, the boy is actually 85 years old--young for a vampire. Truly, the supernatural element of the film is always at odds with psychological explanations that make Martin out to be a sexually disturbed teen, not an ancient bloodsucker. Martin's vampiric episodes are intercut with sepia footage of similar exploits from some gothic era, which may either be Martin's memories or his imagination; take your pick. Garlic, sunlight, mirrors--these are devices of Hollywood, and have no effect on a hypo-toting vampire like Martin, as he explains the rules in his role of frequent call-in guest on a radio talk show where he's known as "The Count." These ambiguities are left teasingly unresolved by the film, which is more interested in establishing the relationship between the traditional vampire and the modern-day psycho. Along with the film's narrative economy, these ambiguities make Martin Romero's midnight-movie masterpiece.

    At the very end Romero borrows an image from Carl Theodore Dreyer's classic silent film Ordet, ratifying a moment of religious ritual. Knowing this as you watch the film only deepens the chill. --Jim Gay for Amazon.com

  3. Night of the Living Dead (1968) - George A. Romero[1 DVD, Amazon US]
    George Romero's classic 1968 zombie-fest (shot in black and white) offers some disturbing images, even decades later. In a Pittsburgh suburb people are being stalked by zombies ravenous for human flesh. In a house whose occupant has already been slain, two separate groups of people unite and board themselves in, hoping to fend off the advancing ghouls. Through radio and TV reports they learn that radiation from outer space is thought to be responsible for the wave of zombie attacks all over the eastern United States. Once the humans are trapped, Romero shifts the focus to the internal feuding between them as they decide how to handle their dreadful situation. What unfolds is an examination of human nature, and of the fear and selfishness that keep many citizens from getting involved in the world's problems. Appropriately, both the zombies and the authorities who later hunt them are equally soulless. This film could also be read as a criticism of white males--it is not merely a coincidence that the film's two most rational, constructive characters are a woman and a black man. It is also no coincidence that the sequel takes place in a mall infested by the undead--a perfect analogy for consumer culture. --Bryan Reeseman for Amazon.com

Creepshow (1982) - George A. Romero

    Creepshow (1982) - George A. Romero [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Inspired by the controversial E.C. Comics of the 1950s--which also provided the title and inspiration for the popular Tales from the Crypt TV series--director George Romero and screenwriter Stephen King serve up five delightfully frightful stories. Utilizing comic-book panels, animated segues, and exaggerated lighting and camera angles, Romero and cinematographer Michael Gornick come very close to replicating a horror comic in film format. The results mix fine acting with the morbid sense of humor and irony that made the E.C. books so popular in their heyday. Actors such as Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook, Ted Danson, Adrienne Barbeau, Ed Harris, E.G. Marshall, and even King appear in the stories, which include tales of a sinister father's day celebration, a mysterious meteor, seaweed-draped zombies, a monster in a crate, and a cockroach-phobic millionaire. Fiendishly fun fare from one of horror's most famous directors. --Bryan Reesman, Amazon.com

    Five spooky stories, written by Stephen King, are shown in a format based on the popular horror comics of the 1950's. --Description

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