George A Romero was the man who invented a horror genre and the man who made one of the best known cult horror films for less than $120,000.
His 1986 Night of the Living Dead was shot in grainy black and white and it had none of the glorious technicolour gore or spectacular special effects that modern horror films rely on, yet the film still manages to be a disturbing film to watch, even today.
George A Romero’s directing debut was in, of all things, the children’s TV series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, for which Romero directed a number of short sequences, the most notable of which was called “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” Romero said that was the scariest film he had ever made, not for the viewers, but for him.
Night of The Living Dead
The film maker’s very first full length film was the zombie classic Night of the Living Dead, which was made in 1968. The film was the first of its kind and it set the trend for many other zombie horror films that followed, even though at the time the film was made, the undead flesh eaters in Night of The Living Dead weren’t referred to as zombies at all, they were called the “ghouls”.
The tight budget that Night of the Living Dead was made with meant there are no fancy special effects in the movie at all. The blood of the victims was Bosco Chocolate Syrup, the flesh that was eaten by the ghouls was cooked ham, and the entrails were animal entrails provided by one of the cast members, who happened to own a chain of butcher shops. Even the costumes were second-hand clothes brought onto the set by cast members.
Night of The Living Dead was heavily criticised at the time of its release for its gore. It didn’t help that the first screenings of the film were made at matinee shows, before the MPAA film rating system was in place, so many of the early viewers of Night of The Living Dead were kids, and boy, did those kids get a surprise when they sat down with their popcorn and soda to watch that afternoon film!
Despite all the initial controversy over the film, Night of The Living Dead earned in the region of $15 million at the American box office over ten years and it is estimated that has grossed $30 million internationally, which isn’t a bad profit margin at all on an investment of just under $120,000.
George A Romero made five sequels to Night of The Living Dead; Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), and Survival of the Dead (2009).
George A Romero Collaboration with Stephen King
When George A Romero died on July 16, 2017, Stephen King was one of the first to post a tribute to the King of the Zombie horror film.
Sad to hear my favorite collaborator--and good old friend--George Romero has died. George, there will never be another like you.— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 16, 2017
Stephen King and George Romero had worked together on the horror, anthology Creepshow, and its sequel Creepshow 2. The first Creepshow, which starred, amongst others, Leslie Nielsen and Ted Danson, consists of five different horror tales and it was made in the style of the EC and DC horror comic books of the 1950s.
George Romero also directed the 1993 film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Half, which starred Timothy Hutton and Amy Madigan.
George A Romero - February 4, 1940 – July 16, 2017
George A Romero will always, no doubt be remembered as the man who created the zombie film genre, but he contributed to more than 30 films, and not all of them were horror movies. He even tried his hand at romantic comedy at one stage, with the 1971 film There's Always Vanilla.
His series of zombie apocalypse films that began with Night of The Living Dead is often talked about only in terms of the films’ shock, horror and gore, but through those films, Romero commented on topics such as conformism, consumerism and careerism, and played on many American’s fear of what the future might hold.
George A Romero’s hugely successful Night of The Living Dead paved the way for a whole string of low budget horror movies and inspired many other film directors to venture into the gene. What Romero discovered is that with a whole load of cheap extras and a bit of cheap makeup, you can make a very convincing horror film, if you know how.
Zombie movies may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but one thing is for sure; the world of horror films is going to be a lot less frightening and much less fun without George A Romero around.