The man who bought zombies to life is dead. Director George Romero will forever be associated with his zombie movies which started with 1968’s seminal ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and would introduce the world to a brand new monster. It was a genre which he made his own.
George A Romero was born February 4th 1940 in the Bronx , New York to a Cuban father and a Lithuanian mother. A generally uneventful childhood he grew up to a towering six foot five tall and went on to study graphic art himself in the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh and from there he found himself working on a variety of film sets and eventually with a group of friends started their own production company, Image Ten Productions where he made commercials and short films himself. Bored with the restrictions he and his friends raised $114,000 to make their first film which was to be the groundbreaking ‘Night of the Living Dead’ featuring an Afro American lead and included many sly satirical digs when racial tensions in the US were running high. The film was a big success with it having made approximately $30m since its release although like most fledgling film makers he lost money due to some unscrupulous behind the scenes arrangement made by one of the distributors. But it didn’t put him off and he went on to direct not a horror movie as many would think but a romantic comedy ‘There’s Always Vanilla’ in 1971. However the lure of horror was too strong and he returned to the genre with Season of the Witch, The Crazies & Martin before returning to make a second film in his unintended zombie trilogy with Dawn of the Dead, a horror film that satirized consumerism being sing set in a shopping mall and filmed in a real life mall in Pittsburgh during the night before it opened again in the morning.
Oddly Romero was reluctant to be associated solely with his zombie films which might explain why in between he made oddities like Knight Riders a film about jousting entertainers. But horror was always a first love and perhaps one of his best yet underated films was Monkey Shines about a quadriplegic who develops a dangerous bond with a primate trained to assist him.
However success eluded him and inevitably he was drawn back to zombies and, having completed the final film in his zombie trilogy ‘Day of the Dead’ in 1985, his last three films continued the trend with Land of the Dead in 2005 followed at two year intervals with Diary of the Dead and finally Survival of the Dead. His zombie films were an inspiration for TV series The Walking Dead a show which he was dismissive of comparing the show to a soap opera with zombies and he declined an invite to direct it.
He was married three times and fought with an aggressive form of lung cancer before passing away at his home listening to the music from Rio Bravo which he cited as his favourite film score.