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RIP: George A. Romero – Night of the Living Dead

George A. Romero, 77, passed away July 16, 2017

George A. Romero, 77, passed away Sunday July 16, 2017 after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” as reported to the L.A. Times provided in a statement by his longtime producing partner, Peter Grunwald. Romero is best remembered for setting off the zombie genre with co-writer  John A. Russo in 1968 with the seminal film Night of the Living Dead, which spawned both the “Living Dead” films and Romero’s sequels Dawn of the Dead(1978),  Day of the Dead(1985), Land of the Dead(1990), Diary of the Dead(2007),  and George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead(2009).

Born in the Bronx in New York City in February 4, 1940, Romaro attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He began commercial film making and one of the first commercial pieces he worked on was “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”. It was during this time, he and nine friends formed Image Ten Productions and filmed the extremely low budget Night of the Living Dead. Using locals and friends the film created a sensation and set off the zombie craze that it still, well, not quite alive, but certainly undead and well today. Unfortunately, for Romero and fortunately for us, due to issue with titling and copyrights, the film quickly fell into public domain, which kept Romero from making any money on it, but made him a household name. His next three films weren’t as well received: There’s Always Vanilla (1971), Jack’s Wife / Season of the Witch (1972), and The Crazies (1973), though The Crazies has since become a cult favorite which was remade in 2010. His next film Martin(1978) was an art house take on the vampire story. Romero worked with Steven King on the films Creepshow (1982), Monkey Shines (1988), and The Dark Half (1993). Romero also worked with Italian film maker Dario Argento on Two Evil Eyes (1990).

Never leaving the zombie genre for long, Romero wrote the 15 issue comic series Empire of the Dead for Marvel Comics. He had also worked with DC Comics on the Toe Tags series with the six issue mini-series The Death of Death.

Not just a writer and filmmaker, Romero also appeared in cameos in many of his films and in such films as Silence of the Lambs as one of Lector’s guards, and even lending his voice to Don Adaded in Phineas and Ferb.

Romero’s Zombie film series Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead(1978),  Day of the Dead(1985), Land of the Dead(1990), Diary of the Dead(2007),  and George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead(2009) all offer a strong dose of Romero’s political commentary worked out dramatically through the stories of the films heavy on gore and social commentary. There would be no The Walking Dead without Romero. It is thanks to Romero that we have walkers and fear what happens when our souls slip this mortal coil and our bodies keep moving!

As a Pennsylvania native, we have a special connection to Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, both having been filmed in the Pittsburgh/Monroeville areas. As a kid, the only mall around was the Monroeville mall where Dawn of the Dead was filmed in, and we went to every Christmas to shop. Also the remake in 1990, with Romero reworking the script for Tom Savini was filmed in Aliquippa, PA. Friends regaled me with tales of skipping class to watch filming.

Our hearts go out to Romero’s wife and family and friends. He has made us quiver in our seats and flinch from the gore, but we will never forget him.

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