Sadly, George Romero has died – but he’ll live on through his work… or zombification – one of the two

Another great has passed on

George Romero

Yesterday wasn’t a good day for the great and the good. Martin Landau of Mission: Impossible and Space: 1999 fame passed on; Trevor Baxter – best known as Professor Litefoot from the Jago and Litefoot stories is no more, too.

But another great was lost to us, as well: George Romero, who basically invented the modern zombie drama and opened up the doors to other horror directors such as Sam Raimi and John Carpenter, too. See that Walking Dead? That’s there because of Romero. See that Ash vs the Evil Dead? Wouldn’t have happened without Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Even subtler things, such as having women and minorities fighting back and being heroes in horror, you can trace a line back to Romero’s work to find their origins.

Night of the Living Dead started it all and it’s the one you should watch if you want to see what Romero achieved. Completed on a $114,000 budget, it grossed $12 million in the US and $18 million internationally and spawned five sequels. True, it’s basically what its own writer John Russo describes as a “rip-off” of  Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, but does that matter? Not at all, because Night of the Living Dead is as much about look as plot, and it’s Romero’s direction that makes the movie something far more than a simple rip-off.

Oddly, the movie is now in the public domain. US copyright law used to require a copyright claim on a movie’s print for it to be copyrighted and a cock-up at the distributor meant that as the movie changed name from Night of the Flesh Eaters to Night of the Living Dead, someone forgot to include the credit. That means you can watch the whole movie guilt-free on YouTube. Although buy it if you like it, so that Romero’s estate gets something after all, hey?

Author

  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

    View all posts