We have lost writer/director/actor/visionary/legend George Romero. He passed away yesterday, peacefully in his sleep, after a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer. His family was by his side, as he listened to the score to one of his favorite films, The Quiet Man. He even passed away as a class act. He was 77. Meet us after the jump for some of our memories here at Biff Bam Pop! of this amazing man.
George Romero was mostly known for his redefinition of the zombie, literally the creation of the modern zombie myth as a cannibalistic shambler that can only be killed by a blow to the head and whose bite is contagious. In an age of horror, he had created a new horror, that has now become a billion dollar movie and television staple, from The Walking Dead to 28 Days Later to World War Z all the way back to his own film that started it all – Night of the Living Dead, Romero is the godfather of the living dead and an undeniable horror icon.
I remember the first time I saw 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. I was a senior in high school, and the film was being shown on the big screen at my high school, believe it or not. I’m old, so this was before the advent of video stores, and it being shown on TV all the time before it became public domain for a while. Most of us at that showing had never seen the flick before, but we knew it by whispered word of mouth, one of the scariest and most graphic movies ever made. And it was, living (or unliving, if you will) up to its reputation, and scaring most of us enough to make that walk to the car afterward a careful and quiet one, just in case.
I remember how stunning the shock and horror was, the carefully scripted paranoia, and the stark terror of the black and white film. George Romero was a genius, even with a low budget for this one. He had originally wanted to do a version of Richard Matheson‘s I Am Legend, but couldn’t get the rights, so vampires became ghouls, and history was made. Who would have thought that a man who got his start on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood would create such history on such a budget?
And although the film inspired a long line of zombie films, some Romero’s, as with his first gig with Fred Rogers, Romero wasn’t just about zombies, he had over two dozen films to his credit that he was involved in either in a big or small way. Perhaps there are hundreds more that he inspired and/or influenced. Among those I remember and cherish are Martin, the Creepshows, Stephen King’s The Dark Half, and of course, the granddaddy of them all, Night of the Living Dead, and its children, step or otherwise.
I had just purchased Jonathan Maberry’s Nights of the Living Dead, which he co-edited with Romero, and includes a short story by the man as well. The anthology is highly recommended, and inspired by Romero’s titular film, and his tale is one last chance to enjoy the man’s brilliance. We have truly lost one of the greats, reputedly one of the nicest guys in the business, and a cinematic genius. We will miss him and his work.