On February the 4th, 1940 a man was born who would become a profound changing force in the horror movie genre. It would not be an over emphasis to say this man became a hero to many, and a shining light to those of us who seek out a thought provoking film experience.
George Andrew Romero began his career in commercial film making, beginning by directing live television commercials for local stations as well as segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood. While pitching for a job directing a filmed commercial Romero was told that the commercial would have to be filmed on 35mm, to which Romero replied that this could be done by his company.
Sacrificing their profits Latent Image, the company Romero and a group of friends had created, immediately went out and purchased a 35mm camera; and this was when and idea struck them.
They could make a movie.
Quickly ideas began circulating within the group but it was when Romero read a novel by Richard Matheson called I Am Legend that the idea that later became Night of the Living Dead began to take form.
It was 1968 before the film hit the theatres and history was made.
Night of the Living Dead gave birth to a new genre of film, a reimagining of an old movie monster, the zombie, that had degraded into a figure more of fun than fright alongside the classic monsters from the Val Lewton and Universal cannons of films.
Six films later the Dead series (as it is affectionately called by fans) has become a legend in its own right and Romero has created some of the most interesting and enduring movies the horror genre has ever known. He has also had his share of movie miss-fires, and whether these miss-fires are through Romero’s misshandling or outside pressures is a matter of debate. So though Romero is still making movies, its is debatable whether he is going-strong, or floundering as one more once great film-maker who should have mothballed his camera long ago.
Over the coming year is is my intention to write a series of articles covered each film in Romeros filmography. These articles are not to be academic critiques, not are they to be reviews. Instead I intend to write an appreciation of Romero’s work as a fan, and as an amateur film maker myself.
Night of the Living Dead was made in 1968 on a budget of only 114 thousand dollars (something like $773,598 adjusted for inflation) and it is clear to me that great lessons can be learned from Romero’s example with the movies creation. Not only did this meagre budget produce a box office taking of over 30 million dollars worldwide, but it also perservered to be a household name among fans and non-fans alike.
Many of us could be given 114 million and we would not do as well.