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Romero, George A

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Film, People.

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(1940-2017) US film-maker. A maverick working out of Pittsburgh rather than Hollywood, Romero changed the face of the Horror-movie genre with Night of the Living Dead (1968), an apocalyptic Zombie nightmare – its theme perhaps derived from Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (1954) – in which the dead inexplicably return to eat the living. Having tackled a surprisingly wide variety of Vietnam-era social issues in this debut, Romero made a pair of "serious" films – There's Always Vanilla (1972; vt The Affair) and the witchcraft-themed Jack's Wife (1973; vt Hungry Wives; vt Season of the Witch) – before returning to the former panicked mood in The Crazies (1973; vt Code Name Trixie), in which a biological weapon is spilled in Pennsylvania and causes an epidemic of insanity. After filler work for television – mainly profiles of sports personalities – Romero formed Laurel Entertainment in partnership with Richard Rubinstein, and relaunched his career with Martin (1978), an unorthodox, apparently non-supernatural Vampire picture; the novelization is Martin (1977) by Romero and Susanna Sparrow. He then made two impressive and rigorous sequels to Night of the Living Dead: Dawn of the Dead (1978; vt Zombies) and Day of the Dead (1985), the first being novelized as Dawn of the Dead (1978) by Romero and Susanna Sparrow. Throughout the trilogy, which is marked as sf not so much by its (conflicting) "explanations" for the crisis as by the concentration on the social, political and psychological outcome of the devastation of society, Romero powerfully mingled black Satire with shock effects. Follow-up films set in the same horror universe and directed by Romero are the Post-Holocaust Land of the Dead (2005; vt George A Romero's Land of the Dead), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009; vt George A Romero's Survival of the Dead), the last of these showing distinct signs of weariness. The fate of a further projected film, «Road of the Dead», announced by Romero in May 2017, is uncertain.

Spin-offs from this movie series have included: an Anthology, The Book of the Dead (anth 1989) edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector; a 1990 remake of the original film (see Night of the Living Dead) directed by special-effects man Tom Savini, scripted and executive-produced by Romero; a Satire, Return of the Living Dead (1985), from a story by John Russo, coscripter of the original film, and directed by Dan O'Bannon; a 2014-2015 Marvel Comics series titled Empire of the Dead, scripted by Romero; and a second Zombie-themed anthology, Nights of the Living Dead (anth 2017) edited by Romero and Jonathan Maberry. Romero wrote the novel The Living Dead (2008) but continued to recast, rewrite and expand the story until his death. Daniel Kraus (1975-    ) then completed this book and it was eventually published as The Living Dead (2020). Owing to the rewriting and expansion of the text, the two novels should be considered as separate books.

Outside the Living Dead sequence, Romero also directed: Knightriders (1981), a personal film about alternative lifestyles; Creepshow (1982), an EC Comics-style anthology film written by Stephen King; Monkey Shines (1988; vt Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Terror), an understated and impressive movie based on Michael Stewart's Monkey Shines (1983), about an intelligent experimental monkey; one half of Two Evil Eyes (1990), which Romero adapted from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" (December 1845 American Whig Review); and The Dark Half (1991), a film version of the 1989 Stephen King novel The Dark Half (1989), which was only released two years later. In addition, Romero scripted episodes of the Television series Tales from the Darkside (1983-1988) and the films Creepshow 2 (1987) and Tales from The Darkside: The Movie (1990). Romero left the Laurel Entertainment partnership with Rubinstein in the early 1990s, leaving Rubinstein in control. [KN/DRL]

see also: Cinema; Holocaust; Monster Movies; Supernatural Creatures.

George Andrew Romero

born New York: 4 February 1940

died Toronto, Ontario: 16 July 2017

works (selected)

The Living Dead

  • Dawn of the Dead (New York: St Martin's Press, 1978) with Susanna Sparrow [tie to the film: Dawn of the Dead: Living Dead: hb/]
  • The Living Dead (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2008) [Living Dead: hb/]
    • The Living Dead (New York: Tor, 2020) with Daniel Kraus [exp rev of the above: much recast by Romero and completed by Kraus after Romero's death Living Dead: hb/]

individual titles

  • Martin (New York: Stein and Day, 1977) with Susanna Sparrow [tie to the film: Martin: hb/]

works as editor

further reading


previous versions of this entry

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