On October 1st, 1968 George Romero‘s classic zombie movie ‘Night of the Living Dead‘ premiered, which soon became a cult film created a new genre of horror.
“My stories are about humans and how they react, or fail to react, or react stupidly. I’m pointing the finger at us, not at the zombies. I try to respect and sympathize with the zombies as much as possible.” – George A. Romero
The movie starts out with the siblings Barbra and Johnny who get attacked by the living dead while visiting a graveyard. Johnny gets instantly killed but his sister is rescued by a man named Ben. Together they flee into an old farmhouse where they meet a family, also terrified by the zombies. One after the other gets either killed and eaten by the scary creatures or transforms into a zombie as well. Ben turns out to be the only survivor and hides in the basement. Unfortunately he is mistaken to being a zombie by a police officer, who enters the house in the next morning and gets shot. The movie ends with Ben getting burned along with all the other living dead.
At the age of 14, Romero began filming with a cine-film camera. In 1958 he won a Future Scientists of America Award for a documentary on geology called Earthbottom, which he produced as part of a high school project. He moved to Pittsburgh to study art, design and theater at Carnegie Mellon University. After graduating and earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1961, he worked as an assistant in a news production. In the same year he founded the production company The Latent Image together with some friends from his university to shoot commercials and educational films.
Together with his friends John Russo and Russell Streiner he founded a company and began working on the movie to capitalize on the film industry’s “thirst for the bizarre“. The initial budget of the movie was only $6,000, but after finding more investors the movie was finally shot on a budget of $114,000.
The movie itself turned out somewhat differently to what was originally planned. The first ideas included violent aliens visiting Earth and attacking teenagers. It was then Romero who came up with the idea to focus on reanimated corpses subsisting on human flesh. Romero just did not use the term ‘zombies‘ back then, he preferred the usual term ‘ghouls‘, which is known to be first mentioned in ‘One Thousand and One Nights‘. The word ‘zombies‘ has been used in the 1920 as well, but was never really adapted by the general public until it hit society with the movie ‘Night of the Living Dead‘. This is very surprising since the term ‘zombies‘ has not been used once in the entire movie.
‘Night of the Living Dead‘ hit the nerve of the time with his enigmatic statement against racism and the Vietnam War and quickly became an insider tip. The controversial film was also included in the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art. It also earned much applause and ended up being a great success, financially as well as in the cultural sense. It was able to revolutionize the movie industry and set totally new standards in film making. George A. Romero used this first success as the start of a whole zombie series including ‘Dawn of the Dead‘ or ‘Survival of the Dead‘.
On July 16, 2017, Romero died in his sleep following a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer, at age 77.
At yovisto academic video search you can enjoy a lecture by Max Brooks, the world’s topmost expert on ‘zombie preparedness’ 😉 talking about his book ‘World War Z’
References and Further Reading:
-  “Who says Zombies eat Brains?” – Interview with Romero on Vanityfair
-  TIME Magazine Interview with Romero
-  World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks, 2011
-  George A. Romero at Wikidata
-  George A. Romero at the Internet Movie Database
-  Works by or about George A. Romero at Internet Archive
-  Timeline for George A. Romero, via Wikidata