RIP George A. Romero: Remembering the Prince of Pittsburgh


George A. Romero, the genius behind the Living Dead franchise has passed away today at the age of 77.

Devastating news for the horror community!

It seems like I have been writing too many obits lately. Unfortunately, I am writing another one today. This time it is for one of my personal heroes, the Prince of Pittsburgh, George A. Romero.  I had the good fortune of attending Clarion University of Pennsylvania for a time and he was definitely a student body favorite. Many happy hours were spent watching his early films at the local theater.

Not only was he part of the pantheon of horror gurus but he was by accounts a generally kind man. Although his creative world was dark, his star shined so bright for many of his fellow artists as well as his tremendous fan base.

According to Variety and his manager, Chris Roe, “[Romero] died in his sleep following a battle with lung cancer.” In honor of this legend’s untimely demise, 1428 Elm would like to review his life in film.

Genesis of a Phenomenon

Night of the Living Dead – George A. Romero Image Ten Productions

Mr. Romero was born in New York on February 4, 1940. His love affair with the Steel City began while he was attending Carnegie Mellon University. After graduating, Romero, John A. Russo and several of their friends created, Image Ten Productions.

IMDB states that “they all chipped in $10,000 a piece to produce what became one of the most celebrated American horror films of all time: Night of the Living Dead (1968).” The success of this little indie went on to spark a phenomenon that is still prevalent in 2017.

The Walking Dead, World War Z, Shaun of the Dead and countless other zombie themed movies owe a huge debt of gratitude to the brilliant mind of Romero. The realistic way that Night of the Living Dead is shot along with the performances of the unknown cast makes the circumstances believable. In some ways, it harkened back to Orson Welles Mercury Theater radio production of War of the Worlds in the 1930s.

Even though, the audience knew NOTLD was fiction the depth of the storytelling planted the seed of doubt in their minds.  Could something like this really happen? Romero captured that same subtle sense of underlying panic just like Welles did with his vision of War of the Worlds.

More Than Zombies

George A. Romero -Courtesy of Creepshow Films Inc., Laurel Entertainment Inc., Laurel-Show Inc

Many fans might not know this but in the 70’s Romero directed a tv documentary series called The Winners. It featured segments on prominent sports figures such as Willie Stargell and Franco Harris.

During the 80s, he collaborated with the ultimate scribe of terror, Stephen King to direct the wonderfully wicked and darkly humorous Creepshow. In 1988, he penned Monkey Shines, a disturbing look at a paralyzed man and his homicidal primate.

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1993 found him collaborating once again with King for The Dark Half. A tale of an author who has his life forever changed by his fictional doppelganger. He did a marvelous job of adapting King’s story for the silver screen. This endeavor haunts me to this day.

For most of the 2000s he executive produced such ventures as Deadtime Stories, Survival of the Dead and The Crazies. Fans were very excited to discover that he edited an anthology with Jonathan Mayberry entitled, Nights of the Living Dead. This book featured work not only from Romero but also from his collaborator, John A. Russo and Joe R. Lansdale of Bubba Ho-Tep and Hap & Leonard fame.

IMDB has listed several upcoming projects featuring Romero on the horizon. Into the Dark: Exploring the Horror Film where he can be seen alongside other genre notables such as Dario Argento and Guillermo del Toro. Currently, this effort is listed as being in post-production.

He was also set to collaborate on Road of the Dead with his former third unit director, Matt Birman. The poster was revealed a week ago.

So Long, Old Friend

It is never pleasant losing someone that has made an impact on the lives of so many people. The legacy of George A. Romero is all around us in the horror community. His light will never be extinguished. Our memories and the films that he made and the talent that he influenced will gleam for years to come.

Safe travels, Mr. Romero. Thank you for the classic films. We will never forget you.

Next: George Romero: ‘Land of the Dead’ coming alive in new Blu this Halloween

Were you a fan of George A. Romero? What is your favorite film? Did you ever meet him? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.