A Salute for Captain Rhodes: Joseph Pilato of Day of the Dead has died


Joseph Pilato, whose most memorable role was Captain Rhodes in George Romero’s Day of the Dead, has passed away at the age of 70.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1949, Joseph Pilato went to college in the late 1960’s with the goal of being a lawyer. One of the best interviews with Pilato came from Fangoria magazine back in 1985. In it, Pilato admitted that he wanted to become a lawyer because F. Lee Bailey was hot [stuff].

His only other references to lawyers were E.G. Marshall and Perry Mason. That helped Pilato realize that he was more interested in the courtroom drama and playing the lawyer instead of being one.

Pilato had a small role as a dock officer in 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. In 1985, Pilato played his most memorable role as Captain Rhodes in Day of the Dead. Often considered one of the darkest entries in the Living Dead series, Day of the Dead has gone on to have a large cult following in the years since its release.

It’s easy to understand why Day of the Dead is considered to be so dark. Zombies significantly outnumber humans. Humans are forced to live underground in sealed off safe zones. The Earth basically belongs to the zombies.

Of course, that means a strong military presence is necessary to protect the remaining pockets of human life. The military and Captain Rhodes, are portrayed as passive to all the violence. They’ve morphed into more of a guerrilla force as civilization has gone farther underground.

Joseph Pilato-Day of the Dead-Courtesy of United Film Distribution Company

Pilato embraces all of this and gives a scene stealing performance that’s so easy to identify with as a viewer. War does not end without negotiation. When that negotiation includes cutting up zombies to alter their consciousness and satiating their hunger for human flesh with your own dead, it’s easy to understand Captain Rhodes’ reaction: Hells Naw.

Captain Rhodes was a delight to watch. He has one of the most epic deaths in all zombie movies, period. His swagger and demeanor as a no-nonsense guy who’s doing what he needs to in order to survive made him a fan favorite character for over 30 years.

Day of the Dead was remade twice. The 2008 Steve Miner remake stared Ving Rhames as Captain Rhodes. The 2018 Hèctor Hernández Vicens Day of the Dead: Bloodline replaces Captain Rhodes with Lieutenant Miguel Salazar (Jeff Gum).

Next. He had the stuff: Horror legend Larry Cohen (1941 – 2019). dark

In addition to regularly attending horror conventions, Pilato continued to act. He played a Dean Martin look-a-like in the Jack Rabbit Slim’s sequence of Pulp Fiction. He also had roles in Wishmaster, Music from Another Room and Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D. Joseph Pilato was 70 years old.

Where does Day of the Dead rank in the Living Dead series for you? What was your favorite Captain Rhodes quote? Let’s discuss in the comments!