When there is no more room for candles on George A Romero’s birthday cake . . . the dead will walk the earth. So, thank God then that George, who was born on February 4, 1940, is only a spring chicken today at the tender age of 73. He still has plenty of years left before we need to worry about seeing the shambling corpse of this successful filmmaker.
For zombie fans and film fans anywhere, George is a legend I his own lifetime. Creator of the groundbreaking ‘Dead’ series, which started in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead, Romero changed the course of zombie films, producing something that still stands the test of time. As anyone who has seen this film, and they will always remember the footage of Barbara being chased by her fake zombie brother, calling out to her, ‘They’re coming to get you, Barbara!’ And this image is not the only memorable image from his first foray into zombie stardom. The outstanding and unique aspect of this film, is that on the 1960′s when there was rife inequality between black and white citizens in America, Romero produced a film with a male black hero; a strong and independent character who ensures the survival of Barbara, the rather insipid blonde heroine. Yet despite their difference at the beginning of the film, Barbara learns to put her life in this stranger’s hands. Bearing in mind the social crises of the period, Romero took a hell of a risk.
In Dawn of the Dead in 1978, Romero took further risks by making an excellent zombie film that also contained a commentary on consumerism and greed. Romero was no stranger to making films with a message and many fans quote this film as Romero’s masterpiece combining action, characterization, an ensemble cast from different backgrounds and his ‘message’ on consumerism. This film is such a presence in zombie culture that the actor who ‘starred’ as the Hari Krishna zombie actually makes regular appearances at conventions.
I could talk all day about the inherent messages in Romero’s work and his extreme talent, but I would come across as overly fannish. Take Survival of the Dead from 2009 for instance. I may be a gushing fan of his work, but even I can see that this film is flawed, yet one can’t help admire what Romero was trying to do, even in this film (deftly ignoring the cod Oirish accents of course).
Suffice to say, Romero’s work is notable for its originality, and whether you like zombies or not, you cannot deny the cultural impact of his films. So, without further a do, join me in wishing George a very happy birthday!
Category: Zombie News