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RIP George A. Romero, Godfather Of The Undead
Cinema Junkie / August 17, 2017
George A. Romero died on July 16. The zombie community paid tribute to him during Comic-Con, and I gather some of those memories and an archive interview with him for this remembrance.
Beth Accomando: Welcome back to another addition of listener supported KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast, I’m Beth Accomando.
Male Speaker: This is the latest disclosure in a report from National Civil Defense Headquarters in Washington. It has been established the persons who have recently died have been returning to life and committing acts of murder. A widespread investigation of reports from funeral homes, morgues, and hospitals has concluded that the unburied dead are coming back to life and seeking human victims. It’s hard for us here to believe what we are reporting to you but it does seem to be a fact.
Beth Accomando: In 1968, George A. Romero changed the horror landscape and the world forever. Sure. We had zombies before him but none captured the imagination of audiences and filmmakers in quite the same way.
Male Speaker: Survival command center at the Pentagon has disclosed that a ghoul can be killed by a shot in the head or a heavy blow to the skull. Officials are quoted as explaining that since the brain of a ghoul has been activated by the radiation, the plan is, kill the brain, and you kill the ghoul.
Beth Accomando: When Romero made Night of the Living Dead. He essentially invented the modern zombie. Potential distributors, however, are not initially impressed and asked him to change the films bleak ending. But Romero simply said, “Fuck you”. That pretty much set the tone for Romero’s relationship with the mainstream film industry. Like John Waters, he is a filmmaker who remained outside the industry, Pittsburgh to be precise. Making the films he wanted to make and what he wanted to make were films that reflected what was going on in the world, be it racism, classism or consumerism.
[Clip – What the hell is it! Looks like a shopping center, one of those big indoor malls. What are they doing? Why are they coming? Some kind of instinct memory, what they used to do, this is important place in our lives]
Beth Accomando: The great thing about Romero’s film is that you can enjoy them in any of a number of ways. Take any of his dead films. If you want a Zombie Gorefast, he delivers a bloody thrill ride of horror fun. But his films can also be appreciated as examples of truly independent filmmaking in which Romero has complete control over everything from casting, to bleak endings, to tone. His films serve at primers on how to work with little or no money outside the Hollywood system. And finally, if you want something a little media, you can always chew on the social commentary mixed in with all the blood and gore.
[Clip - Life goes on at Fiddler’s Green in the heart of one of America’s oldest and greatest cities. Bordered on three sides by mighty rivers, Fiddler’s Green offers luxury living in the grand old style. Dine at one of six fine restaurants. Look at that perfect gift in our fully-stocked shop… And they sure did use to make it sound nice. Still sounds nice to me.]
Beth Accomando: To appreciate his craft, let me talk about just one scene. Consider the opening of Diary of The Dead which is not even thought of one of as one of his best words.
[Clip – It’s only three months, six to eight, three dead]
Beth Accomando: It begins with a TV news cameraman placing his camera on a tripod, which is a bit like flipping off all those found footage films that thing shaky cam somehow makes them more realistic and then even dust off the lens. The cameraman is filming a TV reporter on the scene of a double-murder and suicide. When an ambulance pulls up, he tells them to move because they a ruining a shot.
[Clip – Hey guys, Channel 10 news listen, you kind of blogging our shot can I get to move forward a bit… yeah sure…Thanks]
Beth Accomando: For shadowing Romero’s themes about how the media manipulates even the simplest of things. As the female reporter begins to deliver her story on camera, we hear the cameraman exclaimed that the dead bodies are moving.
[Clip – Jesus…What? I don’t believe this…What, is there something with the camera just fix it. She is still moving. Oh for Christ sake broke, hey I am right in the middle of a, what…what…]
Beth Accomando: But we can’t see anything because the reporter center framed is blocking our view. I felt myself leaning to one side to try and see around her.
[Clip – Go away, c’mon, get off the way…Lisa back up here…Oh…]
Beth Accomando: Romero is denying us a good view of the action which has the effect of pulling us in even more. Then, he delivered some nice score as the dead bodies rise up and began snacking on the startled humans.
In just these opening minutes, Romero reveals more filmmaking smarts than most horror films display in two hours. He clearly defines the first person point of view that the film will take. He also revealed sly humor in short choices. He delivers the gore, he hints at the themes of media manipulation and he create a scene that he can go back to later in re-edited form to show how the truth can easily be manipulated, all that in about five minutes, that’s efficient filmmaking.
[Clip – We downloaded a lot of what we found on television, on the net, of blogs, images and commentary with those first three days. Most of it was bullshit. None of it was useful. This is what we are getting from the News Networks.
[Clip – None of us can claim to know exactly what has caused the chaos we’ve been experiencing. Jerome some kind of…epidemic… natural calamity…we can’t talk of ---I am old enough to remember---for the world probably the greatest chokes every perpetrated and that was one of just… Now it’s 24/7. This is some kind of hopes ---people are willing to believe almost anything]
Beth Accomando: Romero made his reputation on the series of dead films he created over more than half a century. But, perhaps the film that best represents his abilities as a filmmaker is his 1978 Martin which will be showcased this year at Horrible Imaginings Film Festival in September. Showing Night of the Living Dead, or Dawn of the Dead would probably have been a more obvious and popular choice for a tribute screening. And more likely to fill seats since those film are better-known. But screening Martin finds a spotlight on a film that’s been largely overlooked and will hopefully open people’s eyes to Romero’s work outside the zombie genre.
[Clip – My name is Martin. I’m 84 years old. People think I’m crazy when I tell them how old I am. I’d like to be normal. I just have a sickness. The only way I can survive is by drinking blood. It’s not easy living the way I do. I have to be careful all the time. Well, I’m pretty good at it. I think, as I get older, I get better. I haven’t been caught yet. Martin: Another kind of terror]
Beth Accomando: Martin is brilliant for multiple reasons. First, it serves up a twist on the vampire tale by having a character that may or may not be a vampire. Romero perverts the genre by never confirming whether or not Martin is a vampire or just a psychotic teenager who wants to be one. Martin craves blood but doesn’t have any things to suck blood from his prey. So, he needs to carry a syringe with a sedative to knock out his victims and razorblades to cut open their veins.
[Clip – People don’t realize those things I see in the movies are not real. I don’t have a whole lot of women… nice to watch them I watch them a lot all the time I have to, to be sure that nothing goes wrong. I follow them. I plan, very careful. I have needles now, I can use them. I can put them to sleep and it doesn’t hurt].
Beth Accomando: Romero then layers in social observations about such post-Vietnam issues as drugs, economic devastation from the recession and a crisis in faith.
[Clip – Martin: Another kind of terror. I’d like to be like everyone else. I have to do things that I don’t necessarily like to do. But I want to stay alive. I do need blood. From the director of Night of the Living Dead, Martin: Another kind of terror]
Beth Accomando: With Martin, Romero shows what you can do with a small budget and how you can tackle stories that mainstream Hollywood would never touch. But Romero’s lasting legacy will be zombies and that’s not a bad thing. I had wanted to distribute podcast to come out sooner but so much has been going on and so many artists have recently died. In addition to Romero, we’ve lost Adam West, my first and most beloved Batman, Martin Landau and just the other day Haruo Nakajima, the man who brought Godzilla to such vivid and iconic live. Okay, so, before anyone else departs this world, let me get this tribute to George A. Romero finally out there. I’ve been delaying it because finishing the podcast is somehow confirming that he is really gone. He is a man that I admire both as a fiercely independent filmmaker and as a genuinely kind and sweet man. For this tribute, I’ll have some highlights from the vigilant San Diego, some fan appreciations, and an archive interview with Romero from 2008 when Diary of the Dead came out.
Romero died last month on July 16, right before San Diego Comic-Con and Jennifer Muzquiz had no choice but hold the vigil for him. Jen is the Founder and Director of Zombie Walk San Diego and so self-respecting zombie could pass up the opportunity to pay tribute to the man who has done the most for the undead. So, on Saturday night, July 22, during Comic-Con, Jen called the gathering of zombies and Romero fans for a vigil. I spoke with her just before the vigil and impromptu zombie walk took place.
Beth Accomando: So, Jennifer, explain where we are and what is about to happen?
Jennifer: We are at children’s park across from the Convention Center in San Diego during San Diego Comic-Con International and we just had a horror cast play made up and at 8 o’clock we are going to be having a George Romero remembrance vigil to honor the life of the undead master.
Beth Accomando: You have a long history with the undead. You organized zombie walk here in San Diego. So, tell me what inspired you to do that and what it is about zombies that attracted you?
Jennifer: Well, I had moved to San Diego in 2006 and within several months I decided I’m going to start a zombie walk to find like-minded weirdos maybe become friends with and oddly enough, it worked because I got a very diverse group of friends out of it and I think that’s kind of the attraction the zombies for me and everybody is. You can be from any walk of life and be anyone and the Walking Dead is probably the biggest fear of immortality and having like lose who you are and it’s just the unknown and you don’t have any control over yourself and it’s just, it’s the biggest fear I have is a lack of control because I’m very tippy, OCD, Ferguson and I legitimately have OCD and the idea of not having control over my body, my thoughts, everything. It’s just, it’s terrifying but to conquer your fears, you kind of have to get into it and for me, that’s becoming a zombie in the best way I know how and not dying.
So, I participated in the LA Zombie Walk and when I move to San Diego, I decided that why not, get a bunch of people together and I thought, okay, well maybe I’ll get a dozen people to show up and I put an ad on Craig’s list and this was back in the days of my space and I created a page and I figured okay, there might be 15/20 people that show up and I’ll be happy. That would be awesome. If I get a dozen people like I said, it’d be great. A 120 people showed up and media and press and I am like, what did I do, I don’t know how to handle this. But, it’s, it’s been really fun because we’ve seen this community grow out of it and I’ve seen, got to see kids grow up from being toddlers and babies into elementary school and middle school and now I have one girl that’s starting at her sophomore year of high school who was terrified of zombies until I got to do special effects make up on her and now she loves everything or and is starting her own horror webcast.
And there is another little girl that, about three/four years ago was terrified of zombies and her mom was a zombie on the news with us and I asked her I wasn’t zombified but she read on a news broadcast and she came over to me and said, I need to be with you, I don’t want to be a zombie. And I was like okay. She’s probably about five or six years old at the time and I said, okay, you can protect me from the zombies. You’re tough like that, right? You could protect me and she said, okay, and gave me this very terrified look and I said, it’s okay, we’ll be fine. We’re going to protect each other, right? All right, we have each other’s back and, now she is leading the zombie walk for me last year and went on the news and was the most terrifying zombians, on Friday morning when we did press. And, here is this girl who is nine and loves zombies and everything zombie now and to see kids do the same thing that I did which was facing their fears and turning into something that they can enjoy and that’s what I tried to provide with the community and just that is a sense for me to keep it going as to arrive at, to provide a sense of community and facing their fears and facing what, what inspires you to just be more you and be more positive and put a positive spin on things, so, yeah.
Beth Accomando: And what is it about George Romero in particular that you love or that you appreciate and are going to miss now?
Jennifer: George had a flair for the, being the most creative subversive movie maker of our time. He took political issues, social issues and turn them into something that was digestible on the surface and then when you really got into it, it was like wow, there is a really serious fixed statement here that I’ve got a digest and like eat up and, and really take in. And I love that he was able to do that with a sense of humor at the same time and he never took himself too seriously and it is just the way that he presented entertainment, like an entertaining way to look at the socio-political issues and social issues. It’s just, it’s great like you can look at these movies and they’re timeless and he was just a sweetheart of a guy too. That’s what everybody who’s met him has told me and what we all shares, he was just a really genuinely down-to-earth nice guy. Again, never took himself too seriously and truly appreciated his fans like would take all the time that he could to really listen and speak and share ideas and creativity and really nurture people who wanted to get into filmmaking and storytelling and being creative and finding that outlet for anything going on up in your head and basically [indiscernible] [0:15:26] this is being a zombie. So, I just, I love that drugs to physician and he was just, I think he is going to go down in history as one of the greats because he’s already seen as one of the greats and it’s going to last because I mean, we won’t have zombies and horror like we have it without George Romero
Beth Accomando: And do you have a personal favorite zombie film of his?
Jennifer: Oh my goodness! I have to do Night of the Living Dead because that’s the beginning. That’s, that’s the genesis of it all is Night of the Living Dead. It’s, it’s the creep factor in it because you, you think okay, this is going to be and old cheesy movie whatever but it’s still creepy. I remember seeing it as a kid and freaking out like the kid behind me that’s crying. And like just crying like these, these things are going to get me in memory seeing the zombie faces in my window at night and I am being. Oh my God! I’m terrified but then realizing, wait a second, these aren’t real. This is okay. Let’s go watch it again. So, Night of the Living Dead is definitely my favorite.
[Clip – Welcome to a night of total terror. Night of the Living Dead, the dead who live on living flesh, the dead who is haunted souls hunt the living. The living whose bodies are the only food for these ungodly creatures!]
Beth Accomando: And do you know one of the things that so terrifying about zombie films is that the creatures themselves look like us. They could be one of our loved ones and there is this odd connection of it being us and it also being this thing that we might have to fight off that we once, a person we once knew.
Jennifer: Yeah, like that’s, I think one of the more terrifying things about zombie is that this could be you, this could be your mother, your sister, your child. It’s been pointing out to me many times child zombies are the creepiest because there’s that innocence that is completely destroyed. And I mean, to think that it could be your kid that you have to fight off at what cost are you willing to die? Like, not kill your zombified kid. That’s scary, that’s, there is a lot to digest and that lot to like absorb and think about and like people always talked about their zombie apocalypse plans but nobody ever mentions what happens when your best friend is at your door coming to get you. So, yeah that’s one of those things, I don’t think a lot of people really thing about but it’s kind of they are under the surface. So, yeah, it’s, that’s, that’s pretty bad.
Beth Accomando: And what are you hoping for this vigil to be, tonight?
Jennifer: Really, I just hope it’s the, the hardcore fans that come out and are able to kind of connect with each other and have that sense of closure. But at the same time leaving the door open for great moviemaking, great storytelling and expressions of creativity that we’ve all been inspired by George Romero and be able to connect with one another and like I said, honor a man who really deserves more credit than he gets for putting entertainment where it is on the map because look at all the horror movies and thrill movies that we have at Big Box Office dramas that all these filmmakers were inspired by people like George Romero. So, I just, I think he needs to be acknowledged. So, just acknowledging and thanking him.
Beth Accomando: Now, I had a chance to talk to you almost 10 years ago and you’re starting zombie walk, so this it. It’s like, let’s talk about closer, coming back and seeing you again and talking to you. But, I remember when I interviewed you back then. You were, you have a social cause for your walk too and you describe zombies as no brains but big hearts. So, did you, did you kind of take from Romero that sense of social consciousness and want to keep that running through zombie walk and the things that you did?
Jennifer: I want to say yes, however, I have to blame my mom for that. I was raised in a house where social causes are really big deal and taking care of your neighbors and taking care of your friends and family and that, the group at large is a very important part of life. And, that’s I think what made me connect with Romero is that whole social change and being socially aware. So, yeah, it’s tied to Romero but I, my mom gets the credit for that and she is a really big, she is a huge supporter of zombie walk. So, I, she loves what it is and loves that we’ve done through drives and toys for tots and all these great charities and philanthropy that we’ve been tied to over the years because you have a big group of people focus on one thing. There is power in numbers. If you can get all those people to bring a blanket or a coat or a pair of socks or a bag of socks, donate to homeless shelter, that’s a huge box of socks and coats and blankets. So, yeah, that social thing is, we got to look the world at large and yeah, Romero did that. So, thanks mom and thanks George Romero.
Beth Accomando: And can you describe the scene here because it’s not just people showing up in t-shirts with George Romero but you have some zombies too.
Jennifer: Yeah, I’d say it’s a pretty good mix. I mean, it’s kind of half and half right now, we’ve, kind of pulled over from the horror cast we made up and the zombies are sticking around because it’s George Romero, how can you not. It’s pretty cool and I expect more people will show up that who aren’t zombies, but right now, it’s about half and half. So, it’s kind of cool to see.
Beth Accomando: All right, well, thank you very much.
Jennifer: Thank you, really appreciate you being here.
Beth Accomando: After we spoke, she began handing out tea lights to people at the vigil. She asked Miguel Rodriguez of Horrible Imaginings Film Festival to kick off the ceremony. He is followed by Dread Central Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton.
Nigel: As I see a lot of you here with incredible rubbing flash, your spine by the way is outstanding. The bright, the dead have come back and that’s why we are here for. We are here really to celebrate life and dead in a weird kind of symbiotic way. I think it’s amazing because of this man George. The only reason you all exists is because of this man George Romero. And all of us, I think have experienced the sideways glance from people we worked with, from people we got schooled with, from our family, from people who are, even our friends. When we talked about a film like Night of the Living Dead and talked about it as a piece of, a masterpiece that means as much to us as any other work of art that we can think of, if not more, because it really digs deep, it’s something that I watched when I was a kid, it’s something that I shared with everyone – my mom, my grand mom, my brothers, my friends. And it opened up a world of possibilities of the scary movies meaning something so much more and a lot of people just don’t get it. They just don’t understand that this horror movie with dead people walking around and eating entrails and shot guns out of window panes can be something so intoxicating and something that really means something to us. But you all get it and I think that that is something that creates a community. It’s something that brings us together.
I want to say, I want to talk about sincerity, okay. So, the films that Romero made are just sincere as, I don’t know why. Charlie Brown, the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Sincerity is the eye can see that is George A Romero’s filmography and I think that’s why we all really feel something for it. And it’s not, we all talk about Zombies, we’re all here for the zombie walk. Thank you so much for this, by the way, it’s really appropriate. And George Romero did create the modern zombie. This is all because of Romero’s Walking Dead, owes his estate like a gazillion dollars because he created all of these but it’s not just that. The same quality of sincerity can be felt in a creep show, the same kind of sincerity can be felt in nightriders, the same kind of sincerity can be felt in the craziest, and the same kind of sincerity can be felt to my personal favorite Martin. George A Romero put a piece of his soul into every film he made and I think that’s why I almost cry when I talk about this filmmaker because when we watch his films we felt that, we felt him. So, I am lucky, I met the man three times. But for those of you who may or may not have been lucky to meet him you all did, because of this idea that he put him so much of himself into his work and that is why he is our horror grandpa, that’s is why we will never forget him. It’s the family connection in the power of art why a Night of the Living Dead or any of his films are just as powerful as any other art I can think of and I believe that to the very bottom of everything I believe. It defies the notion that we should never meet our heroes, there is this idea that oh you mean your heroes, you will find out their total dicks and you will never want to meet them again. But Romero, it wasn’t that. You meet him and he is as sincere and amazing and he is such a real working-class blue-collar Pittsburg smaug [ph] and he loves I love him for that and he was the greatest.
I want to end this really by saying as a film festival director who I spent my life putting together film programs, showing them on the big screen, bringing a community together, talking about why they are important and it all began with Night of the Living Dead and wanting to share with everyone I knew. So, I really owe everything in my mission to George Romero and what he gave to me and that’s who I am, that’s who I am is because of him. George didn’t just establish the zombie, mythos, the modern zombie mythos, he established the horror community as we know it and the memories that we built with each other as we know them. And so, speaking of memories, I want to invite and introduce the next person who is going to speak. Memory is important here because our next speaker as the face of dreadcentral.com. He has continued the Romero tradition of fostering a horror community in the truest sense of that word. I see filmmakers here who got to know each other, starting with the efforts of Dread Central and sites like that and this effort too. He has been a prime force in just that community building that I am talking about, and he has also been blessed to having a genuine friendship with George A Romero and I know all of it this is super hard for him. So, ladies and gentlemen without any further due I want to bring up my friend, my colleague Dread Central’s “uncle creepy” Mr. Steve Barton is going to follow me now.
Mr. Steve Barton: Sometimes when you eulogized somebody, you have a tendency to make it about you, instead of them and sometimes you do it without even realizing you’re doing it, and that’s only because they meant so much to you. Having known George and I said last night, getting to be a personal friend to George is like Bigfoot telling you that you’re cool enough to know he exists. And that’s the goddamn truth and I was lucky enough and blessed enough to get to know George. But my relationship with him didn’t start on a great note. I am going to tell you a real quick story. I was three years old, okay, and this is going to be story time with Uncle Creepy but it’s all about George, I swear.
I was three years old and I waited for my parents to go to sleep and I went into the living room and we had this big giant black and white console TV that a, it’s a kind of TV. How many people remember that when you break them they are now furniture, okay and I went into the living room and I put on the TV and what was on was this news gist about the death returning to life. And I said oh shit, and I audibly said oh shit because I’ve had potty mouth since I was like two. I woke up my parents that night to tell them we had to get to rescue stations. They weren’t happy when they got into the living room and I got my first spanking because of that and I remembered that even though I was terrified out of my mind, I was absolutely safe and it is that very reason why I’ve been chasing the horror genre my entire life, it’s that rush, it’s that adrenaline, it’s that rollercoaster, it’s that controlled chaos. And I know you guys feel me I know you know exactly what I am talking about.
Many years later, George’s Manager when I had first started breaking into the business I had my first interviewed with my idol, the man who is responsible for every fiber of my being because my parents suck, okay? My parents were idiots and I know you guys can feel that too because we’ve all had family that are fucking assholes, all right? I learned my right and wrong. I learned my moral compass in which direction it was going to leave me from watching George A Romero’s movies. It was about 8 o’clock in the morning and I don’t know, fucking why, maybe it was the poorest decision ever made but maybe George’s Manager Chris gave me George’s hotel room key to wait for him. Let me ask you a question, what in the world do you do in George Romero’s hotel room? I hugged his pillows. I sat in every conceivable chair I could find. I peed in his bathroom, didn’t even hold my dick, it was like free-flying a baby. But it’s okay because I got a real good aim, right Debby? George came in and I was about as nervous as I could be, and the first thing he said to me was “Hey man, that’s bullshit” and that was it. I fell in love with the man whose movies I’d fallen in love with.
Couple years later, we remained friends, we remained close, we always stayed in touch and I got a phone call about six or seven years ago and it was George and he is like, “Hey Steve, listen I got this thing going on man and I can’t possibly be asked you to be one of the living, so you want to come up and be a zombie?” No, no. Here is the thing when you get a phone call from George A Romero to ask you to be a zombie, you don’t hesitate. You booked a flight. You looked for carrier pigeon. You looked for a rack of giant slingshot if you have to and hope for the motherfucking best, but you go, okay.
This is the last story I am going to share with him, share with you guys for George, because he is one of the most inspirational things. I got a chance to watch Picasso paint and that was amazing. And I didn’t even know what the fuck I was doing there, you know? George’s “Hey Steve, we’re going to put you in makeup with scene a little bit, I am like all right, I am the happiest guy in Canada, my balls are tucked into my stomach because it’s freezing. But I have a smile from here to here, I don’t care. I got into the makeup chair and Sean Simpson was there, he worked for KNB and I am like Sean, listen I am a friend to George. I don’t want to be a great guy. I don’t want to be blood smudged guy. I am bald, fuck me up, okay, so he put on some really killer makeup and I got to do some background stuff and I am bucket list checked. I have no bucket list anymore, I can’t complaint. The last night of filming it was about 15 below zero, we were all standing around freezing, it’s the middle of a night and I am sure my friend Michael Filcher, who probably see this can tell you at 4:00 am everything is a cock joke, no matter what it is, it’s a cock joke and you, if you watch Survival of the Dead, know that all the zombies in that pant habitually making cock jokes the entire time you were there. It’s about 5:00 am now and George comes out to me. All right Steve, then you do the main kill of the movie and you’re going to do it and we got one shot because we only have one body. Pressure, I became possessed, I don’t, all I know is you let me do the scene and when you’re in 15 below one of the things you don’t realized when you come up with staged blood all over your hands and face and immediately starts freezing, and it was a kin to wearing mittens made of paint. It’s the best way I can describe it. But when George was on set, you could tell when George is having a good time because he would get this big fucking smile that only he had and you won’t know that smile real well because you seen it, you heard that laugh and he walked over to me afterward it was over and it took awhile because the body was frozen. So, we took like four minutes to rip it up. In the movie it’s like fucking 30 seconds but you Steve, you okay? And I got down on my knees and I just said to him “Thank you”. I’m just fuck and hugged him right there, he cared about you guys.
Every one of you, if he was here, he would be looking around and he would say what the fuck that matter with you? And that’s exactly what he would say but that’s who he was because he never thoughts. He deserves the recognition or the adulation or any of that. He was just having a good time man, he was telling stories and believe me he was genuinely touched and would be so touched if he saw you guys right now. The reason his movies were so impactful is because they said something. They said the MPAA to go fuck itself but they also said something that was relevant to all of us in a perfect example and the tone I am going to leave you guys with and I really want to thank Jen for doing this, with Jennifer. I want to thank Miguel for being kind enough to introduce me; it’s an honor sir, really. In 1967, the lead actor the George A Romero wanted for band couldn’t do it and instead he hired an African-American man which back then was considered a real controversial decision and he looks and I’ve spoken him about this and George called me, it wasn’t because he was black, I didn’t care about that. It’s because he was the best guy for the job and here we are decades later and we could still learn a lot from George A Romero, thank you guys.
Female Speaker: How do I follow that up?
Jennifer Muzquiz: I am like, crying up here and it means the world to me that you guys are here. Zombies work started because of George A Romero showing up the Comic-Con to be culminate/accumulated [00:37:47] by Max Brooks. So, we did a Comic-Con Zombies walk and we had a lot of zombies shown up. And I will tell you the early days of the Comic-Con zombie walk were the best. They got bigger and weirder but I will tell you when people weren’t expecting us wow. That was the coolest thing ever. Family is eating dinner, not expecting literally 4 to 5 to 600 zombies walking towards them and leering over their dinner plates as they were just, trying to calm down up, calm and count a take breaths, oops show up for the 3D entertainment but not really.
I am so glad that happened because so many of those people ended up joining our walks over the years and becoming part of our family and our community. We want new fans for George A Romero over the years because they got into zombies and they, talked to us, the people that started at the beginning who truly had but for merely Zombies [00:38:55] and all things are. And they got to talk to us and we’ve to give him film recommendations and that was the greatest thing, oh when you get to destroy people’s little leered [00:39:05] of what good whore is by introducing him to things like creep show, that’s awesome and the craziest. Oh my god, okay, so I, it’s a short story, and a kid come up to me third zombie walk and said “You know, I really like Night of the Living Dead but I really want to get into more Romero stuff, what shall I watch?” I didn’t even think about it, I just said you need to pick up the craziest. His mom was really mad at me. So, he was only probably about 12 or 13 and I just, it’s fun, it’s fun to get kids into this stuff what shall I wear at children’s party.
Like George, I enjoy subversive entertainment and that’s what Zombies Walk has become over the years, a subversive entertainment. And what’s really cool is, I was speaking to Beth earlier in an interviewer talking about the social good that Zombie Walk is done over the years and did Romero have something to do with it? Yes, Romero had a lot to do with that because I was raised in a family where being involved in social change and positive social change is what you should be geared towards your entire life. You should wake people up. You should make people think. You should get people in touch with the world at large and give them something more to consider and that’s what Romero’s movies did on the surface and underneath that surface. There were multiple layered to everything he created and you have to think. It wasn’t just mindless, brainless entertainment. You worked in entertainment zombie, you have to think. If I can follow on the steps of George Romero and resurrect something that I love, I am going to and I can tell you, give me a year or two and Zombie Walk will be back at Comic-Con. I owe it to him to keep that community going and if you are local to San Diego, we will continue doing the walk in October like we always have. We broke too much because of George Romero and I will bring it back at Comic too.
Thank you. I just want to thank you guys from the bottom of my heart. Zombie Walk has been my life force to the last decade. It has gotten me through the death of a parent. It has gotten me through the ending of our marriage. It has gotten me through the death of two very, very close friends of mine and I always fall back on my Zombie Walk community and the fact that I have to keep going to keep this community going because it means more to me that I get to continue in [indiscernible] [00:41:31] of George Romero of bringing social good and change to the world [indiscernible] [0:41:35] zombies. So, thank you guys for being here I really appreciated.
Beth: That was Jennifer Muzquiz, Founder and Director Zombie Walk San Diego. Since she brought up the 2008 Comic-Con panel for Max Brooks, author of World War Z interviewed George Romero. I thought that include a little excerpt from that panel for you to listen to.
Max Brookes: I’ve never done this before. I’ve never introduced anyone. I don’t really know how to do it. So, my own experience of watching, in spite of this movie, where Mad Max introduces Elijah Mohamed so I’m just going to borrow from that. Everything I am that I had learned, I attribute to this dear man. What is George Romero trying to say? What does he have going on? George Romero came here with 60 minutes of sleep. George Romero flew away from Canada. George Romero already has a project Diary of The Dead which is almost finished, and that’s we’re to talk about with many other things, ladies and gentleman – the honorable George Romero.
George A. Romero: Thank you. Thank you.
Max Brooks: Your film the original zombie movies, the ones that you are obviously a product of your generation, one of the few [indiscernible] [00:43:15] exactly still puts social commentary God forbid with this, and your generation had its own challenges and what do you think challenges this generation the most?
George A. Romero: Oh, trying to have faith in anything I think. Just try and find the reason and keep tracking.
Max Brooks: Yeah.
George A. Romero: I mean it’s just single institutions, individuals, government institutions, institutions of learning, I mean it’s just where you go and where you find the…
Max Brooks: Hard to find the heroes.
George A. Romero: Hard to find the heroes yeah. So, I think that’s probably the hardest thing to overcome personally and to maintain some kind of continuing them for any sort of inspiration.
Max Brooks: Is there an indirect, is there sort of commentary?
George A. Romero: Yeah, it’s basically it’s about media. It’s about these people, these people get, become obsessed with doing what they called shooting and it’s the whole commentary about how this having access to all these and having seen everything million different ways, just makes you immune to violence or aneurysm to that kind of…
Max Brooks: The decent civilization that constitute bombarded from apprehending.
George A. Romero: Exactly and what happens to my characters as they get some of these sensitizes and they just keep shooting and you know, they’re just looking at the world that way and that becomes enough.
Max Brooks: Right. This is going to be awesome. If at some point I turn into Chris Farley character from SNL. Before we started, we have us telling how much I like whatever you may called Season of The Witch.
George A. Romero: That’s nine people, including you.
Max Brooks: Yeah, I keep watching it and if you want to…if you ever can remake it…
George A. Romero: Yeah well, that’s the only film that I made that I would like to remake. I think it could be pertinent in a different way today. Obviously, you need to rewrite the, there are still women’s issues and there’re still jerky guys like her husband, are still brutal and just say nothing and not only insensitive but actually brutal. And so I think, I’d like to remake it. I mean it’s a film we made it on 90 grand. We ran out of money, so the brokerage job is raising money, stop sending checks suddenly and so we had to hurry up and finish it. So, I’ve always felt that it’s not really a complete work.
Max Brooks: Yeah.
George A. Romero: We sort of managed to get a rope around it and finished it. We have for a decent way but just given the resources that we have…but I’d like to take another whack of that. It’s the only one that I think I’d like to try to redo.
Max Brooks: Hypothetically, somebody gives you all the money you need to make any kind of movie you want, a tech shelter I don’t know but they do…
George A. Romero: Those were the days.
Max Brooks: Yeah. What would you do?
George A. Romero: I’d probably try to, I’d probably make a bunch of movies, take the money and say I got a deal for you, I’ll make them as long as I’m standing, that’s probably what I would do. I don’t have a desire. I don’t have any particular project. I think needs that mega bucks to pull it off. I don’t have someone sitting in the drawer. I wish I get a $100 million to make this. I’d like to take out crack at someone like that but I don’t know what it would be and if you know, it’s purely hypothetical as I’m looking for that nobody is chasing me with that kind of an offer. So, I’m happy to just keep, I feel like I’m playing electric trains or something. I’m just happy to still be here and still working and hopefully I got couple or more films that may and take it from there. I guess, like everyone else I guess.
Max Brooks: Where do you get your ideas?
George A. Romero: In the shower, I don’t know, basement maybe or CNN. You know, you see something on CNN, oh man, what shit is this. And that it’s just sort of triggers all kinds of ideas. So, my ideas come from that if I can sort of handle it, figure out a way to do a story about it and I’ll sit down and try to write it. Though many of them are sitting, still in the long hour drive, yeah finished.
Max Brooks: Oh yeah. Yeah but who told you could be a filmmaker?
George A. Romero: Me.
Max Brooks: Back in the day, you’re this kid in the 60’s you said, I want to make movies, what was the inspiration?
George A. Romero: Well, I love movies. I didn’t think that I could ever do it. I thought you have to be born royalty in order to be able to make a career at it. And in those days, one of my partners and I got together, we set up a little commercial production company, beer commercials and industrial film stuff like that in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and we were successful. But in those days, there were film labs, there was no such thing as video, so for city the size of Pittsburg had film labs. Film labs the size of techno car. I mean big film labs that were processing the news on film and that’s where I first learned how to use the medium. I would bicycle in the news [indiscernible] [0:49:08] the TV stations and I’d sit with these editors, these guys with the flammable glue pots and cigarettes. And really that was one of those labs working with the news guys that I just sort of learned, oh that’s how you synchronize sound with picture, that’s a synchronizer. Now I will watch the camera on this visible stuff, I mean, I need to rock of those.
Max Brooks: So, when you did Night of The Living Dead, obviously you didn’t set out to start a genre, but at what point since did you turn around and say, I started a zombie?
George A. Romero: I would turn around the same day I came. I don’t know, I didn’t think of these creatures as zombies. I’d basically ripped off the idea from Richard Matheson’s novel called I Am Legend which I thought was very much about revolution, that’s been made a couple of times in the films so I don’t know, do you know it? I mean that’s amazing --- and it’s the world where everyone’s become a vampire, the world has turned vampire and he’s the last man on earth and does the title now human is legendary. And I thought he started the story with where there was only one man with and the story to me was very much about revolution and I thought the best way to tell a story like that was to start at the beginning on the first line, see what happens and how it develops. So I could not stand, I ripped off the idea and then it’s the first film, the first which I wrote the Virgin is a short story which is also a seize in a house, which is similar what the novel was and faced up, he knows.
We’re still friend or we’re friends a couple of years ago. And I needed a creature, so I said, okay, well what would be one of the most revolutionary things that could possibly happen to mankind then he would be stupid enough to either not believe or not accept or, and I said, what if the dead stop staying dead. Seems like a pretty…something that should catch your eye, happy to share it, so that’s where I went with but to me in my mind, they were just ghouls, they were flesh eaters, my original title was Night of The Flesh Eaters. And when Walter Reade picked it up for distribution they changed the title to Night of The Living Dead which was their title.
Max Brooks: It wasn’t yours?
George A. Romero: No, and that’s how we lost our copyright.
Max Brooks: You have some pretty strong social commentary The Night of The Living Dead, it’s the ’60s. You got a black guy smacking a white woman in the ’60s, did you ever get in trouble for that? I mean did Dwayne ever called you or?
George A. Romero: No, Dwayne was afraid that I might call him. I didn’t realize what, how he had written the script colorless, I mean that guy was not, the guy’s race was not described.
Max Brooks: Yeah and there’s no racial…there’s no racist habitats anywhere in the movie?
George A. Romero: No, and we decided that was what we were most proud of is that when Dwayne agreed to do it, we didn’t change the script. He argued and I think now maybe he was right that we should have, not to make it when angry black white confrontational thing that you addressed it.
Max Brooks: Maybe but…
George A. Romero: And because he’s wrong in the end then, his point was that sometimes a person in a minority can see certain things much more clearly than a person in the majority. But anger can mess certain other things and that’s really what happens to this character. He gets so pissed off that he start seeing things only his way and he winds up making mistake and then Dwayne felt all along that we should address that.
Max Brooks: Really?
George A. Romero: Yeah.
Max Brooks: So, they should have gone on the basement.
George A. Romero: They should have.
Max Brooks: It’s pretty amazing and you got him saying, “Look I’m the boss”.
George A. Romero: Yeah.
Max Brooks: This is I am, fight for everything up here.
George A. Romero: Yeah.
Max Brooks: Now, he gets a shot at the head at the very end. No one took his side, it was like George will want it a happy ending.
George A. Romero: Yeah, we didn’t get distributed for quite a while because with our couple of distributors that wanted it and wouldn’t take it unless we changed the ending. And you know, naively, we just said, oh yeah fuck you.
Beth Accomando: That was Max Brooks interviewing George A Romero at Comic Con 2008. After the vigil, I also spoke with Angelika Melick who was at the 2008 Zombie Walk after the Romero panel.
So, tell me about George Romero and what his films meant to you?
Angelica Melick: His films mean so much to me. I mean growing up, I saw the series and I kind of, I used to love all kinds of horror and I found myself more and more drawn to zombies specifically the George Romero movies and I think at the time I didn’t realize what was going on but there were something very subversive about them and I was like, although I realize there was a lot of, this whole other layer of the social commentary in it and it just drew me even more into it. I like this guy using something that, on the surface just it was just like a bunch of undead people walking around but it really has a deep meaning to it and I just…that always stay with me.
Beth Accomando: Do you have a favorite Romero’s zombie film?
Angelica Melick: You know I like Dawn of The Dead, that one is just so great.
Beth Accomando: And what is it about the zombie that is both appealing and terrifying?
Angelica Melick: I think the terrifying part is, you look at your friends and your family know who they are and you know who you are and to see a zombie, they’re not that person anymore, their whole personality has been stripped away from them and I think that’s something that’s just really terrifying like something for me is, I used to love gory horror movies and the gore never bothered me unless someone mess with the brain because the brain is where your personality is, it’s where your humanity is, your compassion, everything that makes you you and when you’re a zombie, all of that is gone, it’s just the body is still there and there’s something so terrifying about that. I think the appealing part is, it gives us, as far as entertainment, it gives us something through which we can channel our fears at society. We can channel our fears of viruses breaking out of laboratories or nuclear war or witchcraft and a cult is on. So, I think it gives us a way that we can express our fears.
Beth Accomando: All right, well, thank you very much.
Angelica Melick: Thank you so much.
Beth Accomando: That was Romero fan Angelica Melick. Although Steve Barton had spoken during the vigil, he still had an excess of emotions over the loss of his friend and filmmaker George Romero. So, while sitting outside a crowded bar in the Gaslamp district, right outside the Convention Center where Comic-Con is held, Steve gathered his thoughts for one more tribute to the Godfather of the undead.
Steve Barton: Hey everybody, this is Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton from dreadcentral.com and this conversation, if it’s a little noisy is because we’re at Comic-Con 2017 and we just finished the George A Romero Memorial Vigil. Being that we’re all in the moment still, I figure this was a perfect time to say a few things about the man George Romero was and the filmmaker he was.
In my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have met a legend. I met a lot of people that I’ll never forget but George Romero was something special. And I think he was so special because he never wanted to be known as special. He just wanted to be known as George. He has this way about him of just instantly disarming people and making them feel welcome. And a lot of people would be intimidated by this man because he’s made so many classic movies and the coolest thing about George is well, a lot of film critics and film fans would sit there and pour over his movies, dissecting things and looking at them and tearing them apart and building them back up. At the end of the day, George was just having a good time making movies man. That was never his intention. The reason why things came so socially relevant is he was just speaking what was on his mind at the time. But at the end of the day, he never expected anyone to think that his work is something that should be studied. He just was trying to make movies, have a good time and tell stories and do so on his own terms. And if George did anything in his life, he did it on his own terms. He is a sterling example of everything that is right about independent filmmaking and he was a genuinely good soul.
How do you quantify what this man has brought us, what this man has done as a filmmaker? He built a family and that’s why he’s so beloved like when George would go to a convention and sign, he would stay no matter how long it took to sign everything for everybody and make them feel special. He wasn’t just ever, “Hey how you doing, I’m George”. He would take the time with every fan even if there was hundreds in line to just make them feel like this moment was special for him and as special for him as it was for them and it truly was. George loved meeting his fans. He would get giddy, I mean I would talk to him after a convention and he would be like, there are so many people here and so many people that want to talk to me and he goes, I just have no F in idea why man. And that’s the essence of George. In a lot of ways, he was a giant and not just because he was 6’4”. He was a giant among men with true hearts and true vision and as I said earlier, 1967, the lead of Night of The Living Dead could make it and he employed an African-American actor to be the lead and he didn’t do it a stunt casting, he wasn’t thinking of it as a controversial move like most people would. He just picked the best man for the job and decades later, we can still learn a lot from George Romero.
Beth Accomando: That was Steve Barton of Dread Central. And here’s my 2008 interview with George A Romero. I began the interview by asking about that opening scene from Diary of The Dead and about how clever it was.
George A Romero: Oh man, I mean I don’t know what there is to say, it just seems like a good idea at the time, it seems like a way to introduce the style and to introduce the whole emetic thing about media and that’s of course while the mainstream is sort of still functioning, it’s a very first report of these things. And then I also wanted something that I could show again a couple of times later and show that they were distorting and changing and trying to clean it up and so, it just seemed like the way to go. You get these ideas in the shower and that’s really where it came from, it just seemed to fit the whole theme of the film, and it gave me a device that I could sort of keep using throughout.
Beth Accomando: Did you show up as the cop in the later version of it?
George A Romero: Well, I’m the guy that sort of lying about it. I represent the sort of authority figure that’s a man telling the truth. They want him dead until my guys made him dead so I said well, okay. I used to always put a part of the reason for doing this from a sort of a throwback. I wanted to go back to the simpler way of doing things and to something smaller and more controllable literally where I had a complete control and which I did for the first time since Night of the Living Dead. I just so I used to always sort of do a little cameo in all, I don’t know the first sort of eight of my films I always did role cameo, so I said well, since we’re sort of flashing back in time I’ll do it again I’ll come back and do once.
Beth Accomando: So, is this kind of desire to have more control was that in part of reaction to doing Land of the Death where it was a bigger studio film for you?
George A. Romero: When we made Land of the Death it was Universal and I was sort of terrified going in figuring I mean everybody warned me, it’s terrible working with Universal, they are the blue mini and the black towel and they were great. I mean in the end they really wanted my film and they wanted they let us, they let my partner and I make it exactly where we want to make it and they were great to work with. It was just a grueling experience making that movie and its still was guerrilla filmmaking because it was even though we had more money than I never had on a zombie film, it wasn’t enough money to pull off something that ambitious, and so it was just constantly every night no compromises, cheese we didn’t get that shot. So, even after coming off the set we would be up for another three hours figuring out what are we going to do tomorrow, it’s just grueling. And there were something about it when it got all finished even though I like the film a lot, it was bit, it was approaching under dominant it was getting a bit too big and I felt they have had it out scaled its origin in a certain sentence. I mean, the reason we made the first film we’re just a bunch of young people in Pittsburg that made a movie. And I sort of really wanted to get back to that and I have this idea about doing something about this all this emerging media and I felt the best way to do that is to go back to the very first night and sort of tell a parallel story that happens on the same, the first night of Night of the Living Dead. In fact, used some of the news tracks from the original Night of the Living Dead in this film but it just indicate that it was meant to be the same night and same event, and I just felt to that was a way to just simplify my life and sort of get back to the roots of the feeling.
Beth Accomando: You’re zombie films have always entailed a lot of social commentary as well, so, what were you interested kind of in commenting on in this particular film?
George A. Romero: It occurred to me and still occurs to me that what’s happening with this sort of new normal of the media is that everyone is becoming obsessed with the idea of being a reporter and we’re invited to if something happen outside your window, shoot it and will put it on the air. And there’s lot of fear which strikes me as being a bit dangerous I mean there could be some lunatic out there and advancing radical ideas which are face time at all reasonable, they’re going, all of a sudden has a million 2 million followers. And, its strikes me as dangerous and that it can create just more tribalism were not the last thing we need and I mean I joke and I said of Jim Jones have thrown off a blog. There would be millions of people drinking Kool-Aid and it bothers me plus the fact that people are getting. They get sucked into it they think oh, I can be a reporter, I’ll take footage of tornado, get it on the air and maybe I can help and it’s all sort of the feeling that maybe we can help, maybe we can part become but it’s almost a new kind of graffiti trying to establish their personal identity and all of that just strikes me as being a bit hard and a bit dangerous. And I wanted to do something about that and that’s where it came from.
Beth Accomando: The film obviously despite a certain distrust for the mainstream media but should we also kind of distrust the point of views that were given from these student filmmakers as well as they start to put their stuff?
George A. Romero: Oh absolutely, in fact I don’t thing that added texture. I mean the mainstream media obviously is being manipulative what’s happening out in the blog it’s here, is that people think that they’re helping and that they’re, but it’s really little more than opinion and it’s completely uncontrolled. I mean maybe we’re being manipulate and overly managed by the mainstream but that’s almost forgettable. I mean, I don’t if people are ready that’s to have a million bloggers out there advancing this point of view and that point of view and all of a sudden people listen to limbo because they agree with what he said, and what happens with all these blog is that people that tune into them will become advocates of them or listen to them because they agree with what being said. And I think that if that’s what I’m talking about is being dangerous, it’s just absolutely unfettered, uncontrolled, unmanaged information which in most cases is even information but opinion and that’s the stuff that I think is dangerous. It would be very easy to join up with somebody you think sounds reasonable but they’re actually might be some radical ideas in there. I’m sure Hitler sounded very reasonable to the people he was talking to at first.
Beth Accomando: Talk a little bit about the fact that you have a group of this student filmmakers who are the ones making this film. You seem to have some fun with that and kind of deep constructing the whole horizontal through them in part?
George A. Romero: Well, I taken a little feel a little shot at myself there and I couldn’t help but make a few jokes about fast moving zombies and I can’t resist that I sort of felt a little bit of slaps that some rumor here and there. But yeah I was taking a shot at it but it was also, it was a breadth of fresh air. I mean these characters in the film reminded me very much of us when we’re making Night of the Living Dead the first film, and so it was sort of a reliving it, it’s kind of a nostalgic in a way experience. So, it was, and I just felt that was the way to do it. I mean that was really one of my initial ideas that I was going to do something about this, what’s the logical way to do it. Well, if film students are out shooting a school project and they have a camera and so when the zombies begin to walk they just naturally, at least, one of them at first and then eventually others among them become obsessed with this idea. They just start documenting it and think that they’re trying to help and possibly even can save some lives but in the mean time the situation of far outrun to everybody and it’s like too late to really do anything about it.
Beth Accomando: Well really appreciated about how you used that first person cameras a lot of films recently have been doing some of that but you made such clever use of things like the battery dying and the guy being plugged in a not being able to see what we want to see at a certain point in the hospital?
George A. Romero: Right, yeah. I mean it isn’t the way it would be, I mean that’s happened to me shooting on movies and I can’t get over to the birthday cake because I got to say plugged in. I don’t know, again there’s a lot of idea that comes to you in the shower and again I was collaborating with my partner Peter Grunwald and we had an old friend John Harrison and I mean literally now even sort of the planning of this film we would sit around in a living room just like the old days that’s sort of, spitballing ideas and having fun with it and that’s really what we set out to do and that’s what I guess we’re able to do and it was great enough to have control to be able to do it. The only thing that when you’re working for a studio or when you have a lot of layers of suits between you and the work is you see a sunset, you want to shoot it, you have to write a memo in order to get permission to shoot that’s we’re able to do anything we wanted to do all the way through post production. So, it was really like going back to the old day.
Beth Accomando: How do you feel about your film coming out on the hills of Cloverfield which uses some of this first-person camera and it had a much bigger budget. And people were calling Cloverfield independent and experimental and that seems like it has quite a bit more Hollywood backing. I just want to know how you feel about your film coming on the heels of the film.
George A. Romero: I’ve never been concerned about that I didn’t know about it when we’re making our film but it seems to be there is some sort of a collective some conscious I mean you have redacted now Cloverfield there’s advantage point that I think everyone is noticing. I think it’s in the consciousness of people of filmmakers this idea of this I’m a camera I mean there’s just a million cameras out there. I don’t know, I mean I’m not a marketing guy, I made a film that I wanted to make it, sort of from the heart, and I can’t relate it to Cloverfield I almost don’t care about it, I mean, I’ve seen people that say well, you can compare to Cloverfield then other people would say well Cloverfield got it wrong and Romero got it right. I don’t pay attention to that kind of stuff, there’s no way to control it, so what you can do is hope for the best. And my stuff is my stuff and it’s always been sort of me and I don’t know if there’s anything that I’m that I can say that I’m sort of proud of is that I’ve never just sort of taken a job if you know what I mean. This is an idea that I had I hope people like it, I mean, obviously on a certain level Cloverfield is a huge thing and we don’t need to be competing with it in that sense. This is, it’s an idea that I had and happily a lot of people seem to be tuning into it and getting it. So, that’s enough for me.
Beth Accomando: When you made your, made Night of the Living Dead did you ever think that you would be able to return to that material so often and be able to mind it for something fresh and somewhat 30 and 40?
George A. Romero: Never. I never thought I would do another one I resisted doing another one for like 10 years and what happened with Night of the Living Dead it initially went out until I drive in the neighborhood theater six months it was gone. But it had actually returned the money it costs us about a 115 grand return 500,000/600,000 and we thought okay that was a nice exercise and we’re actually making bread. I was working on my third film when suddenly the French discovered Night of the Living Dead and began calling it essential American cinema and I am going right, and I mean I did know how to make a movie. I mean all I saw were the mistakes in it. And then I got, I almost froze up I said Christ if I’m going to do a sequel or another one I’m going to have to be as socially conscious and it became an obsession and so I waited until I serve god an idea the second film I made was in a shopping mall people hold up in a shopping mall and I met the people socially who had developed this first big indoor temple to consumers in Western Pennsylvania. It gave me the idea and then I was trying to be as conscious as I would but it was I was I realized I was doing it without, in a sense, and halfway through that production I sort of shifted gears and said wait a minute I can really have fun with this and try to make it reflective of the times and try to make it a comment that doesn’t sort of take over the thrill ride part of the film. And that’s really when I developed this sort of conceit and I waited consciously another 10 years to do Day of the Dead and waited until I felt that I could again reflect something different about the times in the same with Land. This one came quicker but I did, I felt I got the idea while we’re shooting Land of the Dead and I wanted to do something about this blog as we are in and actually was concerned that people we’re going to start do the same thing and actually as it turns out that several people were doing the same thing. So, we did it but it came it grew out of the idea, it didn’t come from, it didn’t at all come from somebody saying hey, make another one we can make money on it, it wasn’t like that at all, it really the idea came first.
Beth Accomando: Now at the Comic-Con you said you had in the work possibly a balls-out comedy zombie film, is that still a possibility?
George A. Romero: Yeah, it’s still a possibility, I love it, it’s just, it literally is as you say it literally is a balls-out comedy it’s just that it’s a completely slapstick kind of, and again it would be fun for me almost to be like going on a vacation doing that I’d love to do it. Again, completely different it has nothing to do with any of the other films or it has nothing to do with either of the story line it’s just, I don’t know, it’s like Fido or showing of the dead or something it’s sort of a side bar, which just happens to have a zombie in it one single zombie and I’ve love to do it I hope that somebody sees enough merit in it to give me the belt.
Beth Accomando: I wish I would win a lottery I could do that now.
George A. Romero: Me too, I would do it the New York minute if I had some shops but anyway.
Beth Accomando: You mentioned that you used some of the original audio tracks from Night of the Living Dead, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the audio in the film because it’s fairly layered and there’s a lot going on just in the audio.
George A. Romero: Well, it is and that’s where we were able to, that’s where I was sort of able to get my little messages, my little elbows and sides in on the radio and take T.V broadcast that they’re downloading. And I had a bunch of buddies that came out to do voice tracks so that which was, it’s really gratifying, I mean I call these guys up and said, “Hey I got all these I need all these new voices, we want to do one” and everybody said, “Yes”. I mean, Steve King did one, Tarantino, Wes Craven, Guillermo Del Toro all my old buddies came out and said, “Sure man”. So, that it was fun there is much of the message is in there and in this narration with and we held off on writing any of that stuff.
Our main objective when we’re on the set was to get the main action, the principle action done that involved principle characters. And we’re saying to ourselves, well these are film students and after they have everything in the cam somebody’s is going to go and finish this movie and we said we can do the same thing and that’s exactly what we did. We had all the principle action in the cam and then we came home and stated to work on it and I was changing some of those audio tracks right down and so the last couple of days before the film premier. We’re able to work with it like clay, move the sculpture a little bit this way a little bit that way and that was also a result of having the freedom to be able to do that.
Beth Accomando: And your films still delivers on the gore too which is quite fun, do you still enjoy that?
George A. Romero: I enjoy it but I also was getting a bit tired of that too. I mean, I felt initially like I needed to do it. I had because people wanted it and I also felt that it was kind of a slap in the face, it’s sort of like the operating room sequences and mess where you’re watching the comedy and laughing your head off and then all of a sudden there is this operating surgical rooms scene and it just slaps you and you says guys I think there is something to think about here this is war. And that was my sort of rationale for doing it but again with Land of the Dead, when you’re shooting an objective film with objective cameras the tendency is to go in and basically do what I call product shots on the gore and when we’re doing this film I said wait I think it’s maybe more effective and it will be a little more realistic because these kids are not going to go in and do close-ups on the gore. They’re going to shoot it from across the room and I felt that when we started to look Daleys, I said wow this is even more effective then sort of going in for close-up one it and so it’s there and as if maybe pound for pound as much as there is in Land because Land was also raided, it’s objective it says if you’re shooting it yourself like a shooting home movie. So, it comes and goes a little more quickly and it’s only viewed from a certain perspective which is sort of way over here across the room maybe you could zoom in but not that far. And it was meant to be through the eyes of the individual cameraman and I find it in a way a more effective than going in for all those close-up.
Beth Accomando: I know you’re on a tight schedule but one last question I was wondering what you think of today’s horror films if you enjoy any of them or like anything in particular?
George A. Romero: Enjoy them, no. I can just say that without qualification, I don’t understand them, I don’t understand this sort of porn star I mean grow up porn or torture porn [ph] I don’t get it I wish somebody could give me a reason I mean whilst it’s a angry times all of these films are angry. Angry at what I mean I don’t find any political statement in them I don’t know when we’re angry in the ’60s we’re basically we’re angry at the police, at the military, we’re angry at institutions because it strikes me that just being angry isn’t enough of a reason to make a cruel film. I’ve always tried to not make my films cruel. I mean they may be angry but there’s I try to not make them cruel and try to lighten the load with some humor and all that I mean being anger, angry is one thing I mean Dr. Strangelove is an angry move but it’s hilarious. So, I don’t know I guess I’m more of a traditionalist that way.
Beth Accomando: All right. Well thank you very for your time, I really enjoyed speaking with you.
George A. Romero: Thank you. It’s been fun.
Beth Accomando: All right, bye-bye.
That was George A Romero from a 2008 interview. He passed away on July 16 and we’ll be deeply missed. But he leaves a legacy of great films and an army of zombies, who simply won’t stay dead. So, till our next film fix, I’m Beth Accomando your residence Cinema Junkie.
Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place