George Romero, Creator Of 'Night Of The Living Dead,' Dies At 77

Jul 17, 2017
Originally published on July 18, 2017 12:30 am
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Hollywood lost two of its stars this weekend - George Romero and Martin Landau. More about Landau in a couple of minutes. First, director George Romero - he died at age 77 after a career in which he invented the modern zombie genre. NPR's Mandalit del Barco has this appreciation.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD")

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: George A. Romero invented the modern zombie with his low-budget 1968 classic "Night Of The Living Dead." His zombies were dazed, flesh-devouring, marauding corpses that could only be obliterated with a shot to the head.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD")

DEL BARCO: The movie follows a panicked crew of survivors holed up in an abandoned house. They're led by a black man.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD")

DUANE JONES: (As Ben) Don't look at it.

DEL BARCO: Many fans saw the movie as exposing racial tensions in the country. Romero talked to NPR's Arun Rath in 2014 about the zeitgeist around casting Duane Jones as his lead character.

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GEORGE ROMERO: There was all that anger and, you know, race riots coming up. When we were driving it to New York to show it to potential distributors, that night in the car, we heard that Martin Luther King had been assassinated.

ARUN RATH, BYLINE: Wow.

ROMERO: And here we had a black lead in this film. And so I think that that was largely what made the film noticeable.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD")

DEL BARCO: The New-York-City-born auteur went on to direct five other zombie movies set in shopping malls, underground bunkers and other locales. He wrote a Marvel comic book series about zombies set in New York City. Romero told NPR that his stories were always more concerned about real-life horrors than zombies.

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ROMERO: You can't really get angry at them. They have no hidden agendas. They are what they are. And I sympathize with them. My stories have always been more about the humans and the mistakes that they make. And the zombies are just sort of out there. They're the disaster that everyone is facing.

DEL BARCO: Romero's films spawned the idea of a zombie apocalypse and influenced generations of horror enthusiasts and filmmakers. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.