George A. Romero (1940 - 2017)
Writer and director George A. Romero will forever be synonymous with the zombie genre and horror movies per se, as his work in this field was pioneering and outstanding. Yet, because of the success of his seminal film, Night of the Living Dead, he also brought a great deal of attention to independent film making and the way film making was financed. He was an intelligent and thoughtful film maker who used the medium of genre movies to explore a variety of socio-political themes. His characters were often flawed but credible and he had a knack for finding humanity in the bleakest of dramatic situations. If Romero had explored such ideas in mainstream cinema he would have garnered far more praise and potentially have won critical acclaim from the cinematic establishment.
I had the pleasure of seeing George A. Romero interviewed at the British Film Institute several times over the last two decades. He was a quietly spoken, thoughtful man who was very cinematically literate. He was also very gracious towards his fans, who were often utterly besotted with him and his work. Yet, he took time to answer their questions in a comprehensive and positive way. It also became very clear that he was far removed from the “auteur director” moniker that he’d been saddled with. He spoke very generously about the talent he’d had the pleasure of working with over the years and he certainly lacked the ego we so often see from certain creative quarters. I think this contributed to the clarity and honesty of his film making.
In many ways Dawn of the Dead remains George A. Romero’s magnum opus. It is as pertinent today as a social and political commentary as it was in 1978 upon its release. As a personal preference, I would recommend The Extended Mall Hours Cut of the film which is a fan edit that combines all material seen in the Director’s Cut and Argento Cut of the film. It is as close an approximation of Romero’s original rough cut of the movie as you can find. This version delves in to the human element of the narrative further and really does add a somewhat different tone to the film’s final act. Seldom does mainstream cinema get this thoughtful and as introspective, let alone genre cinema. But that was George A. Romero’s gift. Free from studio interferences and financial imperatives, he could focus on credible and honest film making. He will be missed.