If you think zombie movie culture started with The Walking Dead, you need to get things together. It started back in 1968 with the cult classic Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero for $114,000, which began all the zombie movies that we got since. George A. Romero passed away according to the Los Angeles Times. He was 77.
His producing partner, Peter Grunwald, confirmed to the newspaper that he died on Sunday in his sleep after a battle with lung cancer. Romero was a first-resident of Pittsburgh and shot most of his films around the city. After making the original Night of the Living Dead, a copyright blunder cost him millions of dollars in revenue.
According to his own recount, he and nine other investors, managed to scrap together $6,000 to start production. A script that he co-wrote with John A. Russo was originally titled Night of the Flesh Eaters. Unfortunately for him, when they changed the title, the copyright was not transferred over to Night of the Living Dead and most of the profits did not make it back to the investors.
“We lost the copyright on the film because we put it on the title,” Romero explained in “Night of the Living Steelers,” an installment of NFL Films’ Timeline series that premiered in October. “Our title was Night of the Flesh Eaters; they changed it to Night of the Living Dead.
“When they changed the title, the copyright bug came off, so it went into public domain [and] we no longer had a piece of the action. Everybody had a copy of Night of the Living Dead because they were able to sell it without having to worry about royalties going to us.”
He did direct some films There’s Always Vanilla (1971), Hungry Wives (1972) and The Crazies (1973) which never proved to be as successful. He did return to the genre he knew best: zombies. Romero’s 1978 sequel Dawn of the Dead was made for $1.5 million and grossed $55 million. He followed that by writing and directing Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009), all of which earned him the name the Father of the Zombie Film.
Romero also penned a new version of Night of the Living Dead, released in 1990, that was directed by Tom Savini, his longtime collaborator and horror effects guru. (And Dawn of the Dead was remade by Zack Snyder in 2004.)
“I used to be the only guy in the playground, I was the only guy doing zombies,” he said in the Timeline doc. “Then all of a sudden The Walking Dead happened and it became mainstream. And now they’re all over the place.”