Legendary filmmaker George A. Romero, father of the modern movie zombie and creator of the ground-breaking Night of the Living Dead and subsequent franchise, has died at 77.
Romero died Sunday in his sleep after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” according to a statement by his longtime producing partner, Peter Grunwald. Romero died while listening to the score of one his favourite films, 1952’s “The Quiet Man,” with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero, at his side, the family said.
Romero jump-started the zombie genre as the co-writer (with John A. Russo) and director of the 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead, which went to inspire future generations of filmmakers such as Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter that generating big scares didn’t require big budgets. Living Dead spawned an entire school of zombie knockoffs, and Romero’s sequels included 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, 1985’s Day of the Dead, 2005’s Land of the Dead, 2007’s Diary of the Dead and 2009’s George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead.
In recent years, as the zombie genre had a resurgence, Romero wasn’t always a fan. He told a British newspaper in 2013 that he’d been asked to do some episodes of The Walking Dead, but had no interest.
“Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally,” he told the Big Issue. “I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism, and I find that missing in what’s happening now.”
Romero took an intellectual view to his depiction of zombies, an approach he found lacking in some of the work that came after him.
“I grew up on these slow-moving-but-you-can’t-stop-them [creatures], where you’ve got to find the Achilles’ heel, or in this case, the Achilles’ brain,” Romero told The LA Times in 2005, referring to the organ whose destruction waylays a zombie. “In [the remake] they’re just dervishes, you don’t recognize any of them, there’s nothing to characterize them…. [But] I like to give even incidental zombies a bit of identification. I just think it’s a nice reminder that they’re us. They walked out of one life and into this.”
A sad day for my fellow horror fans, Romero kick-started so much of what we have come to love over the last 50 years. Rest in Peace.
Zompires! asks: what would happen if a virus infected half of the earth’s population — but instead of turning us into mindless, flesh-craving monsters, the virus actually made us SMARTER? If the infection activated the 90% of our brains that we supposedly don’t use, how would that change our lives? And what if it also happened to turn us into creatures that look like a cross between a zombie and a vampire? Zompires! posits that we would be filled with immediate, existential dread; that we would instantly quit our day jobs; that looking in the mirror would cause us to lose all sense of vanity; and that our familial and romantic relationships would be thoroughly tested. It’s an absurdist, existentialist meditation on religious and political divineness in our country — with totally absurd makeup. Ryan Koo.
Lindsay Gordon Anderson (17 April 1923 – 30 August 1994) was a British feature film, theatre and documentary director, film critic, and leading light of the Free Cinema movement and the British New Wave. He is most widely remembered for his 1968 film if…, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival.
He was born in Bangalore, South India, and educated at Saint Ronan’s School in Worthing, West Sussex, and at Cheltenham College, where he studied classics; and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied English Literature. After graduating, Anderson worked for the final year of World War II as a cryptographer for the Intelligence Corps, in Delhi.
Before going into film-making, Anderson was a prominent film critic writing for the influential Sequence magazine (1947–52), which he co-founded with Gavin Lambert and Karel Reisz; later writing for the British Film Institute’s journal Sight and Sound.
Following a series of screenings which he and the National Film Theatre programmer Karel Reisz organized for the venue of independently-produced short films by himself and others, he developed a philosophy of cinema which found expression in what became known, by the late-1950s, as the Free Cinema movement. This was the belief that the British cinema must break away from its class-bound attitudes and that non-metropolitan Britain ought to be shown on the nation’s screens.
Along with Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson, and others, he secured funding from a variety of sources and they each made a series of short documentaries on a variety of subjects. These films, influenced by one of Anderson’ heroes, the French filmmaker Jean Vigo, and made in the tradition of the British documentaries of Humphrey Jennings, foreshadowed much of the social realism of British cinema that emerged in the next decade, with Reisz’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), Richardson’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) and Anderson’s own This Sporting Life (1063), produced by Reisz. Anderson’s film met with mixed reviews at the time, and was not a commercial success.
Anderson is best remembered as a film maker for his “Mick Travis trilogy”, all of which star Malcolm MacDowell as the title character: If… (1968), a satire on public schools; O Lucky Man! (1973) a Pilgrim’s Progress inspired road movie; and Britannia Hospital (1982), a fantasia taking stylistic influence from the populist wing of British cinema represented by Hammer horror films and Carry On comedies.
if…. is a 1968 British drama film produced and directed byLindasy Anderson satirising English Public School life. Famous for its depiction of a savage insurrection at a public school, the film is associated with the 1960s counter culture movement because it was filmed by a long-standing counter-culture director at the time of the student uprisings in Paris in May 1968. It includes controversial statements, such as: “There’s no such thing as a wrong war. Violence and revolution are the only pure acts”. It features surrealist sequences throughout the film. Upon release in the UK, it received an X certificate.
The film stars Malcolm MacDowell in his first screen role and first appearance as Anderson’s “everyman” character Mick Travis. Richard Warwick, Christine Noonan, David Wood, Robert Swann and Rupert Webster also star.
if…. won the Palme d’Or at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival. In 2004, the magazine Total Film named it the sixteenth greatest British film of all time.
Look Back in Anger (1980), stars Malcolm MacDowell, Lisa Banes and Fran Brill, and was co-directed by Lindsay Anderson and David Hugh Jones. The film is based on John Osborne’s play of the same name. The film is about a love triangle involving an intelligent but disaffected young man Jimmy Porter (Malcolm McDowell), his upper-middle-class, impassive wife Alison Porter (Lisa Banes), and her snooty best friend Helena Charles (Fran Brill). Cliff (Robert Burr), an amiable Welsh lodger, attempts to keep the peace.
Anderson developed an acquaintance from 1950 with the legendary John Ford, which led to what has come to be regarded as one of the standard books on that director, Anderson’s About John Ford (1983). Based on half a dozen meetings over more than two decades, and a lifetime’s study of the man’s work, the book has been described as “One of the best books published by a film-maker on a film-maker”.
Anderson died on 30th August, 1994 in Angoulême, Charente, Poitou-Charentes, France from a heart attack. Remembered by Claude Chabrol “Lindsay made only five or six films, but what films!” and a wonderful quote from Milos Forman: “Lindsay was for all of us, then young film-makers in a Communist country, a great inspiration as a film-maker, and a towering symbol of an independent free spirit as a man.”
Malcolm McDowell produced a stage presentation now available on DVD about his experiences with Lindsay Anderson, “Never Apologize.” The title comes from dialogue of a John Ford film.