George A. Romero, ‘Night of the Living Dead’ Director, Dies at 77

Land-Of-The-Dead-George Romero
Michael Gibson/Universal Stu/REX/Shutterstock

George A. Romero, who launched the zombie film genre with his 1968 “Night of the Living Dead,” died on Sunday, Variety has confirmed. He was 77.

The director died in his sleep following a battle with lung cancer, according to a statement from his manager Chris Roe.

“Legendary filmmaker George A. Romero passed away on Sunday July 16, listening to the score of ‘The Quiet Man,’ one of his all-time favorite films, with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero at his side,” the statement said. “He died peacefully in his sleep, following a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer, and leaves behind a loving family, many friends, and a filmmaking legacy that has endured, and will continue to endure, the test of time.”

Made in Pittsburgh on a budget of $114,000, “Night of the Living Dead” made $30 million and became a cult classic. Romero’s friends and associates in his Image Ten production company pooled their funds to make the film. Influenced by Richard Matheson’s novel “I Am Legend,” the black and white film about a group of people trapped in a Pennsylvania farmhouse who fall prey to a horde of the undead was said to be a critique of capitalism during the counter-culture era.

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After “Night of the Living Dead,” he directed films including “There’s Always Vanilla,” “Season of the Witch,” and “The Crazies,” although none had the impact of his first film. His 1977 vampire arthouse pic “Martin” was somewhat more well-received.

He went back to zombies with “Dawn of the Dead,” which made more than $55 million on a half a million dollar budget, then made his third Dead movie with “Day of the Dead” in 1985.

His non-zombie films of that period gained more attention, including “Knightridgers” about jousters who re-enact tournaments on motorcycles and the anthology “Creepshow” written by Stephen King.

Among his other films from the 1980s and 1990s were “Monkey Shines,” Edgar Allen Poe adaptation “Two Evil Eyes,” in collaboration with Dario Argento, “The Dark Half’ and “Bruiser.”

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He exec produced and updated his own screenplay for Tom Savini’s 1990 remake of “Night of the Living Dead.” He made a cameo appearance in “The Silence of the Lambs.” Romero was originally set to direct “Resident Evil,” but left the project due to creative differences.

His fourth Dead movie “Land of the Dead” was made in Toronto in 2005, starring Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento and John Leguizamo.

He followed that with “Diary of the Dead” in 2008 and “Survival of the Dead” in 2010. He also worked on video games and wrote comic books.

Born in the Bronx, Romero’s father was Cuban and his mother Lithuanian. He graduated the Carnegie Institute of University in Pittsburgh, then began shooting shorts and commercials, including a segment of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”

He is survived by his wife Suzanne, a daughter, and two sons.

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  1. Ashley DeCorçey says:

    Goodbye, George (sigh; -_-, = tears of resignation) .

  2. RB says:

    Weird is stumbling across a beat-up, washed-out, blown-out old print of Night of the Living Dead on the tube and STILL not being able to turn the channel — on literally the Saturday night before he died.

  3. daniel clavette says:

    night of the living dead,dawn of the dead,day of the dead,lanfd of the dead,diary of the dead,survival of the dead are truly horror movies classic and he is master of modern zombies movies and he will be missed r.i.p george romero.

  4. Maria G. says:

    R.I.P the best of horror movies.
    I have the same birthday.
    All will miss him.

  5. Alex Meyer says:

    So sad. RIP.

  6. Memyselfi says:

    The original Night of the Living Dead is so scary because it works on you slowly. It seems like you’re watching someone’s home vacation movie when crazy stuff starts to break out and you’re in the middle of it and don’t know what to make of it. Brilliant.

  7. Drew says:

    He made his mark, and started an idea that became huge… You have to respect that, even if it isn’t your brand of butter.. Rest well and peaceful to you Mr Romero, your work here is finished..

  8. Spider says:

    RIP, Mr. Romero. Your legacy will live on…. I extend my deepest condolences to Mr. Romero’s family!

  9. He also created “Tales From the Darkside” which warmed the cockles of many 1980s hearts & gave me & many others their first professional TV gigs. Hope he’s scaring the Angels…

  10. filmrush says:

    Dawn of the Dead was a critique on capitalism, not Night. Please get your facts straight.

    • They're Coming To Get You, Barbara! says:

      Well, it was more of a critique on mindless consumerism. But I quibble. RIP Mr. Romero. The original “Night/Living Dead” still has the power to disturb and creep one out silly. A truly great film.

  11. Pab says:

    Leaves behind a great legacy indeed. Good work.
    R.I.P

  12. Hank says:

    Not the time for dumb jokes

  13. Earl Alexander Birkett says:

    Night of the Living Dead (1968) is a film classic and perhaps the greatest horror movie ever made.

  14. cadavra says:

    Very classy.

  15. Neil Folkard says:

    RIP, Mr. Romero. For clarification purposes, he launched the MODERN zombie film genre. Zombie films themselves had been around since at least 1932, with White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi. Other early examples include Revolt of the Zombies (1936) and I Walked With a Zombie (1943), among numerous others.

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