Sunday, July 16, 2017

R.I.P., George A. Romero

One of the great underappreciated and under-utilized talents of film condemned to be remembered for one and one (albeit genius) thing only. To paraphrase the punchline of an obscene joke, “But do they recognize me for writing and directing one of the most original and moving vampire films of all time? No, you raise one hungry corpse....”

Not that there’s anything wrong at all with being the genius who created an entire supernatural sub-genre because he was angry with the annus horribilis that was 1968, but I’ve noticed more than a few egregious omissions about the long, strange career of George A. Romero
Anything and everything you’re afraid of, coming for you. Relentless, never sleeping, always coming for you. And when they get their cold, dead hands on you....

My favorite Seldom-Told Tale is that Romero got his start working as a cameraman for Fred Rogers when Mister Roger’s Neighborhood was still a local Pittsburgh show. Mr. Rogers was well aware of his cameraman’s horror film project, and while he expressed no disapproval, he did forbid Romero from using one of the actresses from the Neighborhood in his film. That aside, Romero and Rogers remained friends long after Romero went on to full-time directing, with Rogers claiming he “enjoyed” Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead

Although it’s a great tale of unlikely friendship, what shocked me in the last couple of obits I read was the lack of mention of Romero’s Tales from the Darkside series that dominated 1980s late-night TV. Also unmentioned is what’s generally considered his best all-around film, zombie or not, the melancholy vampire drama, Martin

George A. Romero, like his friend and mentor Fred Rogers, had a lot of heart, and the horror of his vision comes from his rage and frustration at those things about us that simply should not be, but are. “Maybe [the living dead] are God’s way of showing us what hate looks like,” says a character in 1985s Day of the Dead. Actually, it’s just one way of looking at Romero’s supreme creation, that most macabre modern literary device of the reanimated cadaver that attacks and eats the living. If you had to boil down Romero’s entire oeuvre to one line, it would be to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “The darkness comes at us not from the stars, my dear Horatio, but from within ourselves.”