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Trivia of the Dead: Fun Facts from Romero’s Films

I wrote up some Walking Dead trivia I found recently, and so I’m on kind of a trivia kick. I’ve been reading about the Romero movies, and I’ve got some fun facts to share. Did you know all of this?

Night of the Living Dead

kyra schon night of the living dead

Reader’s Digest warned people against watching the movie in 1968, claiming it would inspire cannibalism.

Much like The Walking Dead, the zombies in the film were not referred to as “zombies” during shooting, but rather as “ghouls.”

As a publicity stunt, the Walter Reade Organization, who distributed the film, took out a $50,000 insurance policy against anyone who died of a heart attack while watching the film.

Walter Reade Organization screwed the pooch on the film’s copyright though. They changed the name from the original title (Night of the Flesh Eaters) to Night of the Living Dead. When doing so, they removed the copyright notice that had been under the original title, and neglected to put it in with the new one. Because copyright law in 1968 required this notice, the film passed into public domain. Which means I can legally do this:

Roger Ebert’s original review of the film mostly reflected on how scary it was, and how inappropriate it was for the young audiences who frequented horror movies at the time. He didn’t understand the idea of a horror movie actually being scary.

Many of the actors in the film were local investors who were given roles not only as thanks for their funding, but because the budget was too short to hire professionals!

The social commentary on race that some perceive was not intentional. According to director George A. Romero, Duane Jones, who plays Ben, the film’s black main character, was simply the best actor who tried out for the part.

Dawn of the Dead

dawn of the dead

The Monroeville Mall, where the movie was filmed, has remained a tourist attraction today. There are posters with scenes from the movie on the upper level, and a store called Monroeville Zombies that sells zombie swag.

This film was more comedic than the previous film because Romero wanted it to seem a bit more like a comic book.

The two zombie children who attack Peter are played by Tom Savini’s real life niece and nephew. They are the only zombies in any Romero film that move quickly and do not shamble.

Tom Savini used gray makeup for the zombies, as the previous film had been black and white and the color of their skin had not been clearly

Horror legend Dario Argento was a big fan of Romero, and invited him to come stay with him in Rome so he could write the script for Dawn of the Dead without distractions. Romero was able to write it in 3 weeks (longer than the 3 days he used to write the final draft for Night of the Living Dead!).

The extras were famously paid $20, a box lunch, and a Dawn of the Dead t-shirt.

Filming had to stop over the Christmas shopping season because it would have been too much work to remove and rehang all the seasonal decorations.

Day of the Dead

romero day of the dead

The extras in this film were paid $1, a hat with the phrase “I Played a Zombie in ‘Day of the Dead'”, and a copy of the newspaper scenes at the beginning of the film that says “THE DEAD WALK!”

Romero says this is his favorite of all his films.

The budget for George A. Romero’s original script was estimated at $7 million, but he would only be given the money if he could film an R-rated film. He was told that if he went ahead and shot an unrated film with no limits on gore, the budget would be split in half to $3.5 million.

The underground facility that makes up the film’s main setting was not filmed on a soundstage, but in the Wampum mine, an old limestone mine near Pittsburgh.

Land of the Dead

land of the dead

After seeing and loving Shawn of the Dead, Romero invited Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to cameo as zombies in this film.

The zombie of Tom Savini’s biker character, who appears in Dawn of the Dead, is seen in one scene in this movie.

Dennis Hopper’s performance of Kaufman is based on Donald Rumsfeld.

Romero’s daughter appears in this film as the soldier who shoots the zombie on the electrified fence.

Alternate titles for this movie included “Land of the Dead” was chosen: “Dead City,” “Dead Reckoning,” “Twilight of the Dead,” and “Night of the Living Dead: Dead Reckoning.”

Asia Aregento, who plays Slack in this film, is the daughter of Dario Argento. Dario was the co-producer and composer for Dawn of the Dead.