Tag Archives: George A. Romero

Dawn of the Dead (1978, George A. Romero)

Dawn of the Dead is relentless and exhausting. Director Romero burns out the viewer and not by the end of the film but probably three-quarters of the way through. He establishes the ground situation with a sense of impending doom, not just with the principal cast and how they’ll fare in the zombie apocalypse, but in the human condition itself. Specifically the American human condition.

It comes up a few times throughout the film, first in an awesome, horrifying action sequence and later as a talk show aside. Dawn of the Dead is a black comedy and a very effective one; Romero gets there by making the characters as real (and as self-aware) as possible. He gives his actors moments, big and small, and all of them are spectacular, whether it’s Gaylen Ross and David Emge arguing about her equal vote or the bromance between Ken Foree and Scott H. Reiniger.

Romero gets the character conflict out of the way relatively quickly in the film. It makes the characters more sympathetic and (potentially) more tragic. He never relies on melodrama to perturb their character arcs. Dawn is always sincere when it comes to its characters and the actors excel with Romero’s direction. There’s a plain realism to their performances, with Romero’s editing and emotive compositions elevating everything further.

The film has a number of big action sequences, usually lengthy, amid more summary sequences. Occasionally Romero goes with montage sequences, set to Dario Argento and Goblin’s fantastic score. The score does a lot for Dawn, simultaneously giving the viewer insight into the characters while celebrating the lunacy of the film itself. Not absurdity, but lunacy. From the start, Romero wants Dawn to be outlandish but always believable.

Great photography from Michael Gornick.

Dawn of the Dead is breathtaking from the first scene. Romero, whether writing, directing, editing, does phenomenal work on this picture. He gets these amazing performances out of the cast. Like I said, he burns the viewer out before the end of the film as far as hoping for a positive outcome. The last fourth of the film, after all hope has drained from the viewer’s soul, should be academic and somewhat by rote. Instead, it’s the most compelling part of Dawn. Romero and his actors have shown time and again they’re worth the emotional, intellectual investment.

It’s complex, thoughtful, exciting, hilarious, mortifying, revolting. Dawn of the Dead is wonderful.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written, edited and directed by George A. Romero; director of photography, Michael Gornick; music by Goblin and Dario Argento; produced by Richard P. Rubinstein; released by United Film Distribution Company.

Starring David Emge (Stephen), Ken Foree (Peter), Scott H. Reiniger (Roger) and Gaylen Ross (Francine).


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Ring Around the Redhead (1985, Theodore Gershuny)

Television is a visual medium but budgetary constraints sometimes lead to a lack of visualizations. I assume Ring Around the Redhead, an episode of “Tales from the Darkside,” had some serious budgetary constraints. The entire episode has two and a half sets–one is inventor John Heard's basement, the other is the prison where he waits on death row.

The episode has two big problems; both are director Gershuny's fault. First, his direction is pedestrian at best. Sure, he's got a small budget, but he's not inventive either. Second, he adapted the script from a forties short story. Heard's inventor–not to mention Caris Corfman's reporter–make no sense in a modern context.

Heard's earnest and tries his best. Penelope Ann Miller's appealing as the otherworldly creature he literally pulls from his floor–Ring obviously has some major problems needing ingenuity to visualize. And Gershuny doesn't have any to offer.

At least it's short.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Theodore Gershuny; teleplay by Gershuny, based on a story by John D. MacDonald; “Tales from the Darkside” created by George A. Romero; director of photography, Jon Fauer; edited by Jeffrey Wolf; music by Michael Gibbs; produced by William Teitler; released by Tribune Broadcasting.

Starring John Heard (Billy Malone), Penelope Ann Miller (Keena), Caris Corfman (Adele) and Greg Thornton (Jimbo).


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Night of the Living Dead (1968, George A. Romero)

What a lame ending. If it weren’t for the sufficiently uncanny end credits, I’d finish Night of the Living Dead thinking it was supposed to be a comedy.

Actually, if it weren’t for that lame ending, I’d be starting this response much differently. Night of the Living Dead has one of the most sublime opening half hours of any film I can recall. Unfortunately, the hour or so following that opening is melodramatic nonsense mixed with some really awkward gore.

The opening third, following Judith O’Dea from her zombie attack in the cemetery to discovering the farm house, to introducing Duane Jones and his fortifying of the house… it’s all absolutely amazing. It’s easily the best work I’ve seen from Romero–he takes a single person, essentially, and makes them more interesting (as we soon discover) than a room full of them. O’Dea’s performance during this section is maybe the best example of someone in shock on film.

Unfortunately, this sublime filmmaking does not last. Around a half hour in, Karl Hardman and Keith Wayne show up. Hardman’s performance is so terrible, it destroys the film. Even without the ending and the silly zombie flesh eating… Hardman ruins it. He’s just too terrible.

Having him come in after Jones, one wonders how Romero didn’t realize he had a great performance from Jones and a laughable one from Hardman.

The film quickly becomes a drawn-out melodrama. There is some suspense with the zombies, but the characters aren’t worth caring about.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed and photographed by George A. Romero; written by John A. Russo and Romero; edited by Russo and Romero; produced by Karl Hardman and Russell Streiner; released by The Walter Reade Organization.

Starring Duane Jones (Ben), Judith O’Dea (Barbra), Karl Hardman (Harry), Marilyn Eastman (Helen), Keith Wayne (Tom), Judith Ridley (Judy), Kyra Schon (Karen Cooper), Charles Craig (Newscaster), S. William Hinzman (Cemetery Zombie) and George Kosana (Sheriff McClelland).


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