A National Emergency
grips the country. The corpses of the recently dead are returning to life
and attacking the living. Two members of the Philadelphia Police S.W.A.T.
unit escape the city with their friends, Francine and Stephen, via a helicopter
which they manage to land on the roof of an enormous shopping mall.
Armed with supplies,
the four humans manage to secure the mall through a series of brutal battles
with the zombies and set up living quarters where they live for months.
"They MUST be destroyed on SIGHT!"
- Dr. Millard Rausch
When George A. Romero's
no-budget horror movie Night of the Living Dead
hit screens in 1968,
the same year that had already given audiences the all time genre classic Rosemary's
, no one could have predicted the indelible effect it would have
on the history of cinema. The film introduced audiences to a degree of
graphic violence never before witnessed on American screens. However, it
was the film's intense, omnipotent terror that forever scarred a generation
film enjoyed unprecedented mainstream success for an independent production,
the filmmakers saw little of the movie's earnings. Romero's string of box
office disappointments in the years to follow would diminish his clout
in Hollywood, and as such he found it was an uphill battle to fund his
ambitious sequel to the film. Then along came Italian horror maestro Dario
Argento, hot off the heels of such international blockbusters as Deep
. Argento helped secure funding for the film,
in exchange for the rights to personally oversee the international cut
of the film.
would be a match made in horror movie heaven, for the end product would
be Dawn of the Dead
, one of the most acclaimed and enduringly popular
horror movies of all time.
Dawn of the
's plot is so effectively simple that it almost goes without description.
While the world approaches a still unexplained and ever growing zombie
apocalypse, four individuals-two millitary men, a helicopter pilot, and
his TV reporter girlfriend-barricade themselves in an abandoned suburban
shopping mall. The mall provides fodder not only for the film's well known
social commentary, but also for some truly thrilling-if not terrifying-setpieces.
With its graphic
depictions of human evisceration, exploding heads, and gruesome flesh eating, Dawn
of the Dead
may well be the goriest American film of all time. The
film is actually so violent and gruesome that it was released unrated in
the United States for fear of being slapped with an X Rating. That didn't
stop the film from being a huge hit at home and abroad. The film earned
rave reviews from critics (most famously, from Roger Ebert, who called
it `one of the best horror movies of all time'). It instantly became recognized
not only as a genre classic, but also as one of the sharpest social satires
of the decade, with its often hilarious commentary on an ever growing consumer
culture embodied by the film's mall location.
the film was even bigger. The movie was released in a special 117 minute
cut overseas (the US theatrical version was 120 minutes) which was edited
by Dario Argento and featured a more prominent presentation of the soundtrack
by rock band Goblin as well as a much faster overall pace. Released in
most countries as `Zombie: Dawn of the Dead
' or `Zombies
it was so big in Italy that the following year Lucio Fulci, previously
a director of `giallo' thrillers, helmed a gory semi-sequel. His `Zombie
', released in the US as `Zombie
', would become one of the
most popular drive in hits of the 1970s, a massive international success
that solidified the zombie/cannibal craze of the early 1980s and sparked
Lucio Fulci's own reign as a horror movie icon.
Dawn of the
is a truly stunning example of the horror genre's ability to produce
works that are as socially relevant as they are terrifying, films which
break free of the constraints of conventional horror movie elements and
in doing so establish themselves as being truly timeless. Dawn of the
is an extraordinary film in its own right as well as an almost
superior sequel to another of the scariest movies ever made.
- The airstrip used in the film, the Harold W. Brown Memorial Field
(aka Monroeville Municipal Airport), is still in operation today. The privately
run airfield is approximately 10 miles from the Monroeville Mall, where
the bulk of the film was shot.
two zombie children who attack Peter in the airport chart house are played
by Donna and Mike Savini, the real-life niece and nephew of Tom Savini.
- The voice of Christine Forrest (George Romero's wife) can be heard
on a pre-recorded announcement in the mall ("Attention all shoppers...").
skating rink shown in the film was part of the Monroeville Mall. It has
since been replaced by a food court.
of the fake blood used in the blood packets was a mixture of food coloring,
peanut butter and cane sugar syrup.
George Romero, has a cameo as the director in the television studio and
Christine Forrest, George's wife, as his assistant.
Sivini plays "Blades", the biker with the mustache.
weapons store featured in the film was never a part of the Monroeville
Mall. George Romero shot those scenes in a gun shop in downtown Pittsburgh
and edited the footage in to make it look like it was a shop in the mall.
at the Monroeville Mall took place during the winter of 1976-77, with a
three week reprieve during the Christmas shopping season (during which
other footage, e.g. the TV studio, was shot). Filming at the mall began
around 10 p.m., shortly after the mall closed, and finished at 6 a.m. The
mall didn't open until 9, but at 6 the music came on and no one knew how
to turn it off.
Pilato, who played Captain Rhodes in Day Of The Dead, appears as
a policeman at the boat dock.
Savini, head of makeup effects, was unhappy with how the blood mix photographed;
it looked fluorescent. Director George A. Romero felt it was perfect for
the film's "comic book" style.
Savini chose a friend to play the "helicopter zombie" because he was notorious
for having a low forehead.
Argento recut this film to fit the Italian audiences, taking out most of
the humor, leaving in all the gore and titling in Zombi to make
it more of a true Italian horror film. It was such a hit that it Italian
horror master Lucio Fulci filmed a sequel, titled Zombi 2. It was
released around the world as Zombie. At the same time, director George
Romero filmed his own sequel Day of the Dead, so, in a sense, there
are two sequels to this film: an Italian version and an American version.
at the mall was suspended over the Christmas season because it would have
too costly to nightly remove and then later re-hang all the seasonal decorations.
who appeared in this film were reportedly given $20 in cash, a box lunch,
and a "Dawn of the Dead" t-shirt.
order to save on production costs, director/editor George A. Romero had
all the 35mm film stock developed into 16mm, and used that as his work
reel. After choosing the scenes and takes he wanted, he had those alone
developed into 35mm prints for the master reels.
is great dispute over the film's alternate ending, where Peter shoots himself
in the head and Fran commits suicide by sticking her head up into the blades
of the helicopter. Some, such as makeup artists Tom Savini and Taso N.
Stavrakis maintain that the scene was filmed, while director 'George Romero'
is adamant that it wasn't.
such a shoestring budget, the film couldn't afford professional stunt people
outside of drivers, so makeup artist Tom Savini and assistant and friend
Taso N. Stavrakis volunteered for the task. They are responsible for almost
every stunt seen in the film, though not all went perfectly as planned.
When filming a dive over the rail of the mall, Savini almost missed his
pile of cardboard boxes, with his legs and back landing on the ground.
He had to work from a golf cart for several days. The shot where Stavrakis
swung down from a banner was poorly planned and he wound up continuing
on and slamming into the ceiling.