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The following bio was taken from the book "The Fearmakers" by John McCarthy. This book looks at some of the greatest masters of suspense and terror (i.e. Tod Browning, James Whales, Roger Corman, William Castle, Terrance Fisher, Georgr Romero, Dario Argento, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, and many more). I highly recommend this book to all horror aficionados.

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In 1968, George A. Romero forever changed the face of fearfilm with his groundbreaking "Night of the Living Dead". The film has inspired dozens of imitations, kept millions of viewers awake at night, and paved the way for a new generation of cinema. Aside from its explicit violence and taut storytelling style, "Night of the Living Dead" proved to aspiring directors that one needn't have the backing of a major studio to produce work of enduring popularity. However indirectly, we have this film and Romero to thank for the blossoming of independent cinema that has taken place over the past twenty-five years.

But Romero's contribution to American film only began with "Night of the Living Dead". Since that film, he has directed more than a dozen films and television shows, and his talent shows no sign of fading. Romero's distinctive style and his consistent concern for strongly acted, suspenseful situations place him among the better American directors both and out of the genre he has chosen.

Born in the Bronx in 1939, Romero began making his first films, in 8mm while still in his teens. He later studied art, design, and theater at the Carnegie-Mellon Institute of Art in Pittsburgh, where he graduated in 1961 with a B.A. Subsequently, he formed his own Pittsburgh-based company, Latent Image, to produce industrial films and television commercials. Then in 1967, he teamed up with another Pittsburgh advertising firm, Hardman Associates, to produce a low-budget feature-length horror film that he hoped would serve as his ticket into the film industry. As a result, "Night of the Living Dead" took shape more as a portfolio piece than as a self-conscious entry into fear film. Owing to its popularity and marketability, the horror film has traditionally been the proving ground for unknown directors, since it's much easier to find a distributor for horror movies than it might be for a drama or a comedy. Romero's first film was a demonstration not only that he could direct a film but that his direction was versatile. The overwhelmingly suspenseful mood of the film also contains moments of dark humor ("They're dead . . . they're . . . all messed up"), romance, and tragedy. This blend of the horrific with the drama of everyday life immediately marks the film as one of lasting power.

Romero dislikes being tagged as a "message filmmaker." His films, though, do have messages, and it's hard to believe those messages end up in his films without Romero's knowledge or permission. "Night of the Living Dead", like the majority of his films, has a bitter, cynical message, which, simply put, is this: People are too petty, too full of themselves, ever to survive.

After "Living Dead", Romero made "The Crazies" (a.k.a."Code Name: Trixie" 1973), a dark film about the effects of chemical poisoning in a small Pennsylvania town. As in "Living Dead", a feverish claustrophobia leads to distrust of organized control systems (the armed forces in this case) and the terrors of social upheaval. Wishing to expand his repertoire, Romero moved on to the defiantly unusual "Martin" (1978). Starring John Amplas in the title role, Martin is an innovative take on the traditional vampire myth. Yes, Martin does drink blood, but it's unclear whether his thirst stems from supernatural craving or neurosis. Throughout Romero's films runs the theme of doubt in organized systems, whether they be mythic, supernatural, or social. Martin continually mocks his aging cousin, Tata Cuda (Lincoln Maazel), for believing in the folklore surrounding vampirism. Early in the film, Martin emphasizes his contempt for Cuda's superstitions by caressing a crucifix and eating garlic. As the dumbfounded Cuda looks on in shock, Martin tells him, "It's just a sickness---there isn't any magic." Martin's comment may refer to his own vampirism, or to Cuda's reliance on symbols and totems. Either way, the film offers us both Martin's fantasy life (in haunting, surreal black and white) and his real one (in color) as he goes about stalking his victims. In the vampire sequences, Romero's fondness for undermining his audience's expectations comes to the fore. Martin's visions are romantic, adventurous period pieces set in lush locations. In contrast to these lurid fantasies, the actual stalking of his victims against the banal backdrop of suburban America seldom goes easily; his victims fight, shout, and struggle. Martin's desire, he confesses to a radio talk-show host, is to have sex without "the blood part." Sadly, his first such encounter, in the arms of a depressed neighborhood housewife, leads to his undoing. When she commits suicide, Cuda imagines that Martin killed her, and, having sworn to destroy him if he ever did such a thing, Cuda unceremoniously pounds a stake into him.

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1994 John McCarthy

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