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40 Things We Learned from George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ Commentary

Next time you’re thinking about heading to the mall, maybe give this a read instead? It might save your life.
Dawn Of The Dead
By  · Published on March 1st, 2012

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Kate Erbland cracks open a fresh skull cap and digs in for George Romero’s commentary on his horror classic, Dawn of the Dead.


Of all the movie about the walking dead, one of them continuously appears on the best of lists time after time after time. Okay, maybe more than one of them shows up all the time, but this one’s considered by many to be the best of them. I’m inclined to agree. George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is more than just an improved follow-up to 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. It the film that made living in a zombie apocalypse fun. It’s the film that really introduced us to what Tom Savini could do with some plaster and a machete. It’s the high watermark for epic, zombie storytelling, and, for 34 years, no film has come close to topping it.

Who better to take us through Dawn of the Dead and show us how it all came to be than Romero, Savini, and George’s wife, Christine, who served as assistant director on the film. The commentary on this Anchor Bay Divimax is moderated by the DVD’s producer, not something we’ve come across before in this column. It could be a nice, organized way to handle information from the commentators. It could be such a slog it makes us wish Hell would run out of room. However the path it takes to get here, here are all the things we learned listening to George & Chris Romero and Tom Savini talk about Dawn of the Dead.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Commentators: George Romero (writer/director), Chris Romero (assistant director/actress), Tom Savini (special makeup effects/actor), moderated by DVD producer for Anchor Bay Perry Martin

Best in Commentary

“When you’re born in Pittsburgh, one of the things you want to be when you grow up is a zombie in a Romero film.” – Tom Savini

“Everybody screws up all the time, so, if the shit ever hits the fan, forget about it.” – George Romero about how society would break down in a real zombie apocalypse

“When you say zombie movie, this is the movie everybody thinks of.” – Tom Savini

Final Thoughts

This Dawn of the Dead commentary track is enlightening, even if much of it is about general thoughts on the film as well as Romero’s career in the industry. There are definitely specific anecdotes thrown in for good, personal measure, but it often falls back on banter about budgets and studios and how much George would like to get for his “fourth film” in the series. Granted, not a lot of that is interesting now, since we’re six years and three more …of the Dead films after this commentary track was recorded. A lot of Romero talking about his ideas for a “fourth film” was far more interesting in the days before Land of the Dead got made.

The moderator on this commentary track was an interesting addition. It kept the conversation on track and brought up specific bullet point topics for the group to converse about. There’s a lot of digression from this. The three will often point out friends and family members as zombies, sometimes in the middle of a sentence talking about something completely unrelated. Nonetheless, all of it comes together nicely in a commentary that includes film making technique, thoughts on the industry, and personal recollections from getting the film made. Hearing the best film maker of any sub-genre talk about the film that solidified his place as the best is always interesting. That’s precisely what we get with this Dawn of the Dead commentary.

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