Dawn of the Dead: Wikis


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  • Clayton Hill, who played the "sweater zombie" in the 1978 horror film Dawn of the Dead, was described by a member of the film's crew as "one of the most convincing zombies of the bunch"?

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Dawn of the Dead

Theatrical release poster.
Directed by George A. Romero
Produced by Richard P. Rubinstein
Claudio Argento
Alfredo Cuomo
Laurel Group Inc.
Written by George A. Romero
Starring David Emge
Ken Foree
Scott H. Reiniger
Gaylen Ross
Tom Savini
Music by Dario Argento
Pretty Things
Herbert Chappell
Paul Lemel
Eric Towren
Simon Park
Jack Trombey
Derek Scott
Barry Stoller
Reg Tilsley
Pierre Arvay
Cinematography Michael Gornick
Editing by George A. Romero
Studio Laurel Group
Distributed by United Film Distribution Company
Release date(s) September 2, 1978
Running time 117 minutes
115 minutes
127 minutes
(United States)
156 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $500,000[1]
Gross revenue $55,000,000[1]
Preceded by Night of the Living Dead
Followed by Day of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead (also known as Zombi internationally) is a 1978 zombie film, written and directed by George A. Romero. It was the second film made in Romero's Living Dead series, but contains no characters or settings from its predecessor, and shows in larger scale a zombie epidemic's apocalyptic effects on society. In the film, a pandemic of unknown origin has caused the reanimation of the dead, who prey on human flesh, which subsequently causes mass hysteria. The cast features David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger and Gaylen Ross as survivors of the outbreak who barricade themselves inside a suburban shopping mall.

Dawn of the Dead was shot over approximately four months, from late 1977 to early 1978, in the Pennsylvania cities of Pittsburgh and Monroeville.[2] Its primary filming location was the Monroeville Mall. The film was made on a relatively modest budget estimated at $650,000 US, and was a significant box office success for its time, grossing an estimated $55 million worldwide.[1] Since opening in theaters in 1978, and despite heavy gore content, reviews for the film have been nearly unanimously positive.[3]

Cultural and film historians read significance into the film's plot, linking it to critiques of large corporations as well as American consumerism and of the social decadence and the social and commercial excess present in America during the late 1970s.

In 2008, Dawn of the Dead was chosen by Empire Magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time,[4] along with its predecessor, Night of the Living Dead.[5]

In addition to four official sequels, the film has spawned numerous parodies and pop culture references. A remake of the movie premiered in the United States on March 19, 2004. It was labeled a "re-imagining" of the original film's concept [6]. It retains several major themes of the original film along with the primary setting in a shopping mall.



Following the scenario set up in Night of the Living Dead, the film depicts the United States of America (and possibly the entire world) struck by a plague which reanimates recently deceased human beings whose new primary goal is to feast on the flesh of the living. The cause of this plague remains adamantly unexplained. Despite desperate efforts by the US Government and local civil authorities to control the situation, society has effectively collapsed and the remaining survivors seek refuge. Although several scenes show rural citizens and military fighting the zombies effectively, cities, with their high populations and close quarters, are essentially deathtraps. The chaos is eventually implied to have spread throughout the country, evident by infrequent television and radio broadcasts.

The film opens in the WGON television studio in Philadelphia, where confusion reigns. Following some exposition, prompted by Stephen and Francine — who are planning to sneak out and steal the studio's traffic helicopter to escape the zombie threat — the plot turns to another of the film's protagonists, Roger, as he and the rest of his SWAT team raid an apartment building (presumably because the residents are ignoring the martial law imposition of delivering the dead over to National Guardsmen). The immigrants are slaughtered by the SWAT operatives and by their own reanimated dead. During the raid, Roger meets Peter, part of another SWAT team. The two go down to the apartment building basement to find the basement is packed full of undead that were kept by the living residents from being seized by the National Guard. The two kill the zombies and during this time Peter suggests they desert their SWAT team and flee the city.

Late that night, along with Francine and Stephen, they escape Philadelphia in the TV station's helicopter, with the intention of reaching the safety of the Canadian wilderness. Following some close calls while stopping for fuel, the group happens to come across a shopping mall which becomes their own private sanctuary. To make the mall safe for habitation, they must kill off the mall's zombie infestation and block the large glass doors with trucks to keep the undead gathered outside the mall from entering. During the operation, the impulsive Roger becomes reckless and is bitten, dooming him to death. After clearing the mall of its zombie inhabitants, the four settle in, each indulging their every material desire. Eventually dying from his wounds, Roger is shot by Peter as he begins to reanimate.

Time passes as the undead paw at the mall entrances and society beyond those doors continues to collapse. As the novelty of their materialistic utopia wears thin, they begin to realize their refuge has become their prison. Francine is also roughly four months pregnant, though her condition was not obvious at first. After Roger dies, there is a jump-cut to what appears to be several months later, as Francine is now heavily pregnant. By this time, all emergency broadcast transmissions from the outside world have ceased entirely.

Their "liberation" comes as a gang of bikers break into the mall and, in the process, let in hundreds of the undead creatures. (The inability of humans to cooperate with each other is a greater danger than the undead, a key theme in every Dead film). During their plunder, Stephen foolishly initiates a battle with the bikers. In the end, the only true victors are the ravenous zombies, who feast upon many of the bikers, and Stephen dies from his wounds inflicted by the zombies. When the remaining bikers retreat from the mall as the zombies become too numerous, Stephen reanimates as a zombie. Upon Stephen's reanimation, he leads a large group of the creatures to Francine and Peter, who await Stephen's return. After killing Stephen, Peter and Francine escape to the roof — and to an uncertain but still much more positive future as they fly away in the partially-fueled helicopter, ending the movie. As the credits roll by, there are multiple shots of the mall, once again zombie infested.

Alternate ending

The finale in the final cut of the film was not what Romero had originally planned. According to the original screenplay, Peter was to shoot himself in the head instead of making a heroic escape. Fran would commit suicide by thrusting her head into the helicopter's propeller blades. The end credits would run over a shot of the helicopter's blades turning until the engine winds down, implying that Fran and Peter would not have had enough fuel to escape. [7] During production it was decided to change the ending of the film.

Much of the lead-up to the two suicides was left in the film. Fran stands on the roof doing nothing as zombies approach, and Peter puts a gun to his head, ready to shoot himself. However he suddenly decides to escape with Fran. Romero has stated that the original ending was scrapped before being shot. Behind the scenes photos show the original version was at least tested.[8]



The history of Dawn of the Dead began in 1974, when George Romero was invited by friend Mark Mason of Oxford Development Company—whom Romero knew from an acquaintance at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon—to visit the Monroeville Mall, which Mason's company managed. After showing Romero hidden parts of the mall, during which Romero noted the bliss of the consumers, Mason jokingly suggested that someone would be able to survive in the mall should an emergency ever occur.[9] With this inspiration, Romero began to write the screenplay for the film.

Romero and his producer, Richard P. Rubinstein, were unable to procure any domestic investors for the new project. By chance, word of the sequel reached Italian horror director Dario Argento. A fan of Night of the Living Dead and an early critical proponent of the film, Argento was eager to help the horror classic receive a sequel. He met Romero and Rubinstein, helping to secure financing in exchange for international distribution rights. Argento invited Romero to Rome so he would have a change of scenery while writing the screenplay. The two could also then discuss plot developments.[10] Romero was able to secure the availability of Monroeville Mall as well as additional financing through his connections with the mall's owners at Oxford Development.[9] Once the casting was completed, principal shooting was scheduled to begin in Pennsylvania on November 13, 1977.


Principal photography for Dawn of the Living Dead (its working title at the time) began on November 13, 1977 at the Monroeville Mall. Use of an actual, open shopping mall during the Christmas shopping season caused numerous time constraints. Filming began nightly once the mall closed, starting at 11 PM and ending at 7 AM, when automated music came on. As December arrived, the production decided against having the crew remove and replace the Christmas decorations — a task that had proved to be too time consuming. Filming was shut down during the last three weeks of the year to avoid the possible continuity difficulties and unavoidable lost shooting time. Production would resume on January 3, 1978. During the break in filming, Romero took the opportunity to begin editing his existing footage.[11]

The airfield scenes were filmed at the Harold W. Brown Memorial Airfield in Monroeville,[12] an airport located about 10 miles from the mall that is still in use.[13] The scenes of the group's hideout at the top of the mall were filmed on a set built at Romero's then-production company, The Latent Image.[14] The elevator shaft was located there as well, as no such area of the mall actually existed. The gun store was also not located in the mall — for filming, the crew used Firearms Unlimited, a shop that existed in the East Liberty district of Pittsburgh at the time.

Principal photography on Dawn of the Dead ended February 1978, and Romero's process of editing would begin. By using numerous angles during the filming, Romero allowed himself an array of possibilities during editing — choosing from these many shots to reassemble into a sequence that could dictate any number of responses from the viewer simply by changing an angle or deleting or extending portions of scenes. This amount of superfluous footage is evidenced by the numerous international cuts, which in some cases affects the regional version's tone and flow.

Make-up and Effects

An example of the bright hue of the fake blood, gray face make-up, and special effects in Dawn of the Dead.

Tom Savini, who had been offered the chance to do special effects and make-up for Romero's first zombie film, Night of the Living Dead, before being drafted to go to Vietnam, made his debut as an effects artist on Dawn of the Dead.[15] Savini had been known for his make-up in horror for sometime, prior to Dawn of the Dead. He had a crew of eight to assist in applying gray makeup to two to three hundred extras each weekend during the shoot.[16] One of his assistants during production was Joseph Pilato, who played a police captain in the film and would go on to play the lead villain in the film's sequel, Day of the Dead.[16]

The makeup for the multitudes of extras in the film was a basic blue or gray tinge to the face of each extra. Some featured zombies, who would be seen close-up or on-screen longer than others, had more time spent on their look. Many of the featured zombies became part of the fanfare, with nicknames based upon their look or activity—such as Machete Zombie,[17] Sweater Zombie,[17] and Nurse Zombie.[17] "Sweater zombie" Clayton Hill, was described by a crew member as "one of the most convincing zombies of the bunch" citing his skill at maintaining his stiff pose and rolling his eyes back into his head, including heading down the wrong way in an escalator while in character.[18]

A cast of Gaylen Ross' head that was to be used in the original ending of the film (involving a suicide rather than the escape scene finally used) ended up as an exploding head during the tenement building scene. The head, filled with food scraps, was shot with an actual shotgun to get the head to explode.[15] One of the unintentional standout effects was the bright, fluorescent color of the fake blood that was used in the film. Savini was an early opponent of the blood, produced from 3M, but Romero thought it added to the film, claiming it emphasised the comic book feel of the movie.[19] Critics today have gone onto describe that the look of the blood and the use of colour has contributed to the film's "dreamlike" aura.


The film's music varies with each of the various cuts. For Romero's theatrical version, musical cues and selections were chosen from the De Wolfe Music Library, a compilation of stock music scores and cues. In the montage scene featuring the rednecks and National Guard, the song played in the background is called "Cause I'm a Man" by the Pretty Things. The song was first released on the group's LP Electric Banana.[20] The music heard playing in a sequence in the mall, and over the film's end credits, was actually not the mall's music — it was a song titled "The Gonk" — a polka style song from the DeWolfe Library, with a chorus of zombie moans added by Romero.[21]

For Dario Argento's international cut of Dawn of the Dead, the Italian director used the band Goblin (incorrectly credited as "The Goblins") extensively. Goblin was a four-piece Italian band that did mostly contract work for film soundtracks. Argento, who received a credit for original music alongside Goblin, collaborated with the group to get songs for his cut of the film. Romero used three of their pieces in his version. The Goblin score would later find its way onto a heavily Dawn of the Dead-inspired film, Hell of the Living Dead.

Post-production and releases

Dawn of the Dead has received a number of re-cuts and re-edits, due mostly to Dario Argento's rights to edit the film for international foreign language release. Romero controlled the final cut of the film for English-language territories. In addition, the film was edited further by censors or distributors in certain countries. Romero, acting as the editor for his film, completed a hasty 139-minute version of the film (now known as the Extended, or Director's, Cut) for premiere at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival. This was later pared down to 126 minutes for the U.S. theatrical release. In an era before the NC-17 rating was available from the Motion Picture Association of America, the US theatrical cut of the film earned the taboo rating of X (which was and still is typically used for pornography) from the association because of its graphic violence. Rejecting this rating, Romero and the producers chose to release the film unrated so as to help the film's commercial success.[22] United Artists eventually agreed to release it domestically in the United States. It premiered in the US in New York on April 20, 1979.[23]

Internationally, Argento controlled the final cut for non-English speaking countries. The version he created clocked in at 119 minutes. It included changes such as more music from Goblin than the two cuts completed by Romero, removal of some expository scenes, and a faster cutting pace.[24] Released in Italy in September 1978, it actually debuted nearly nine months before the US theatrical cut.[23] In Italy it was released under the full title Zombi: L’alba dei Morti Viventi, followed in March 1979 by France as Zombie: Le Crépuscule des Morts Vivants, in Spain as Zombi: El Regreso de los Muertos Vivientes, in the Netherlands as Zombie: In De Greep van de Zombies, by Germany’s Constantin Film as Zombie, and in Denmark as Zombie: Rædslernes Morgen.[23][25]

Despite the various alternate versions of the film available, Dawn of the Dead was successful internationally. Its success in then-West Germany earned it the Golden Screen Award, given to films that have at least 3 million admissions within 18 months of release.[26] Majority of these versions were released on DVD in the 2004 Special Edition, and have previously been released on VHS.


Dawn of the Dead premiered theatrically in the New York City, New York on April 20, 1979, and a month afterward in Los Angeles, California on May 11, 1979.[27] The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for Film and Broadcasting declared the movie morally offensive, stating: "George Romero's camp pulp yarn has metaphorical pretensions as social satire but essentially what's on the screen, peppered with rough language, is a relentless exploitation of gore and violence and the repulsive effects of violence."[28]

Dawn of the Dead performed well thanks both to commercial advertising and word-of-mouth. Ad campaigns and posters declared the film "the most intensely shocking motion picture experience for all times".[29] The film earned $900,000 on its opening weekend in the United States (total estimate at 5 million), an international gross of 40 million, followed by a worldwide gross revenue of $55 million, making it the most profitable in the Dead series.[1][30]


Dawn of the Dead — unlike many other "gory" horror staples of its time — received heavy praise film reviews since its initial release. The film was regarded by many as one of the best films of 1978,[31][32][33] and it currently holds a very positive 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[34] The 25th anniversary issue of Fangoria named it the best horror film of 1979 (although it was released a year earlier),[35] and Entertainment Weekly ranked it #27 on a list of "The Top 50 Cult Films."[3][36] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it four out of four stars and proclaimed it "one of the best horror films ever made." While conceding Dawn of the Dead to be "gruesome, sickening, disgusting, violent, brutal and appalling," Ebert said that "nobody ever said art had to be in good taste."[37] Steve Biodrowski of Cinefantastique praised the film, calling it a "broader" version of Night of the Living Dead,[29] and gave particular credit to the acting and themes explored: "the acting performances are uniformly strong; and the script develops its themes more explicitly, with obvious satirical jabs at modern consumer society, as epitomized by the indoor shopping mall where a small band of human survivors take shelter from the zombie plague sweeping the country." He went onto say that Dawn of the Dead was a "savage (if tongue-in-cheek) attack on the foibles of modern society", showcasing explicit gore and horror and turning them "a form of art".[29]

Dawn of the Dead was not without its detractors. Similar to the preceding Night of the Living Dead, some critical reviewers did not like the gory special effects. Particularly displeased at the large amount of gore and graphic violence was The New York Times critic Janet Maslin, one of the few negative reviewers, who claimed she walked out after the first 15 minutes due to "a pet peeve about flesh-eating zombies who never stop snacking,"[38] and Gene Shalit of NBC's Today show dismissed it as "Yawn of the Living." Others, particularly Variety Magazine, attacked the film's writing, claiming that the violence and gore detracts from any development of character, making them "uninteresting", resulting loss of impact in the writing. Variety wrote: "Dawn pummels the viewer with a series of ever-more-grisly events - decapitations, shootings, knifings, flesh tearings - that make Romero's special effects man, Tom Savini, the real 'star' of the film - the actors are as woodenly uninteresting as the characters they play. Romero's script is banal when not incoherent - those who haven't seen Night of the Living Dead may have some difficulty deciphering exactly what's going on at the outset of Dawn."[39]

Dawn of the Dead is now widely considered a classic[40][41] of 1970s cinema and one of the greatest entries in the horror genre.[42] The film was selected as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time by Empire Magazine in 2008.[43] It was also named as one of The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made, a list published by The New York Times.[44]

Home video

Dawn of the Dead Ultimate Edition DVD.

In 2004, after numerous VHS, Laserdisc and DVD releases of several different versions of the film from various companies, Anchor Bay Entertainment released a definitive Ultimate Edition DVD box set of Dawn of the Dead, following a single-disc U.S. theatrical cut released earlier in the year. The set features all three widely-available versions of the film, along with different commentary tracks for each version, documentaries and extras.[45] Also rereleased with the DVD set was Roy Frumkes' Document of the Dead, which chronicled the making of Dawn of the Dead and Romero's career to that point. The Ultimate Edition earned a Saturn Award for Best Classic Film Release.[46]

The U.S. theatrical cut of Dawn of the Dead was released in high definition on the Blu-Ray disc format on October 7, 2007.

3D version

It has been announced recently that the film producer, Richard Rubinstein, is planning to re-release the original Dawn in 3D, as Dawn of the Dead 3-D. Rubinstein has plans to create a new sequel to the film as well.[47]


In January 2010 Bloody Disgusting announced that MTV planned a TV series[48], it is a spin-off the original story.[49]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d IMDb: Dawn of the Dead
  2. ^ Filming locations on IMDb
  3. ^ a b Rotten Tomatoes reviews for Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  4. ^ http://www.empireonline.com/500/17.asp
  5. ^ http://www.empireonline.com/500/21.asp
  6. ^ Living Corpse Interviews: James Gunn, "re-imagining" is mentioned an interview with the writer of Dawn of the Dead (2004)
  7. ^ Dawn Of The Dead Script at Script-o-Rama
  8. ^ Alternate 'Dawn' ending surfaces. at Horrorexpress.com
  9. ^ a b The mall at The Zombie Farm
  10. ^ Biodrowski, Steve. "Dawn of the Dead (1979)". Cinema Fantastique. http://cinefantastiqueonline.com/2007/10/02/dawn-of-the-dead-1979/. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  11. ^ Quint interviews FX God Greg Nicotero on LAND OF THE DEAD! Exclusive gore pics, too! on Ain't it Cool News
  12. ^ Trivia for Dawn of the Dead at Turner Classic Movies
  13. ^ Pittsburgh Monroeville Airport, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
  14. ^ Former Latent Image Office at Dark Destinations
  15. ^ a b Lord of Gore Slasherama.com
  16. ^ a b Mason, R.H.. "An Interview With The Villain". Fangoria (reprinted). http://www.geocities.com/zodiaczombie/joeinterviews.html. Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  17. ^ a b c Carnival of the Damned at Origins becomes a "Cast Party!" GamingReport.com
  18. ^ Balingit, Moriah. "Obituary: Clayton Hill / Played a lead zombie in 'Dawn of the Dead', Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 27, 2009. Accessed July 30, 2009.
  19. ^ Dawn of the Dead (1978) (Blu-ray) DVDTalk review
  20. ^ Rave Up With The Electric Banana at Movie Grooves
  21. ^ De Wolfe track listing
  22. ^ A review of Document of the Dead, a documentary on the film's production.
  23. ^ a b c Release information on IMDb.com
  24. ^ Dario Argento’s Zombi: Dawn of the Dead review by Michael Elliott
  25. ^ Company credits from IMDb
  26. ^ Golden Screen, Germany: 1980 IMDB.com
  27. ^ Distribution and Release Date information for Dawn of the Dead at IMDb; last accessed December 10, 2009.
  28. ^ USCCB - (Film and Broadcasting) - Dawn of the Dead
  29. ^ a b c Dawn of the Dead, a review by Steve Biodrowski for Cinefantastique
  30. ^ Dawn of the Dead at Film Site; last accessed December 10, 2009.
  31. ^ http://www.filmsite.org/1978.html
  32. ^ http://www.films101.com/y1978r.htm
  33. ^ http://www.imdb.com/year/1978
  34. ^ Dawn of the Dead at Rotten Tomatoes; last accessed December 10, 2009.
  35. ^ "1979: Dawn of the Dead". Fangoria 234: 55. June 2004. 
  36. ^ "The Top 50 Cult Films". Entertainment Weekly. May 23, 2003. 
  37. ^ Dawn of the Dead, a review by Roger Ebert
  38. ^ Maslin, Janet (April 20, 1979), "Movie Review Dawn of the Dead (1978)", New York Times, http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?_r=1&res=EE05E7DF173AE767BC4851DFB2668382669EDE 
  39. ^ Variety Staff (April 22, 1979), "Movie Review Dawn of the Dead (1978)", Variety, http://au.rottentomatoes.com/m/1005339-dawn_of_the_dead/ 
  40. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077402/awards
  41. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1005339-dawn_of_the_dead/?page=2&critic=columns&sortby=date&name_order=desc&view=#contentReviews
  42. ^ The Sadistic '70s at CTV Television Network
  43. ^ http://www.empireonline.com/500/17.asp
  44. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/ref/movies/1000best.html
  45. ^ Dawn of the Dead - Ultimate Edition, Anchor Bay Entertainment.com
  46. ^ Saturn Awards
  47. ^ Beyond Hollywood
  48. ^ MTV Looking to Bring Back the Dead in Dawn of the Dead: The Series?
  49. ^ TV: Zombies Rising at MTV with 'Dawn of the Dead'

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dawn of the Dead may refer to either of the following films:

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