Dawn of the Dead (also known internationally as Zombi) is a 1978 film directed by George A. Romero. It was co-produced by Richard P. Rubinstein, Claudio Argento and Alfredo Cuomo. The screenplay was written by George A. Romero in collaboration with the Italian filmmaker Dario Argento. Dawn of the Dead was the second film made in Romero’s Living Dead series, but contains no characters or settings from Night of the Living Dead, and shows in a larger scale the apocalyptic effects on society. The film stars David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger and Gaylen Ross.
The storyline is based on a group of survivors who barricade themselves in a shopping mall following the outbreak of a mysterious phenomenon which reanimates recently deceased human beings as flesh-eating zombies.
The history of Dawn of the Dead began in 1974, when George A. 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. With this inspiration, Romero began to write the screenplay for the film.
Principal photography for Dawn of the Living Dead (its working title at the time) took place at Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. The filming started in November leading up to the busy Christmas shopping season which caused numerous constraints on filming. The majority of the filming took place between 11 pm and 7 am when the mall was closed.
The airfield scenes were filmed at the Harold W. Brown Memorial Airfield in Monroeville, an airport located about two miles from the mall that is still in use. 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. 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.
According to the original screenplay, Peter and Francine were to kill themselves, Peter by shooting himself and Fran by sticking her head into the path of the rotating main helicopter blades. The ending credits would run over a shot of the helicopter blades turning until the engine winds down, implying that the two would not have gotten far if they had chosen to escape. During production, it was decided to change the ending of the film.
When Dawn of the Dead was released it received critical acclaim from film critics, unlike many of the other gory horror films of the time. It is regarded as one of the best films of 1978. 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.”
Dawn of the Dead was produced on an estimated budget between $650,000 and $1.5m. Commercially a huge success and it took $900,000 in its opening weekend release. In worldwide box office receipts it took $55,000,000.
The have been four official sequels since it release, Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009). In 2004, Dawn of the Dead was rebooted by director Zack Snyder in his directorial debut. It stars Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, and Jake Weber with cameos from original cast members Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger and Tom Savini. It was labelled as a “re-imagining” of the original film’s concept. In 2008, Dawn of the Dead was chosen by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, along with Night of the Living Dead.
Dawn of the Dead
Year of Film
George A. Romero
David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross, Tom Savini
Origin of Film
Italy | USA
Genre(s) of Film
Horror | Thriller
Budget: $650,000 – $1,500,000 (Estimated)
Opening Weekend: $900,000 (USA)
Gross: $55,000,000 (USA)
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