Among the best things about any comiccon are the panels and the Q&A sessions. Yes, it’s great to meet your favorite stars, to mortgage your home for an autograph and a photo-op, to snag some sweet collector’s swag, and to oggle the cosplay cleavage, but it’s at these group gatherings where you’ll hear some of the best stories and learn some little-known facts.
Such was the case at the Montreal Comiccon’s Q&A panel (creatively called Con of the Dead) with the godfather of the zombie genre, George A. Romero, and horror icon, Ken Foree.
The session had a rough start with neither Romero nor Ken knowing exactly how to begin, giving the event an impromptu feel. But after just a brief moment of casual awkwardness things got rolling with questions from the audience.
Obviously things centered on zombies and The Dead franchise, but there was a moment when Romero shared a story about his glasses. The day prior, Saturday, September 13th, someone visited Romero at his signing booth and told the director that his company just bought the company that makes company that makes the glasses. Hipsters, pay attention — those glasses are called Goliath, and they’re now made in Montreal.
Another story that was shared that led to a revelation from Ken Foree. Romero was talking about how the rights to Night of the Living Dead were lost when the distributor, Walter Reade, changed the film’s name. Romero originally titled the film Night of the Flesh Eaters, but because another film titled Flesh Eaters existed, Walter Reade changed it, and in doing so the little copyright C in the title was lost and nobody noticed until it was too late. So, while Romero told this story, Foree realized that when he first moved to New York in the ‘60s that he worked in Walter Reade’s shipping department, a fact that has never come up between he and Romero.
Romero was asked if the racial statement made in his 1968 film was intentional or not, to which he answered that it happened by accident, that it was never meant to be a statement and that it just about people’s inability to understand one another. In fact, Duane Jones’ audition was simply the best and they never changed the script to accommodate a black man. Romero went on to explain that it was the era, with civil rights and such, that caused the film’s racial statement. As a side note, Romero offered that it was when they were driving the film to the “studio” that they heard on the radio that Martin Luther King had been assassinated.
In a similar vein, Romero explained that it was also an era when female characters could be like Barbara. However, he anecdotally added that he had once spent an entire night apologizing to women for Barbara.
Romero on The Walking Dead:
One thing Romero isn’t apologetic for is his feelings toward the current zombie craze, The Walking Dead, and AMC, stating that he thinks it’s all “kinda disappointing.” Romero went on to say about TWD and AMC, “I don’t have respect for that network or that series.” Surprisingly the audience cheered, because the last time I checked the whole world was in love with that show. Maybe they were applauding Romero’s boldness.
One keen audience member dared to challenge Romero’s continuity about Land of the Dead regarding the zombies’ ability to swim and then their ability to learn, citing the zombie who uses a gun as reference. Well, Romero figured that zombies don’t need air, so they’re not swimming but rather walking under water. And the zombie didn’t learn how to shoot a gun, he remembered; he had had it in his hands, gotten angry for some reason, his finger hit the trigger, and he remembered that the gun is a “good thing.” And that explanation fits right in with Romero’s continuity from Dawn, in which zombies remember how to use doors and crowbars and that the mall was a place of importance to them.
As for the reason the dead become zombies in his movies, Romero simply said “somebody up there changed the rules.” An unsaid thing like that on film doesn’t really pass with audiences today; right or wrong, we need to know the “why” or else we see it as a hole or a fault in the story.
Those were the main points to take away from Con of the Dead: George A. Romero & Ken Foree Q&A. Hopefully you learned a couple of things.
Rock Hard \m/