A smoking skull

Published in Cinefantastique in 1971, Republished by HOUDINI Magazine

Tony Scott

A 1971 Interview with George Romero

When Continental Films dumped NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD onto the summer/fall drivein circuit in 1968 with a typically gross exploitation campaign, who could have expected that this cheap, black and white horror film was anything more than what it appeared to be? Indeed, Continental Films and the entire distribution system has since been subject to criticism, that a film of undeniable merit such as George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was thrown away on the exploitation circuit like so many other trashy films. But really, even if Continental had realized the merit of the film that had come into their hands, would anyone have believed them if they had tried to market it on that basis? Probably not. because NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a cheap, black and white horror film and it is beyond public acceptance that it can also be a brilliant work of cinematic art.

Director George Romero is one of the film’s makers that is chiefly responsible for its unexpected intelligence and sophistication. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was the collaborative effort of two Pittsburgh commercial film companies. The Latent Image, Inc. George Romero's company, and Hardman Associates, Inc., the firm of Karl Hardman who produced NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD with Russell W. Streiner. Both firms are still active at present in the production of advertising and promotional films, which is their primary business. The filming of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was completed over a number of months, during weekends and evenings, and during periods between regular film assignments. The company was short handed and attracted actors and technicians on a deferred payment basis, with most everyone participating for the fun of it or for the experience. The producers themselves doubled up with acting roles. Karl Hardman appearing as the ruthless coward Harry, and Russell Streiner as Johnny, the first victim of the ghouls in the film's opening scene. George Romero worked as his own cinematographer and also edited the film, and members of producer Streiner’s family were pressed into service, Gary Streiner working as sound engineer and Jaqueline Streiner handling the script coordination and continuity.

George Romero has since gone on to produce three other films under the auspices of his Latent Image company, with distribution to be handled by Cambist Films: THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA (retitled THE AFFAIR), a sentimental romantic drama. JACK’S WIFE, a story of witchcraft and the supernatural in suburbia, and THE CRAZIES, dealing with the accidental contamination of a New England town with the weapons of biological warfare.

Interview Conducted By TONY SCOTT

Tony Scott is a native of Pittsburgh and now program director of WBVP Radio. He began his career as a radio announcer in Rockford, Illinois in 1964. and later worked in television at Channel 13 in Pittsburgh and WTAP in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He has participated in local theatre for the past two years and his first film role is that of Deputy Sheriff Shade in George Romero's latest film, THE CRAZIES. Scott calls his role in THE CRAZIES the only light comic relief in the first thirty minutes of the film. This interview with George Romero was conducted after viewing the first half hour of the film in rough form, an experience that left him short of breath and frenetically anxious to view the finished product. Tony estimates that 60% of his thirty years on earth has been spent in the darkness of movie theatres.

JACK’S WIFE, is an occult film. Which I think, again, takes a little bit uf a different approach to the study, not so much uf the occult, but how it works on somebody’s mind. Of course, that’s been done, but we kind of combined it with contemporary life and what's going on today. We took a suburban housewife with all her frustrations, and all of the women's lib being pumped into her. and did it from the standpoint of this woman whose head gets all messed up with it without any real understanding. The film doesn't claim that there's any efficacy in magic, witchcraft, anything like that, it’s just purely in her head. It's not a metaphysical film really. It's a film about what happens to this woman who doesn’t know what she’s fooling around with, but starts fooling around with it and then starts wondering what she’s doing and wondering whether it's working.
night of the living dead

CFQ: Do you have any special interest or fondness for making "horror films?"

Romero: I didn’t in the beginning. When we made NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, we made it as our first picture and our friends in distribution circles told us to make something exploitive because it’s safer. So we decided to do a "horror film." Now when we did it, we said, we're not just going to do a horror film, we’re going to really "go out" with it and try and make it "gutsy."

So then I got into that. I got into a fascination with it from the standpoint that it hasn't really been done very often. I have a theory that there are so many films that haven’t been done, that have been done a hundred times, but haven't been done yet.

One of them for example, like one of the films that I really want to do and I'm talking to some people about it now. is TARZAN OF THE APES. Because it hasn't been done yet. I'd like to do it exactly the way Burroughs wrote it, and I think it would be a tremendous piece of Victorian kind of escapism. There’s an example of it. There’s been what, 25 or 30 Tarzan films made and it's never been made that way.

We’ve been digressing a little bit, but that's how I got into NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and since then I've had kind of a fascination with the macabre. Coming off LIVING DEAD I got into kind of a study of the occult. Our third film.

CFQ: To get it straight, for the record, you have four films to your credit. Is that right?

Romero: I’m cutting, now, the fourth film, which is THE CRAZIES, the one you’re in.

CFQ: Do you feel THE CRAZIES is your best?

Romero: Well, so far, technically. I think it's the best. I think in certain aspects uf it I was more successful in getting what I wanted. Of course this is the first time that I’ve had enough of a budget and enough people and enough sets, you know, exactly what I needed. So I think from that standpoint it's the most successful one. although I think JACK’S WIFE is probably a better film...

CFQ: ... than LIVING DEAD?

Romero: No, than THE CRAZIES... but I don't think it will do as well at the boxoffice.

CFQ: Are there any horror films that have influenced you, do you feel?

Romero: Influenced me? I don’t know.

CFQ: Your shadows. I see a lot of shadows in your work, which I think is good...

Romero: I don't know. That might be influenced more by my background and training as a painting and design student, I think. I just have a concentration on composition and lighting and aspects like that.

CFQ: Were you born in New York City?

Romero: Yea.

CFQ: How long have you been based in Pittsburgh?

Romero: I came out here to go to school, came out here to go to Carnegie Tech and study painting and design and Spanish background. I'm. I guess maybe, influenced a little by the Spanish painters. I think that perhaps my approach to the visualization of something comes out of that rather than any influence from any director or cinematographer that I’ve studied.

CFQ: I think that may be what gives a film that Romero touch.

Romero: I think that anyone who has an eye for composition, or anyone who has an eye for a translation of anything to a two-dimensional format is influenced by two-dimensional things that he’s seen, not so much by film. You can’t really study a film. No matter how many times you watch a film, you may see any given shot for a matter of. in the aggregate, two or three minutes. whereas you can look at a painting or a graphic or a painting that you have in your home or something that you really like, endlessly. You may stare at a painting for hours.

CFQ: The theme of the first film that you did. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, how did you develop it?

Romero: Well, I wrote a short story which dealt with, which was in fact, an allegory, a statement about society, which dealt with a siege by the living dead. It was much less contrived. I think, than the film is. from the standpoint that it was purely allegorical. Now a lot of the people that have seen the film are seeing the allegory coming out of the film anyway.

CFQ: I’ve heard it called a political film.

Romero: That, maybe, was in my head when directing it. when we were looking for an approach to it. but I don't think it is really reflected. I wasn’t actually thinking of it, wasn’t conscious of it, with the exception of a few scenes, like the scenes with the posse and of course the final scene. It wasn’t a conscious effort on my part to direct that allegory into the film, but I guess it was a strong enough influence that it came out anyway and people are seeing it's there.

CFQ: Did you have any trouble with the cast and crew', getting them to take it seriously, because it was a horror film?

Romero: Not really, no. Course, we’ve always had a pretty good group of people. We have a totally in house unit. We work with each other well. We know what our intentions are and we don’t have any internal strife or anything like that so we have a pretty good time. You have fun no matter what you’re doing. You can be doing HAMLET and I think you'll have fun doing it.

CFQ: In horror cinema there are two techniques. the suggestive school, which creates a feeling of horror indirectly through the viewer^ immagination, and the graphic school, which visually shocks the viewer. You seem to do both pretty well. Could you discuss your technique and approach in this context?

Romero: Well 1 prefer the subtler approach, really, which wouldn’t be indicated by NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which is why I think I am happier with JACK'S WIFE than I am with LIVING DEAD or with THE CRAZIES. I’m into Don Siegel pretty hard. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS was a tremendous film which had a little bit of both, but it was more suggestive. It was more moody. The horror was more subtle.

CFQ: The actual production of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, did you have any trouble getting money or backing for it?

Romero: Yea. It was our first time out and Pittsburgh is a very wealthy city, but it’s the kind of money that’s in Pittsburgh: it’s not gambling money; it’s nuts and bolts industrial money.

It s very difficult. When we first went around, we tried for about three years before we made LIVING DEAD to get people to fund some kind of a project, thinking all along that we were going to do a serious piece. In fact, we had a script written, that I had written, that we were trying to promote. We had an entire package put together and we couldn’t get any cash here and we tried to get cash out of New York. People were interested in the script, but they wanted to buy it. take it away, and make it. We said no, our idea is tv make the film. When we told people here that we’re going to make a feature film that’s going to be released they would say: ”Uh huh. oh yea,” and walk away from you. That was that. We just couldn’t do it. We finally formed another corporation. There were ten of us. and the corporation was called Image Ten. That’s where it got its name. We each put in a little bit of seed money, which was enough to buy our film stock, and we talked to the cast on the basis of deferred payments. The cast agreed and we started to shoot and of course we had. and we still do. commercial and industrial films. And so that film was shot over a period, with great breaks, over a period of about nine months, with great breaks in between to come back and do a pickle commercial or something, which was distressing. After we got some footage in the can where we could screen rushes for people, people started coming 'round saying: "Iley. that looks like a movie!” and we said, well that’s what it is! And they said:

Oh yea, and they started to put up money and of course then we sold stock in the corporation which we already had formed and got the whole thing complete so that we had it completely funded when we went into New York, unencumbered. In other words, we didn't have any outstanding debts to any labs or anything like that which we were anticipating, so that was lucky for us in that we didn’t have to give up any percentages to get it finished, and we have yet to have to do that.

CFQ: Who is John A. Russo?

Romero: He wrote the script with me. We actually collaborated on it. It was based on a story that I wrote and when I started to mete it out towards a screenplay we had to start shooting film, because we figured we were going to have interruptions and we were running out of weather. I had written about half of it and at that point turned to over to Jack and he and I worked on the rest of it. He would do drafts on it and come up to the location and we'd work it out.

CFQ: Did you work from a complete script from the beginning, or work it out as you went?

Romero: We had the structure, we had the scenario, but we did some of the scenes--in fact I can remember one morning sitting out on the porch of that house and writing a scene that we shot that afternoon because we happened to have the people together.

CFQ: What particular scene was that?

Romero: It was the little interchange. It's a difficult scene for anyone to remember that isn't really into the film. It's a little scene where Helen Cooper comes up from the cellar and says: "There's another broadcast at three ayem,” or something. "Maybe we should try to make it to the car.” And Ben, Duane Jones, is saying: "You have a car?" It's where Ben discovers that they have a car. when he wants to know where it is.

CFQ: Was there anything cut from the final version of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD that you would have preferred to have left in. and if you could change it now. what would you do?

Romero: Yea. there were a few things. The feast on the front lawn was inserted again where I had another cut. towards the end of the film when they’re watching the second telecast they look out the window and I had expansive shots of the fields with just the ghouls dotting the countryside, which I felt at that point would have been more effective. but the distributor*insisted that we cut back to the ghouls eating flesh. I said. no. we’ve had that, but of course, I didn't get my way.

The film was about ten minutes longer. That was a couple of more dialogue scenes that I felt were kind of important that help set up the characterizations of some of the people, background stuff on the people.

CFQ: This seems to happen to almost every film nowadays.

Romero: It depends on who you are. That was our first one out. and of course, even on this last on THE CRAZIES, we had distributor interference. The first three films we did on spec, from the standpoint that we got the funding, we took the risks, we signed the notes for the money and we went in without having discussed the film with the distributor other than very superficially with regard to. what do you think about this script, or. are we gonna sit with this on the shelf. In some cases, in the case of THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA we went ahead despite urgings from the distributors to not bother to make it. We went ahead and made it and it is now in distribution. We have not been hurt too badly by it.

CFQ: Besides making a lot of money. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD had pretty good critical reviews from a lot of people. Did you expect that, that it would get the accolades that it did?

Romero: No. I knew some people were going to like it. I knew what it had, I knew that it had some guts and I knew that certain things in it were cinematically successful. I really didn’t think that people would see that allegory. Maybe I was underestimating. I don't think most people do see it. because it is very subtle. Often times I laugh about some of the interpretations read into it. We've had some outlandish things said about it. I know that aspects of it are cinematically successful. I didn't expect this much critical acclaim. which has really boled me over, and it seems to be universal. We get press from overseas and it's the same old story. We get better press out of the city. Our press in Pittsburgh isn t very good, but we're getting tremendous press everywhere else.

I didn't expect that much because there are so many things in the film that I consider to be bad. There’s so much terrible dialogue and there are several really poor performances. Technically, the film is not that bad. but Christ, our commercial work is better than that! We were working under such adverse conditions. And I think being so close to the project from those standpoints I felt that those were too glaring to be overlooked.

CFQ: Do you think the "Reader's Digest" article helped the film, or hindered it?

Romero: That kind of stuff never hurts. People that write biting things like that are defeating their own purpose because all they do is create a lot of curiosity. That might not be entirely true. There might be some parents who read that and then didn't send their kids to see it. which is just as well. That was picked up from a newspaper article and was then picked up by "Life” magazine. and was quoted by "Life” magazine. The film had some controversy right from the jump. But the film really didn’t have its big life in its first release. It went out as a showcase piece. It went out with a film called DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS. which was an English thing. It circulated around and made good money and it did get some damn good word of mouth. It was on the "drive-in circuit” and it was because it was so gutsy and unmitigating and unrelenting.

CFQ: Was it only financial considerations that forced you to do NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in black and white? Would you do it in color now? What do you think of color horror films as compared to black and white?

Romero: I think you can do a good job. You have to be very careful with color. Not as much now as you used to with the development of the new stocks and so forth. You can get good, subtle stuff. I think a lot of people were afraid of color for a long time because you had to light it brilliantly. you had that pop-in Technicolor look. You can do subtle things with color now and that's purely a technical development, so I’m not afraid of color. I don’t know what I would have done had the money been available. The decision to do it in black and white was budgetary, in answer to that question which everyone asks. But I don’t know really, it’s a question I can't answer. I couldn’t answer that question unless I knew that I had the money for color and actively chose black and white and then I could say. yea. I actively did it.

I don't know. Right now, I feel that it’s better in black and white and I don't know if I’d have gone with color or not. I really don’t.

Right: Scenes from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD which is currently in release through the Walter Reade Organization. Fully four years after its initial release the film is still receiving a surprising number of bookings throughout the country. particularly for special midnight screenings on weekends. 1: The ghouls wander about aimlessly outside the beleagured farmhouse. 2: Judy (Judith Ridley) tends to Karen (Kyra Schon) who was bitten by the ghouls as Karen's mother (Marilyn Eastman) comes down into the basement to relieve her. 3: A brief interlude away from the farmhouse, as Presidential advisors and military men are interviewed about the dead returning to life. Hitchcock - like, director George Romero makes an appearance as the interviewer. 4: The ghouls are stopped in the end by a simple bullet through the brain, as the sheriff's posse and state troopers gun them down

CFQ: Do you feel that comedy is appropriate in horror films?

Romero: Oh sure.

CFQ: Or do you feel it is counterproductive? Hammer Films very seldom have humor. Does it make it almost camp when it’s too serious?

Romero: I think it does. Hammer films have excellent production values, they have a tremendous feel for that gothic aura, they have good people, they have good actors, substantial people, but there is something about their films that are just.. .youknow.. .stiff upper lip. and every damn one is exactly the same. There's something about it that’s just, you know, it's kind of on a line and you never get tiff it. 1 think you can go one way or another with it, and I don't think it has a counterproductive value at all.

There's stuff in LIVING DEAD that gets a kind of nervous laughter. Well, we saw this 25 minutes of THE CRAZIES here, and there's a few laughs in it, but they're kind of nervous laughs, they're a release. 1 know Hitchcock has a philosophy, he will always follow a very tense sequence with a little piece of comedy. He does it all the time. If you study his work, it works very well. In LIVING DEAD we have a couple of instances like that. Right in the middle of the uptight-thing with the posse, the sheriff, what he is saying is straight, in fact that was an ad lib interview. I left some of the things in purely for the chuckle. I don’t think that it's counterproductive at all.

CFQ: Does it bother you when you're in an audience, say with your own film, and the audience reacts differently than you expected them to. Does it bother you at all?

Romero: No. I always find it interesting. I really think than anyone that endeavors to do anything creative is really trying to communicate, and reaching people in any way is a substantial thing.

When I was acting I did a play called "The Connection," and played a character named Leach, and I had to come down center stage and take a needle in the arm, and take an overdose and wind up going into fits and wind up with my arm hanging off the proscenium with the needle hanging out of the vein. We did it with nose putty. And every night it was a different reaction. It was really a tremendous thing. We got nervous laughter to that, we got some cringing, we got some people in nausea, and it's just that you know that you’re doing something. That's a gratifying thing. I think I’ve seen NIGHT OF THE LIVING

Above: Scenes from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The film's black hero, Ben, is played by Duane Jones. Left: Ben attempts to board-up and reinforce the windows of the farmhouse as the ghouls claw their way through. Right: Ben drags one of the ghouls from the farmhouse and sets it on fire to ward off the others.

DEAD with audiences three or four times, other than in private screenings with smaller groups. It has. pretty much, a uniform reaction.

CFQ: I’ve got the stock "Johnny Carson" question coming up. Sex and nudity has become increasingly evident in recent horror films. Do you regard this obligatory nudity as an obstacle or a nuissance?

Romero: 1 think it's a nuissance from the standpoint that I don't know* how much of my life I've spent arguing with distributors over how much and how little and so forth. It gets a little bit ludicrous when you're sitting around saying 36 frames of tit rather than 24. I don't understand it. I think if you want to use it, and it serves a purpose then you should use it.

CFQ: You’re almost a pioneer, in that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD features one of the first bare asses seen in horror films!

Romero: (laughter) I don’t think so. No.

CFQ: At the time of that film you didn't have all the ratings and all the nudity in films.

Romero: No. In fact it was just on the cusp. The rating system was just coming in. That film wasn't rated.

CFQ: What do you think THE CRAZIES should get? I don't think it should get an R.

Romero: I don’t think it should get an R, but I think it will. In the first place, an independent has a hell of a harder time with the people that decide the ratings than a major studio does. Actually, I don't think the rating system makes any sense, frankly. I think all the X rating did was license a lot of meaningless pornography. I think that a sexual passage in a film, if it's gonna mean something, is fine, and 1 don’t give a dman how graphic it is. I don't have any compunctions about shooting one, if it has its place, but I won’t do it randomly. In fact, 1 had arguements all over hell on JACK'S WIFE with the distributors. There are two sexual passages in JACK’S WIFE, and I had all kinds of hell telling people "no," it makes no sense to make these porno, because it's just gonna detract. The woman wants and needs sexual

release and the first one is the most graphic of the two because she finally gets it after 45 minutes of ponderous film. You need enough to show that release. To show the change in her. But you didn't have to go that graphic with it.

LIVING DEAD got an X rating in Great Britain because they take violence into account as much or more than morality when rating their product over there and I do think that that makes some sense. I don't know that any of that stuff does any damage to a developing mind watching it. I don’t know that any kid, unless he's disturbed tobegin with, is going to see something happening on the screen and go out and immediately do it. I don't think any kid is gonna go and watch A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and go out and find a rubber phallus and go out and start beating somebody with it. I might be wrong. I may do some harm. I really don't think so. I do think that possibly violence is gonna affect people more than seeing sex on the screen. I don’t think that pornography is unhealthy really, in that sense. It might be very healthy.

CFQ: Duane Jones is the only character in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD about whom we are given no information about background, job, family or residence, and as he is the central character, why was this done?

Romero: One of the scenes I mentioned earlier that was cut, was one of the background scenes. It gave a little bit of his background and told who he was and where he was going.

CFQ: What has Duane Jones done since NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD?

Romero: He's always been active. He's acting. He's in New York City. He's done some offBroadway stuff. He has a background in education and he teaches at an underprivileged school up there. Frankly, he's more interested in that, than in acting, although he enjoys it very much.

CFQ: Ben (Duane Jones) convinces everyone to fight it out upstairs, and then when everybody is dead, he winds up surviving in the cellar he prevented them from taking refuge in. Why was this done?

Romero: It was just another little irony. I mean it w’as an intentional irony. There was an establishing sequence that keyed that up harder. There wasn't any specific dialogue, but there were some takes that he did. If you noticed, it's a little choppy right at the point where he's goinft into the cellar and the little girl is coming up. There was realization on his part, but the dis-tributor felt that it wasn’t registering so it was cut out.

CFQ: The lighting in the daylight scenes is natural and almost documentary-like, while lighting in the night scenes is very expressionists. Was this intentional?

Romero: Well, we’ve talked about that in the mention of my artistic background.

CFQ: What lighting techniques were used?

Romero: That was another thing that was kind of budgetary. In the daylight scenes we just didn’t use light, because we used just ambient, natural light.

CFQ: How would the film have been different if it had been made by AIP in Hollywood?

Romero: Well. I don’t know. 1 think that there probably would have been a scientist in the group, explaining what was going on. I think the ending would have been different. In fact. American International turned the picture down on the basis of it being too unmitigating. They told us that if we wuuld reshoot the end of it they would distribute it. Have Ben survive and come out somehow.

CFQ: Do you think artistic and innovative horror films can be made under the Hollywood system where commercial considerations are sc pervasive?

Romero: Oh. sure you can. I think you can. Well, Ive been trying to walk the line. We’re still independent. We’ve tried to walk the line. I think that our films have been commercial, but at the same time have had some intelligence in them. JACK’S WIFE is an intelligent commentary of what goes on in the mind, yet it’s commercial enough that I’m sure, in fact I know, that it s going to be released. In fact, we've had inquiries about it and are negotiating.

CFQ: Your most recent production is THE CRAZIES. Are you going to stick with that title?

Romero: I hope to hell not! The original title was THE MAD PEOPLE, and I liked that better. Again, that film, as an original story, was written as a pure allegory. The basic premise being that everyone in the world is operating at some level of insanity. You know, the old question what is sane, what is insane? The device that was used in the story was the accidental spill of a biological weapon into the water supply of a little town, which enabled us to look at people really operating, that is to crystalize this operation of different types of people at varying levels of insanity. And it was again purely an allegory, and

Above: Scenes from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which has become an awknowledged classic of the horror genre only four years after its release. Left: The ghouls wander about aimlessly outside the beleagured farmhouse. Right: Helen Cooper (Marilyn Eastman) meets death at the hands of her daughter, turned into a ghoul.

the distributors liked it. and I knew immediately when the distributors liked it that they liked the premise and not the allegory, once again. In the rewrite of the script which I did collaboratively with Lee Hessel. who is distributing the film, we went that way, we went literally, we went plot line with it. although I think again, the allegory is still there.

CFQ: Do you think there is a similarity between THE CRAZIES and NIGHT OF THE LiviNG DEAD, and if so was this intentional due to the commercial success of your first film?

Romero: No. it really wasn't. We had the basic story which was written by one of our commercial directors here, and the script came out of that. On my draft, my version of the script. I wasn't looking for any intentional similarities at all. I think that some people are gonna say that it has similarities. One of the commanding officers in the film is a black man. and it's the same thing, a band of people trying to survive against this onslaught, in this case, military personnel trying to button up a town. And it does, in that sense, have those similarities, but beyond that the similarity is gone. It’s a different commentary altogether.

CFQ: Were you satisfied with the way Continental distributed NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD? Wuuld you have done it differently?

Romero: Yes, I would have promoted it a little subtler. I would have understated, that's all.

I was a little bit distressed with the way they handled it. I felt that it could have done better. 1 felt that it could have even done some key run.

CFQ: Have you been approached bv any Hollywood studio to do a film?

Romero: With a few offers, not directly from studios. As you say. most of the production is being done independently now. I've been approached by several independents and been written into several proposals, and several of them didn t come through. One of them I turned down on the basis of being able to do it here.

CFQ: Do you plan on making more horror films?

Romero: I don't know.

CFQ: You’re gonna make films?

Romero: Yea. right.

CFQ: The content is not important.

Romero: Not really, no. I have a script I wrote and very much want to do, and I would really like to do TARZAN like I mentioned.

CFQ: Which ape call did you prefer, the MGM or the other?

Romero: (laughing) Neither. I didn’t like any of them. Didn't sound like an ape.

That’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to get in touch with Kubrick and get those ape suits, (laughing) And really do the number, or a larger portion of that.

CFQ: It’s been so long since anybody has made a good Tarzan.

Romero: It's never been made. I don't think it s ever been made. The closest one was Elmo Lincoln. It came closest to being the ’’ape man.” But that wasn't it. It was off base. It was off target.

Jane should be in it. but Jane should be in it the way Burroughs wrote it. He should come up to the burning mansion in his big limousine and rescue her. in the southern mansion, and bring her off to the jungle. You'd think it would have some pertinence today.

It's a tremendous little statement in itself, if you want an original hippy. That’s what he is and that's the way it should be done. He goes back to the jungle for a sabbatical every once in a while. When he wants to get something off his chest. And he s a beautiful guy. It should be written that way He s a very intelligent, very glib kind of a man. a man about the world.

CFQ: Would you pick a known actor to play Tarzan?

Romero: Yea. Of course I really don't know.

I really don’t have any idea. You know, when he was a little younger looking. I think probably Connery would have been pretty good. Like Connery as he looked in DR. NO or FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, probably would have been pretty good looking. I’m just thinking of physical dynamics. I really don't know who would be good.

CFQ: You were. Iguess. raised on Weissmuller?

Romero: Yea, right. Weissmuller and thfcu Lex Barker. But they were the same, they were all that Hollywood image, the romanticized image of the ape man who lived in the jungle and whobeat up on the baddies who were after the ivory.

CFQ: Do you think you’d have any trouble making a TARZAN film with the Black movement being what it is?

Romero: I don’t think so.

CFQ: There’s the problem of the white ape beating up the blacks.

Romero: No, that doesn't happen very often in the Burroughs stuff really. And when it happens it’s no kind of a jab. You know, he’s in that society, there are goodies and baddies, and he’s in a predominantly black society. I don’t think there's really any sweat there at all.

CFQ: Have you ever got into Burroughs fantasy?

Romero: The other stuff, yea. Oh. I’d love to do some of that too.

CFQ: Would you like to do a western?

Romero: Yea, I think I would. Although 1 used to say what I'm saying about Tarzan now. I used to say they’ve never made a good western and suddenly, along came THE WILD BUNCH and some of the others that I think have been particularly good. I'd still like to do it, but 1 guess my interest has been knocked out of me kind of a little bit by seeing some pretty good stuff on the screen. Not from the standpoint that I’m not going to compete with that, but I’ve lost interest in doing it just for the sake of doing it because it hasn't been done.

CFQ: It would be kind of hard to do in Pittsburgh anyway?

Romero: (laughing) Oh yea...

I’m a romantic. I’d really like to do just a straight romantic thing.

CFQ. Like your film THE AFFAIR?

Romero: Well. no. That was a spinoff of the trend at the time. It was another attempt on our part to walk the line. Make something commercial that was trying to be a little bit intelligent too. and that was a spinoff of THE GRADUATE GOODBYE. COLUMBUS period and is really all that is and that's all I can say about it, although I think it has a nice light feeling to it.

CFQ: When can we look forward to seeing JACK’S WIFE and THE CRAZIES or THE MAD PEOPLE, whatever the title may be?

Romero: THE AFFAIR should be starting to play in New York right about now. JACK’S WIFE is coming out of the lab within a couple of weeks, but by the time that gets sold and a campaign worked on, and everything else, it’s going to be quite some time, and I just have no answer on JACK’S WIFE. THE CRAZIES, in fart, is going to be out before JACK’S WIFE even though we shot it after JACK'S WIFE, for several reasons. First of all, it was presold. We had the distributor before we produced the film, and in fact, it’s a coproduction with the distributor. Cambist Films, which is Lee Hessel. Secondly, it was shot in 35mm and JACK’S WIFE was shot in 16. JACK’S WIFE has yet to be. once it's sold, blown up. whereas THE CRAZIES, once I get the cut, we can have a print in a few weeks. I think THE CRAZIES will probably be opening sometime, well, he's hoping to open it around Thanksgiving. That might be optimistic, but I would say definitely before the end of the year or right at the end of the year.

CFQ. Do you think THE CRAZIES will be a ’’drive-in" movie like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was. or will it be an "indoor." Do you think spring or summer would be a better release date for a horror film, or does it matter?

Romero: I don’t consider THE CRAZIES being a horror film, really. It's science fiction to the extent that FAIL SAFE was science fiction, and things like that, but it's more at that level. It isn't really fantasy. I think that THE CRAZIES could go first run easily. I think it will probably have great success in the showcases.

CFQ: I hope it's not going to get saddled to the bottom half of some double-bill. Do you know anything about that?

Romero: I think when they open it--I know he is planning on opening it in New York. I think he is gonna showcase it in New York, but he's really not sure. Of course, he hasn't seen any of it. Depending on what it looks like, he’ll either give it a first run, key run situation, or he'll open it showcase, but that’s New York, which differs, very often from different parts of the country. I know that in Pittsburgh it will play by itself in a first run house when it first opens. But in New York it is very difficult and very expensive to

I open a film key run and you can loose your shirt just trying to promote it in the city of New York, and if it duds, it duds, and you've really lost a lot of money and you've got to play a few other cities just to recover that.

CFQ: Then he’s not really planning on a world premier in Pittsburgh now?

Romero: I don’t know what he's doing. I know he had a miserable failure with THE AFFAIR, which was then called THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA here in Pittsburgh. The same thing happened to us. Our only really bad review was in Pittsburgh on that film and I think it hurt it a little bit here. Everywhere else it has played it has gotten pretty good reviews. I don’t know really. That's entirely up to the people who are going to be developing the campaign and promoting it.

CFQ: After viewing the first 25 minutes of the rushes on THE CRAZIES today all I can say is what a pace! Do you have any idea what your running time will be and what they’ll cut it down to?

Romero: I'm shooting for 90 to 100. I estimated the script from the jump at about 90 or 100 and so it’ll be somewhere in there. There seems to be a rule of thumb, which I can’t really explain, that a film has to be 90 minutes. 1 think that some distributors feel that if a film goes 91 that everyone is gonna get up out of their seats when the sweep hand hits 90 and miss the ending. I really don’t understand that. I think if the film holds your interest it’s not important.

I've seen this reel we saw today on THE CRAZIES about four times. Normally, by about the second or third time I get super critical and I start cringing in my seat while I'm watching the stuff because I know there are things that--and I say to myself: "Christ! Why did I do that! How did I miss that." But this one keeps me cookin’. And that 25 minutes rolls and it seems like about 10 or 15. It’s a very brutally paced unrelenting kind of a piece, which is one of the things that I was shooting for. and it deals basically with a commentary on the military.

CFQ: Don't you think television would ruin this if they ever showed it?

Romero: Yea. but I don’t know if they could show it. One of our negotiations on the script was with a television outfit that funds and produces those movies for TV. They looked at the script. They really wanted it, but they told us what would have to be done to it. in order to put it on TV.

CFQ: Take out the military and everything else.

Romero: Right. It would have been too tame for what it’s saying. The language isn't too heavy and that wouldn't bother me. They may be reluctant because of the subject matter.

CFQ: I don’t know if we should discuss the ending at all. That burns the hell out of me when I see an interview about how a movie ends.

Romero: Well, let’s not.

CFQ: Could we discuss the ending that was shot or the ending that you had in mind and just say that there's going to be a different ending. Would that suffice, or should we just shut up about it?

Romero: Well, it doesn't bother me. Originally, the town was gonna.get wiped out.

CFQ: Would you describe that scene that you had for me at the end. That’s what I wanted to get to?

Romero: The romantic leads were to get seperated. Nobody knows what's going on. Suddenly the military moves in and--bang!--they're all over the place. As it gradually unfolds you find out that they spilt, because of the Presidential order to dump the bioweapons, that they deactivated one of the weapons and they were transporting it for dumping and the plane crashed and you find out then that deactivation means only about 98-99^ and therefore there is some active virus in the water supply in the town.

We're dealing with the military people and with the town's people, and we're dealing with the two romantic leads of the civies. They get seperated and at the very end--the whole time there’s a bomber over the town in case the perimiter breaks, because of the possibility of the virus being carried out. there's the chance that they have to bomb the town. We were going to end it with the two lovers, after having been seperated. running toward each other and just before they reach each other on the screen, the screen was gonna go white and they were gonna destroy the town with the bomb. But we didn't do that.