In 1968 George Romero changed everything about zombie movies – except, of course, that he didn’t. Though it’s often cited as the key film in the now ubiquitous zombie genre, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead never used the term “zombie.” Instead, it referred to it’s reanimated undead characters as “ghouls.” Initially, the filmmaker himself avoided any zombie references, and cited Richard Matheson’s novel “I Am Legend” as the main inspiration for his horror opus.
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By the mid 1980s in America, it was very clear that the manufacturing economy that had led the United States to unprecedented economic heights was crumbling like a corroded steel bridge. Thousands of blue-collar workers were losing their jobs; across the Midwest and Northeast, from Cleveland and Detroit to Pittsburgh and beyond. Politicians and business owners made vague promises of revival, but the industry was already transitioning into newer, leaner, automated forms of manufacturing that required higher-precision technology, but less manpower.
George Romero left his zombie films behind with the end of the Cold War, only to return to the genre with "Land of the Dead" in 2005. As America began to polarize into red states and blue states during the early years of the War on Terror, Land picks up several years after the initial zombie outbreak with an equally divided society. In it Romero’s attention to the arming of America satirizes private security forces and the use of the military or National Guard to protect wealthy enclaves.
Unlike the alien landscapes and alternative futures of science fiction, the worlds of the zombie apocalypse are ours. They operate as allegories for the failures of government, social institutions, and the fragmentation of community. The zombie is our neighbor, the zombie is us. When he introduced the flesh-eating risen dead in 1968, George Romero became the father of the modern movie zombie. He scorned the later postmodern “fast” versions in Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead" and the army-ant antics of the CGI-undead in Marc Forster’s adaptation of "World War Z" (2013).
"Legacy of the Dead" would not be possible without the generous support of CMU School of Drama Professor Emeritus and frequent Romero collaborator Barbara Anderson. A professor of costume design and construction in the School of Drama, as well as Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts until 2012, Barbara began teaching alongside her late husband, production designer and fellow CMU Professor Cletus Anderson, in 1968.
The Pittsburgh of 1960 was an incredibly different metropolis than the one we’re attuned to now. Along the Monongahela River, the coke ovens burned and the ore ran hot. Construction of the 3,600 foot-long Fort Pitt Tunnels that connect the South Hills to the Fort Pitt Bridge had nearly been completed, while Frank Lloyd Wright eagerly sketched away at his Point Park concept drawings—an endeavor that ultimately was never approved.
Sahir Chichkar is a master’s degree candidate in chemical engineering. Juno Lin is a master’s degree candidate in music. Natives of Mumbai and Taipei, respectively, they met on the job as student workers in Hunt Library. University Libraries Director of Marketing & Communications Shannon Riffe talks to them about their experience as students and employees.
Welcome to the University Libraries Blogs! These blogs arose out of a need to create an online venue for our on-staff experts to do a deep dive into their topics of interest. Unlike the News section of our website, which offers timely updates of events and services, the blogs are a space for specialists to post what’s current or noteworthy in their subject areas, providing readers with an expert’s view of library services and collections.