My first impression of Fangoria Legends Present George Romero was a post on FaceBook. I wasn’t taken with the cover, and quite honestly I asked myself more than once why we needed a full length retrospective on the great George Romero as sponsored by the juggernaut of horror mags. Haven’t we heard every goddamn thing that Fango has to say about Romero? Was this just another cash grab that magazines of our genre love to make from time to time? Perhaps I have become too cynical, but when I see the big three (Romero, Carpenter, Craven) featured on anything labeled “special limited edition” I’m thinking who’s got their hand out. When the opportunity arose for me to get familiar with the magazine of which I had been somewhat skeptical I jumped at the opportunity.
Was my gut feeling correct? I assure you dear reader that this magazine is chock full of the greatest “Uncle Georgey” has to offer. This is not the rehash, dough-rake of which my mind had conceived. Let’s get down and dirty with the man who has had us coming out of the grave and into the theaters since the 60’s.
Maybe it will help if I go through what you’ll be getting if you decide to make the $9.99 donation to Fango’s coffers. First off, that cover I was commenting on earlier comes to life in your hands (or rather becomes undead in your hands). It’s detailed and sophisticated. Let this be a lesson that low resolution, thumbnails of gorgeous pieces of artwork should be appreciated in their intended medium and size. I can’t tell you how I loath digital editions of magazines no matter how lucrative or necessary. Magazine should be viewed in the hands to appreciate. I can’t tell you how many digital copies of Fangoria back issues I’ve endured simply to read the somewhat hard to come by magazines. It’s not the same. I buy the early ones whenever I get a spare penny. The overal aesthetic of the mag is filled with Romero themed titles, advertisements that were handpicked for the Godfather of the Undead and it’s organized somewhat chronologically to give you an historical perspective on the work of Romero. The reader can see how the filmmaker’s work evolves while reading a bio-novella on his life and influence.
The Night of the Living Dead coverage features a scrumptious interview with John Russo himself followed by a recount of the legacy of NOTLD by Chris Alexander (the Boss). From there the story turns to the revisionist, 30th Anniversary re-editing, additional footage rendition of the classic film. It’s a great chance to ere some grievances and get the intent behind one of horror’s greatest conceived misteps. Let Debbie Rochon tell you the story and maybe you’ll find a new appreciation for this release. George Lucas Revisionist Haters need not apply. Coverage ends with a piece about the socio-political impact of Romero’s formative work. Remember, horror films don’t exist in laboratory bubbles.
Season of the Witch finds a home nestled between the NOTLD and The Crazies. You may not have watched this somewhat misunderstood, gore-lacking effort that is Season, but Bekah McKendry will help sort the whole thing out. Get your Donovan records ready. The Crazies picks up where socially conscious Night of the Living Dead left off. There’s a madness that is the film economic equivalent of paying a dollar for a slice of the Apple stock. An interview with Crazies star Lynn Lowry rounds out the coverage.
The coverage of the new wave take on vamp mythology, Martin gets a hefty slice of the magazine. It’s definitely a cult favorite and deserves the exhibtion it gets with an interview with actor John Amplas, anaylsis of the impact of fang lore and a piece on the composer beyond the score of Martin as well as other Romero works, Donald Rubinstein. This is the man you scored Knightriders and Bruiser. It’s as much a look into the character of Romero as it is a insider glance at the lost art of filmmaking. As a soundtrack junkie this is a must read.
My sore spot lies with the coverage of Dawn of the Dead. While I can appreciate that this movie has been beaten to death and back to life again I expect equal time. The quality of coverage is outstanding featuring a look back the De Wolfe Music library of sound clips. Our 24-7 minds can hardly appreciate the power of this well thoughtout hodge podge of delicious audio. Think of “The Gonk”… the polka of the dead. Try finding the equivalent on the worldwide web. I suppose I could read endless tomes on nothing more than Dawn of the Dead. I could watch the ultimate edition every day (just purchased it through DiabolikDVD). A brief piece on Knightriders, a ren-fair geeks wet dream starring Ed Harris and Tom Savini, pulls up the rear of the Dawn coverage. Of course Tom Savini does an interview for the Knightriders, but also makes an appearance later in the mag for a discussion of his directorial effort of the remake of Night of the Living Dead. We were all getting tired of him discussing his Dawn of the Dead and Friday the 13th efforts, weren’t we?
When you ask me what my favorite horror film is Creepshow is always in the running. I’m hard pressed to pick a different movie because of its impact on me at such a young age. The coverage of the history behind this oft loved and sometimes hated portmanteau film is riveting (says the fan boy). It is superb to see John Harrison get such an extensive piece dedicated to the Creepshow score. Not only is his work used in modern horror films and commercials, but it appeared in the faux trailer for Thanksgiving mid-Grindhouse as directed by Eli Roth. I wrote a little piece this past Halloween about Harrison’s contribution to horror history, and I’m glad to see him remembered fondly here inclusive of a celebration of his triumph over scoring “six movies in one”. Yet another feature including Harrison appears in a discussion of the score for Day of the Dead, a film that he also assistant directed. Coverage of Day of the Dead follows Creepshow and pieces together some of the back story leading up to that gorefest.
From here on out that I remember seeing commericals for Romero’s work on television as it was released as a child of the 80’s. Monkey Shines, Two Evil Eyes which has a fantastic TV trailer and The Dark Half. While I have seen all three movies it has been quite some time since I’ve caught any of them. Fango coverage of Two Evil Eyes is as much a must read for the Romero fan as it is for the Argento enthusiast. Splitting a movie down the middle and focusing on the works of Edgar Allen Poe seems like a sure fire win, but unfortunately fans didn’t grab on as they did to Romero’s undead work. The Dark Half coverage highlights Romero’s relationship with King and focuses on casting Timothy Hutton. Having never seen Bruiser I feel uncomfortable commenting on the coverage, but for fans like me who haven’t seen EVERYTHING it’ll get you to the video store… if you can find one of those anymore.
The new triology of the dead, Land of, Diary of and Survival of the Dead make their way into the back of the issue. Relevance of each film as well as socio-political impact and commentary are discussed. By this point in the history of Romero most of you have been following along as the films have been released and have been news-ed and gossiped to doomsday. Each film is given equal time and a case can be made for the potential impact in years to come for each. The evolution of the Romero zombie has come full circle. The monster that is the zombie is now the human, but zombies were always humans, right?
The issue is rounded out with a celebration of Romero’s newly acquired Canadian citizenship, a brief interivew with the Godfather himself and lovely pictoral, poster history of some of his work. Again, I’m as much a poster hound as a soundtrack schizo, so this article resonated well with me. It’s nearly a how to in marketing a successful horror film and a lesson in how the big Hollywood machine changed a beautiful format into a cookie cutter ad campaign. There’s the cynic in me again. Read the heartfelt tributes at the end from some of your favorite folks in the horror industry. Hell, right your own and leave it below in the comment section.
Isn’t it fitting that the back cover features an advertisement for the new zombie, social commentary film, The Dead? I think we might have Romero’s successor in our midst in the Ford Brothers which is a pretty unpopular opinion. What you have here for less than the price of a movie ticket is a history lesson. Get back to the roots of zombie culture in an age where everything is undead smells of the Walking Dead or poorly engineered prosthetics without a singular original idea. What lies between these covers is a lesson to filmmakers and a collection of obscure but accessible tidbits of the legend of George Romero. Having read much of what has been put out through the years as respects Romero’s work that has been featured in Fangoria (I write a little column called Fango for Dummies over at my day-blog Dr. Terror) there is new material here. Chris Alexander is on the right track with this series. Let’s help it do well and give the Fango writers another
Available Now HERE. Limited edition so you better pick the damn thing up before it’s gone.
Note: As I was searching for images for to ripen this review into a tasty morsel I found an article that I had written back in 2010 about Memorial Day, it’s origins and my tribute to Night of the Living Dead. You can check it out HERE. How ya like them apples?