Dawn of the Dead



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George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) is celebrated both as a ‘splatter’ movie and as a satire of 1970s consumerism. One of the most financially successful independent films ever produced, Dawn of the Dead presented a strong vision to audiences of the time in terms of its excessive, often shocking violence. It challenged censorship internationally and caused controversy in the United States and the UK. The film created problems with distributors because of its length and its graphic content; with the MPAA who awarded it an ‘X’ in America (a rating usually reserved for pornography); with the BBFC in the UK who completely recut it; and in various European territories where it was released in several versions.

Arguably, excess is at the heart of Dawn of the Dead, integral to its meaning: not only in its scenes of gore, its in-your-face social satire and its gaudy pop-kitsch style but in the production history of the film itself. This Devil’s Advocate explores the various ways in which Romero took Dawn of the Dead into areas of extremity during its scripting, production and distribution; and the responses of industry, censorship bodies, reviewers and audiences of the time to the film’s excesses. Taking the approach of a micro-historical study, Jon Towlson offers a close analysis of the film’s production context to explore the cultural significance of Dawn of the Dead as a ‘rebel text’ and an example of oppositional cinema.

"Towlson elegantly weaves together critical analysis, production background, and film history to provide the definitive volume on Romero's Dawn of the Dead. This book is a must read not only for fans of Romero's films but for anyone with an interest in horror cinema in general." – Kendall R. Phillips, professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University and author of Dark Directions: Romero, Carpenter, Craven and the Modern Horror Film (2012).


Author Information

Jon Towlson is the author of The Turn to Gruesomeness in American Horror Films, 1931-1936 (2016); Close Encounters of the Third Kind in Auteur's 'Constellations' series (2016); and the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award-nominated Subversive Horror Cinema: Countercultural Messages of Films from Frankenstein to the Present (2014).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction: “Superschlock”8
1. “Upsetting the Applecart”: Concept and Genre20
2. “Comic-book Type Humour and Extreme Staging”: Script Development36
3. “I Knew That the Only Way to Do This Was to Just Beat It to Death”: Production48
4. Too Long and Too Strong: Distribution70
5. “Sick or Subtle?” Critical Reception and Audience Consumption86
6. “Deadened by Blood and Gore”: Censorship102
Afterword: “Alive to the Sound of Muzak”118