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Thursday, January 19, 2012

ZOMBIES - Fun with "Dawn of the Dead" '78, Part 1

by Bowie Ibarra

Moments before we learn that "The shit's really hitting the fan"
Thousands upon thousands of words have been written about George A. Romero's zombie classic, "Dawn of the Dead" 1978.  There's probably not a lot of new ground could tread that hasn't already been discussed.

So what we're going to do today is have a little fun with the movie.  Bring up some fun facts, snarky remarks, and generally have some fun with the movie that has inspired not only the great zombie wave we have today, but many people, like myself, who have gone on to write some really good zombie horror.

Let's begin.

The movie starts in a news station as the proverbial "shit" is hitting the fan.  Fran has "the coat", and has been napping in the back in a soundproof room.  Its another woman's turn for 'the coat', and she exchanges it for a cup of coffee.

Great quote from this moment:
"I'm still dreaming."
"No, you're not."

She comes out to a TV show with two guys arguing about the epidemic of the living dead that is taking over the nation.

Fun fact:  The bearded dude running the board is none other than George A. Romero, himself, signature scarf and all.  Seated next to him would be his future wife, Christine Forrest Romero.

Another fun fact:  That signature scarf can be seen during the final feast in 'Day of the Dead', and is George's cameo in the flick.  I'll let you find that one yourself.

And another fun fact:  George was also one of the reporters at the capitol in "Night of the Living Dead".  You can't miss him.  He's the really tall dude with his scarf putting the mic in those government official's faces.

And their on-screen dynamic is a fight.
 Apparently, Fran is one of the floor managers at the news stations and had to make an executive decision.  It seems while she was asleep, 'inactive rescue stations' were being displayed, thereby sending people to places already overrun by the walking dead.  Here's Fran taking a stand.

And here's your typical TV station douche more concerned about ratings than the lives being lost all around him.

Fun quote:
"Without those rescue stations on the air, people will stop watching us.  They'll tune out."

It's around this time when his staff decides to abandon ship.  

One of the best lines is when someone asks, "Anybody need a ride?"


"Lucas, get back here on the console!"

Then there's this dude.

If there's ever a picture of the schlubs that work security and their desire to just bail, this is it.

It's just another one of those signature simple moments where so many people with so little time on screen make such huge impacts that really make the film more powerful.

Then, the argument between Fran and the station manager makes things fall apart.

"Do you know you're on the air?"
"What the hell's going on?"

In the city, its chaos.  The city needed to make a move on a building in the projects to stop the biohazard in the basement.  They were burying their dead there, and it was still a danger to the community.

So they bring in the SWAT team.  And good old Roy Tucker, the gentlest, sweetest SWAT team member you'll ever know, gets his first chance as a team member.

"No matter what happens, don't pop off, okay?"

Then there's king douchebag, the worst cop of the worst, good old Wooly.  I imagine they called him that because he was as big as a Wooly Mammoth.  He's the forebear to the big tough guys Romero likes to include, like Steele and DoughBoy in his subsequent movies.

Wooly is a bit of a racist, and isn't afraid to tell you why he is very happy to be here tonight.  Taking his position with his shotgun in hand, his first lines are, "Yeah, come on out Martinez so I can blow your little Puerto Rican ass right off.  Blow all their asses off.  Low life bastards.  Blow all their little Puerto Rican and N***** asses right off!"

As Roger tries to keep Tucker calm, Wooley continues to go off.  

But then Martinez and his crew make a move.  The whistle barley blows to start the game when Tucker gets a stray bullet to the head.

At least I don't have to come in tomorrow.

Fun Fact:  The part of Martinez was played by John Amplas, who you will remember as Dr. Fisher in 'Day of the Dead'.  He's the one scientist that got blasted by Rhodes.

Don't go out there!
 As you might imagine, Wooley takes advantage of the move on the building to just start blasting people indiscriminately.  Not cool.

"C'mon, you little bastards.  Come and get 'em."
It does, however, give SFX god Tom Savini a chance to put in one of his signature effects:  The blasted head.

And there...

Wooley gets subdued by a mystery man in a gas mask, but opens a contaminated room.

Apparently, this SWAT team had little to no training, because when faced with a zombie, a team member didn't quite know what to do.

"Shoot it, man.... Shoot it, man... Shoot it in the head!"

 Eventually, Roger sees enough and has inhaled too much teargas and runs to another room where he teams up with Peter, the guy who subdued Wooly.  They meet another guy who provides some of the best lines from the movie.

"You are stronger than us. But soon, I feel, they be stronger than you."

"When the dead rise, senores, we must stop the killing or lose the war."

Peter ends up finding the basement where the dead are kept and puts them down.

Below is a great and powerful image ripped off by Lucio Fulci in 'Zombie':  The dead in wraps put down by a shot to the head.

More fun quotes here:
"Why do these people keep them here?"
"Because they still believe there's respect in dying."

So the teams on the run with Fran and Stephen, and they meet at the docks.

Fun fact:  Joseph Pilato is one of the cops at the dock that tries to stop the team from leaving on the helicopter.  Joseph would go on to play Capt. Rhodes in 'Day of the Dead'.

Yet another rule is on display for the Z-Poc:  If you have cigarettes, you hoard them.

"You guys have any cigarettes?"
 This one is a great segment as the team leaves.  When asked what they are leaving behind, Peter says, "Some brothers."

Fun fact:  They still serve Iron City Beer in Pittsburgh.  As far as I'm concerned, its the official beer of the zombie apocalypse.  I also drank a huge glass of it when I was in Pittsburgh with Travis Adkins and friends.  It was good.

You know you would be doing the same as well.

Movie Notes:  Ever notice the messages on the coffee machine?  28 Days Later used this same concept for their movie as well.  Pretty cool, huh?

A great zombie death, part of Romero's tradition of unique zombie deaths.  The pendejo stood on boxes by a helicopter and got his head chopped off.

Romero has no problem infecting kids with the virus and having them attack.  He did it in "Night..." and he does it here.  "The Walking Dead" has used the 'dead kid' convention to great effect.

nom, nom, nom.

Fun fact:  .15 cent Baby Ruth!  Those were the days!

Great quote here:  "Wake up, sucker!  We're thieves and we're bad guys.  That's exactly what we are."

Another classic and prophetic line as they arrive at the shopping mall:

"What are they doing?  Why are they here?"
"Some kind of instinct.  Memory of what they used to do.  This was an important place for them."

Fun Fact:  In a bit of foreshadowing, Roger picks up a set of keys and quotes the bible, saying "Keys to the Kingdom".  

The bible verse adds foreshadowing of what is to come.  It's from Matthew 16:19, and it says,

"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: 
and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: 
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Fun Fact:  This is the late Clayton Hill.  He is known in some "Dawn..." superfan circles as 'Escalator Zombie'.  He was also the 'Weapons Coordinator' for the movie.  You see his name several times in the credits, along with many others.  He was a really nice guy, and I was fortunate to meet him in Pittsburgh in 2008, just a few short months before he passed away in July 2009.

How many of you wish your quest for lighter fluid was this awesome!

Hari Krishna Zombie
Screwdriver Zombie
 Yet another creative death from Romero.  Roger uses a screwdriver from a zombie's tool belt to subdue the monster.

Striped Shirt Zombie

Fun Fact:  Striped Shirt zombie has a small underground following, as do many of the featured zombies, including Blue Suit Zombie and Nurse Zombie.  More on that later.

Pregnancy.  Yet another convention used in zombie apocalypse storylines.

And abortion... yet another storyline used in today's "Walking Dead" series.  

Romero was a trailblazer, that's for sure.

Also, Peter makes it apparent that when he's not working SWAT, he apparently performs back alley abortions.  Who can forget the following quotes:

"Do you want to keep it?  Do you want to abort it?  It's not too late, and I know how?"

Ahhh, the zombie apocalypse.

And if you appreciate zombie horror, you'll love the 'Down the Road' zombie horror series from  Down the Road, Down the Road: On the Last Day, and Down the Road: The Fall of Austin.  Pick them up in paperback or Kindle today.

BOWIE V. IBARRA earned his BFA in Acting and MA in Theatre History from Texas State University.  Network with Bowie at his official website, today.


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Bowie Ibarra is the author of the "Down the Road" zombie horror series from Permuted Press.  You can discover his written works, which are available in paperback, Kindle, and other e-readers, and network with him at his personal website,


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