Day of the Dead (also known as George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead) is a 1985 horror film by director George A. Romero, the third of Romero’s Dead Series of zombie horror films. It is preceded by Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Director George A. Romero describes the film as a “tragedy about how a lack of human communication causes chaos and collapse even in this small little pie slice of society”. This film features Sherman Howard in an early appearance as Bub and up and coming make-up artist Gregory Nicotero playing Pvt. Johnson and doing the make-up effects.
The book Dr. Logan gives to Bub is Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot.” Romero and King have been friends for many years.
George A. Romero had originally planned for all the zombies to perish in a massive explosion when they stumbled across explosive chemicals in the laboratory. Meanwhile, one of the crew members who had died during the attack was to have stayed dead and not come back as a zombie, thereby giving hope to the survivors.
The original script, for which George A. Romero couldn’t get budget for, involved the scientists living above ground in a fortress protected by electrified fences and the military living safely underground. It also involved a small army of trained zombies, and the conclusion to the trilogy more brutal than the released version. This later became the basis of Land of the Dead (2005)
All the extras who portrayed zombies in the climax received for their services: a cap that said “I Played A Zombie In ‘Day of the Dead'”, a copy of the newspaper from the beginning of the film (the one that says THE DEAD WALK!), and one dollar.
Most of the zombie extras in this film were Pittsburgh residents who volunteered to help in the film.
The first scene (abandoned city) of the movie was filmed in Fort Myers and Sanibel Island, Florida. The theatre shown in the opening is the Edison; Thomas Edison used to summer in Ft. Myers and his house there is a tourist attraction.
The budget for George A. Romero’s original script was estimated at $7 million, but he would only be given the money if he could film an R-rated film. He was told that if he went ahead and shot an unrated film with no limits on gore, the budget would be split in half to $3.5 million.
The lowest grossing film in George A. Romero’s “Dead” trilogy. Nonetheless, it’s gained a cult following over the last two decades, and the director himself has stated that he considers it his best film.
The underground facility was not on a soundstage. It was shot in the Wampum mine, a former limestone mine near Pittsburgh, that was being used for a underground storage facility. The 2,500,000 square foot mine is now operated as the Gateway Commerce Center who now called it a “subsurface storage facility”.
The only movie in George A. Romero’s “Dead” series where a zombie has a line of dialog (Bub says, “Hello Aunt Alicia.”).
In the scene change right after Logan tells the zombie that it needs to sit in the dark and think about what it did, and punishes it by turning off the light, a little bit of the “The Gonk” music from Dawn of the Dead (1978) can be heard in the scene change.
In the cafeteria scene, William McDermott (Jarlath Conroy) says that “All of the shopping malls are closed.” This is a clear reference to the film’s predecessor Dawn of the Dead (1978), which is set in a shopping mall.
There is a debatable scene in the film where Bub the zombie may or may not have another line of dialogue. When Sarah enters Logan’s lab, she is startled when Bub emerges from the shadows behind her. After this, he moans something that some fans believe is, “I’m sorry.”
During the scene of Miguel’s sedation, Lori Cardille told Anthony Dileo Jr. to actually slap her to make it look more authentic.
Director Cameo: [George A. Romero] As a zombie pushing a cart in the foreground during the final zombie feast, seen from the waist down and identified by his trademark plaid scarf wrapped around his waist.
During a holiday break in filming, makeup artist Gregory Nicotero used the realistic and gruesome model of his own head (as seen in a laboratory scene in the film) to play a practical joke on his mother.
Joseph Pilato (Rhodes) line “Choke on them” as he’s being ripped apart by zombies was ad-libbed by the actor.
The blood and entrails used in the disemboweling of Capt. Rhodes were real. Pig intestines and blood were procured form a nearby slaughterhouse and used to make the scene. During filming the refrigerator housing intestines and blood was unplugged by custodial staff, and the entrails started to spoil causing most of those involved to become physically sick.
Gaylen Ross (“Francine”, Dawn of the Dead-1978) is credited as “NYC Casting” in the end credits.
British band Gorillaz have sampled several audio clips from both Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985): portions of the music and some dialogue (“Hello? Is there anyone there?”) from the latter feature in the track, “M1 A1”, on their 2001 debut album; and some of Bub the zombie’s grunts appear alongside sound-clips of the news reporters from Dawn of the Dead (1978) on one of their B-sides, “Hip Albatross”. Furthermore, part of the score from Dawn of the Dead (1978) is used in the intro track on the 2005 album, Demon Days. This album also features a track narrated by Dennis Hopper, who portrayed Kaufman in George A. Romero’s sequel that year, Land of the Dead (2005).
The band NRBQ was cast and appeared as Zombies in the mine.
Dr. Logan figures that the ratio of the undead to the human survivors is 400,000:1. When the film was made, in 1985, the population of the United States in our universe stood at about 240 million. If Dr. Logan is right, and the US population of this universe stood at roughly the same, and this film took place in 1985, there are 600 living human beings left in the USA. However, since the history of the universe in the “of the Dead” movies had radically diverged from real world history even before the ghouls emerged (notice the Venus probe in the first movie), the timeline of the “Dead” movies remains unclear (the Stephen King novel ‘Salem’s Lost appears in this film, even though in the real world it came out in 1975; note that the first film in this series came out in 1968; Diary of the Dead, set simultaneously with the events of Night of the Living Dead, features technology not available in 1968 in our world), and we do not know how long after the ghouls emerged that this film takes place, one cannot easily presume that this film takes place in 1985 or that the US population would have remained the same.
Some of the headlines from the newspaper that says “The Dead Walk” appear to be: “Vice President Declares State of Emergency,” “Whereabouts of President Unknown,” “Food Supply Dwindles” and “Man Bites Man.”
The first film in George A. Romero’s “Dead” series to begin a tradition of having a clown zombie, as also seen in Land of the Dead (2005) and Diary of the Dead (2007).
Cameo: [Taso N. Stavrakis] In 2 roles: Appears as a Cave Zombie who gets bashed on the head with wood by Sarah. Referred to as Knock-On-Wood Zombie. He also appears as a Biker Zombie as the Zombie battle begins.
Cameo: [Ed Lammi (Associate Producer)] A Zombie with a cast arm entering the room after Steel commits suicide.
The Zombies who attack and feast on Captain Rhodes are played by Hermie Granati, David Granati, Joey Granati, and Rick Granati of the Pittsburgh rock band, The Granati Brothers (otherwise known as G-Force).
Cameo: [Akram Midani] The former Dean of Fine Arts in Carnegie Mellon appears as a Fisherman Zombie pursuing Steel through the Mines. (You can see his wife Watfa Midani right next to him as another Zombie.)
Cameo: [Annie Loeffler (Assistant Director)] Female Cave Zombie (shot by John).
Pat Logan, who played Uncle Rege in Night of the Living Dead (1990) appears as a Bald Mustachioed Zombie shot by Steel in the mines.
Paul Gagne (Sound Designer of Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are (1973)’ (1988 version)), Robert Martin, Mark Steensland, appear as Rickles’ Zombie attackers in the mine.
Cameo: [Howard Berger (Assistant Makeup Artist)] Spinaround Cave Zombie (shot by John).
Cameo: [Everett Burrell (Assistant Makeup Artist] A Surgeon Zombie in the Cave.
Cameo: [John Vulich (Assistant Makeup Artist)] The last Zombie shot in the cave before our heroes enter the Silo.
The “Day Of The Dead” love ballad song, “The World Inside Your Eyes” which appeared at the end credits of the movie was sung by Sputzy Sparacino (who was the lead singer and guitarist of the dance band Modern Man at that time) and 70s/80s disco/funk/soul singer Delilah.
Sputzy Sparacino and his band Modern Man appear to be uncredited as the musicians of the movie soundtrack.
Sarah, John, McDermott, Miguel, Dr. Logan, Bub, and of course Captain Rhodes were the only characters from George A. Romero’s original script that made it to the final version.