History 14

Late July/early August 1979
Neue Constantin Film president Bernd Eichinger has George Romero and Christine Forrest flown in for promotional visits of West Germany and Austria to coincide with Dawn of the Dead’s theatrical release in either country. The tour covers press junkets in Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Vienna, Cologne, and Wiesbaden.

August 3, 1979
Backed by an elaborate marketing campaign, Zombie opens in 60 West German theaters, in a slightly censored version based on Dario Argento’s cut. Despite predominantly negative press reviews, the film becomes a huge box office hit there, grossing a total of $5.2 million within less than four months, and also winning a “Golden Screen Award” the following year for drawing an estimated audience of 3 million patrons. Its massive success in Germany later even is addressed by Stephen King in a socio-political context in his 1981 non-fiction book about horror films and literature, Danse Macabre, and will also lead to the first domestic theatrical release of George Romero’s earlier film, The Crazies, in December 1979.

August 25, 1979
Exploiting Dawn of the Dead’s massive European box office success, Italian production company “Variety Film” domestically releases Zombi 2, a very gory horror-action-adventure thriller directed by veteran spaghetti western and giallo filmmaker, Lucio Fulci. Despite its misleading original title suggesting it to be some sort of sequel to Dawn, both Laurel and Dario Argento surprisingly desist from taking any legal steps against the film’s producers. Zombi 2 ultimately establishes a veritable zombie movie craze in Europe (particularly Germany) that will lead to the release of numerous cheap – and usually very bad – rip-offs through to the early 1980s, most of them also originating from Italy.

September 15, 1979
George Romero and Richard Rubinstein attend a screening of Dawn of the Dead at the Toronto International Film Festival.

October 1979
A second attempt to get Dawn of the Dead rated for an Australian theatrical release is made; this time in the form of an already shortened 123-minute version of George Romero’s theatrical cut. The CB once more refuses classification.