History 18

January 1982
U.S. release of the obscure low-budget slasher film Madman, which marks Gaylen Ross’ only other starring role apart from Dawn of the Dead. In order to avoid troubles with the Screen Actors Guild, Ross appears under the moniker of “Alexis Dubin”.


Fall 1982
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other print media pick up on a story that involves one of the “props” Tom Savini has used for Dawn of the Dead almost five years prior; namely the immobile, skeleton-like corpse that can be seen “sitting” in the basement next to a couple of snacking zombies during the housing project raid scenes early in the film. Savini, all the while thinking it was fake, had originally rented the skeleton from a man named Larry Wintersteller of “Maier’s Costume Shop” in uptown Pittsburgh, dressed it up in white sheets, added to its bones what was later described as something resembling “mummified human skin” (actually made of rubber, cotton and Rice Krispies cereals), and returned it after the shoot with the make-up still intact. A few years later, Wintersteller sells the item on to Marylinn Wick, owner of another Pittsburgh-based store called “Costume World”, who places it in a coffin and offers it as a $100 rent-out prop for Halloween parties. It is there that, in September 1982, a local police officer discovers the skeleton by total coincidence and, upon spotting the leftovers of Savini’s “skin” appliances, assumes it to be a potential corpus delicti. After being legally confiscated and examined by Allegheny County coroner Dr. Joshua Perper, the bones are identified as the actual, 100 year-old remains of “a white middle-aged woman”, and, in March 1983, eventually get laid to rest during an official funeral service at Pittsburgh’s Mount Lebanon Cemetery that incorporates limousine transportation and six pallbearers. (As an aside, Marylinn Wick’s “Costume World, Inc.” will later grow into a major corporation, while Dr. Joshua Perper goes on to spend some time in the public spotlight for heading the seven-week examination of Anna Nicole Smith’s body following her drug-induced death in February 2007.)

May 11, 1983
Distributed by René Chateau, Dawn of the Dead is given a belated widespread theatrical release in France, under the title of Zombie: Les Crépuscule des Morts Vivants.

May 13, 1983
UFDC re-release Dawn of the Dead in a heavily cut “R”-rated version, to be shown in double bills alongside Romero’s most current film, the Stephen King anthology Creepshow. However, reactions from movie audiences are so massively and uniformly negative that the distributors are forced to withdraw this version from circulation, even issuing a press statement that basically apologizes to all the outraged purist fans. Indeed, the “R”-rated edit is surrendered to the MPAA and never shown again.

1983
Debut U.S. home video release of Dawn of the Dead (whose box art utilizes the front cover design of the 1979 poster book) by Thorn/EMI. The tape, made available in both Betamax and VHS formats, eventually will shift a reported 750,000 copies domestically.