On this month's Special Page:
A Tribute to Bill Hinzman, the "Number One Zombie"
by John Russo, co-writer of Night of the Living Dead
IN THE "SPECIAL PAGE" ARCHIVES:
BILL HINZMAN MEMORIES
Pete Mongelli, the warm, kindhearted promoter of Spooky Empire, one of Bill Hinzman's all-time favorite conventions, flew to Pittsburgh for Bill's funeral. We spoke for a while about Bill and how much he liked being in Orlando every year to hobnob with his thousands of fans and to just simply enjoy being there. When I attended the Spooky Empire event two years ago, I got to see firsthand how much Bill was respected and admired by all the people there, including "Petie." Everyone especially got a kick out of the way that Bill would appear in full zombie makeup so he could greet-and-meet them as the iconic Cemetery Zombie from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.
Bill was known worldwide as the NUMBER ONE ZOMBIE!
When we were on a twelve-city tour for the 40th Anniversary of our classic horror movie, one of the many wonderful highlights was our guest appearance in Spain for the Sitges International Film Festival, one of the largest and best film fests in the world. That was where a replica of the Evans City Cemetery was built right on the sandy shores of the Mediterranean. During that festival, Bill Hinzman, Judith O'Dea and Russ Streiner reenacted their famous cemetery scene and then led a procession of over 2,000 "zombies" in a Zombie Walk through the cobblestone streets and into the town square of this fabulous Spanish resort.
But Bill made many, many movies in his long career after NOLD, and I had the pleasure of working with him, his wife, Bonnie, and his daughter, Heidi, on several of them. For THE MAJORETTES, which Bill directed and I wrote and produced, Bonnie was the choreographer, and Heidi, who was about eight years old at the time, was the little girl who gets a full-immersion baptism by a whacky fire-and-brimstone preacher -- played by Russ Streiner.
Bill was the cinematographer for my movies SANTA CLAWS and SALOONATICS, and Heidi played a leading role in the latter. I produced and Bill filmed one of the films we both wanted to forget, the unfortunate travesty (not of our doing) called CHILDREN OF THE LIVING DEAD. He worked his butt off on that movie and gave it his all, like a true professional, even though we both knew it was going into the toilet thanks to a couple of the folks who were calling the shots. Bonnie furnished meals and craft service on that movie while Heidi worked crew and acted in it. Bill's brother George was our firearms expert, and some of Bill's other relatives also worked in various capacities.
Bonnie remains as gracious and beautiful as ever, to this day. Bill was deservedly proud of Heidi, and always kept us up-to-date with her career in Hollywood, where she is now in the director's guild and constantly working in movies. Her good looks, intelligence and skill are hard to beat in this business that is often a playground for less talented people who blow their own horns and produce little of value.
Bill and I also worked together on dozens of nationally marketed VHS and DVD productions, too numerous to mention. His career was more varied and much broader in scope than many people probably realize. An interesting sidelight might be that my movie MIDNIGHT, which has become a cult classic and which I intend to remake this year, was originally edited and mixed in Bill's studio in downtown Pittsburgh.
Bill truly loved being on the convention circuit and delighted in appearing at Spooky Empire over and over again. It was probably his favorite venue. I'm more than sure that he will be sorely missed by all the folks who religiously come to Orlando.
SEE "LIST OF PHOTOS" IN THE RIGHT HAND COLUMN TO EXPLAIN THESE PHOTOS BELOW
List of Photos
Two photos of Bill Hinzman in his role as a zombie in the film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (NOLD)
BOTTOM LEFT (photos provided by John Russo):
(1) John Russo with Zombie Barrel from NOLD
ABOUT BILL HINZMAN
Samuel William Hinzman was born on October 24, 1936. He passed away on February 5, 2012.
His character, dubbed the Graveyard Zombie, makes an appearance early in the film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (known as NOLD among fans), staggering towards brother and sister Barbara and Johnny in a cemetery, and killing Johnny. The line, "They're coming to get you, Barbara" is famously delivered by Johnny just before Hinzman comes after the siblings.
Hinzman saved Gary Streiner, brother of actor/producer Russell Streiner, from severe burns on the movie set. When Streiner's arm caught fire during an effects mishap, he began running in terror, and Hinzman (in full zombie makeup) tackled him to the ground and helped extinguish the flames.
At the beginning of the film, Hinzman had to strike a car window with a rock in an attempt to get at a victim. The rock bounced off the window and almost hit director George Romero, according to the movie website IMDb.com.
The budget for NOLD was so tight that Mr. Hinzman did his own special effects. He whitened his face with powder and blackened his teeth with licorice, his daughter said.
He often appeared at fan conventions, where “Number One Zombie” was a favorite. “He’s known and loved everywhere,” his daughter said.
ABOUT JOHN RUSSO
With twenty books published internationally and nineteen feature movies in worldwide distribution, John A. Russo has been called "a living legend." He began by co-authoring the screenplay for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD which has since become known as a "horror classic." His three books on the art and craft of movie making have become bibles of independent production, and one of the them, entitled SCARE TACTICS, won a national award for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction. Quentin Tarantino and many other noted filmmakers have unabashedly stated that Russo's books have helped them to launch their careers.