The Horror Zine
Night of the Living Dead
Bill Hinzman

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


Earl Hamner
John Saul
Piers Anthony
Kasey Lansdale
Nancy Holder
Craig Spector
John Gilmore
Bianca Barnett
Simon Clark

Bill Hinzman 1 Bill Hinzman 2

by John Russo

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.


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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
(2) NOLD Novel Cover
(3) John Russo in Zombie Makeup for NOLD
(4) Bill Hinzman on NOLD 30th Anniversary Poster
(5) SANTA CLAWS Poster, Bill Hinzman, Cinematographer
(6) MAJORETTES Poster, Bill Hinzman, Director
(7) Bill Hinzman at a Horror Convention with NOLD Cast Members
(8) Painting by John Graziano of Bill Hinzman as Cemetery Zombie


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

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.


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.

John Russo wants people to know he's "just a nice guy who likes to scare people" -- and he's done it with novels and films such as RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, MIDNIGHT, THE MAJORETTES, THE AWAKENING and HEARTSTOPPER. His novel MIDNIGHT was published in twenty-five languages, and the movie, although made on a very low budget, got excellent reviews, attracted a "cult" following, and has been kept in constant release on VHS and DVD by Lions Gate.

He has had a long, rewarding career, and he shows no sign of slowing down. Recently his screenplay for ESCAPE OF THE LIVING DEAD was made into a five-part comic book released by Avatar to great acclaim -- and it made the Top Ten of Horror Comics nationally. To date this original story has spawned ten sequels and two graphic novels, plus a slew of tie-in merchandise such as T-shirts, beer mugs, coffee mugs, shot glasses, etc. The outstanding success of this property in comic-book form has shown such a strong grassroots appeal that the movie is now ready to go with Russo directing a top-rated cast featuring Kristina Klebe, Gunnar Hansen, Kane Hodder and Tom Savini.

Slated for release in the fall of 2010 are two brand new horror comics written by Russo and a big trade paperback from Kensington Publishing Company comprised of both the original novel of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and its stark-horror follow-up, also by Russo, entitled THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. This is the first time that both of these horror classics will be teamed together in one volume.

Russo's popularity among genre fans remains at a high pitch, evidenced by the fact that this year alone he will be a main attraction in four movie-making books by other authors, and will be a guest on an Internet panel hosted by Edgar-winning writer Jonathan Maberry.

John Russo's current movie projects, in addition to ESCAPE OF THE LIVING DEAD, include a horror thriller about teenage vampires, a dark fantasy concerning an alien invasion of a small town, and a hilariously funny TV series entitled THE ZOMBIE COMEDY SHOW.