The Night Of The Living Dead Cameo You Missed In Silence Of The Lambs

Jonathan Demme's "The Silence of the Lambs" and George A. Romero's proto-midnight movie "Night of the Living Dead" share more than a common induction date into the Criterion Closet. The genre classics have less than six degrees of separation due to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo in Demme's 1991 thriller, a cameo that underlines its subject's entrenched place in the minds of moviegoers and filmmakers alike. 

George A. Romero is known for jump-starting the zombie subgenre as we know it today with "Night of the Living Dead" in 1968, but the Pittsburgh-based filmmaker has a long career spanning the entirety of the horror genre with multiple collaborators including Dario Argento, Stephen King, and Tom Savini. With works like his arthouse vampire film "Martin" and the thrilling anthology "Tales From the Darkside" on top of his undead features, Romero is credited with influencing generations of filmmakers and movie lovers, earning a top spot in the horror pantheon.

Standing tall as the one horror movie to win Best Picture at the Oscars (not to mention it swept the Academy Awards the same year, picking up statues for Director, Actor, Actress, and Adapted Screenplay), "The Silence of the Lambs" is an adaptation of Thomas Harris' 1988 novel and concerns one fledgling FBI agent, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), tasked with tracking down a notorious serial killer, the flesh-wearing Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb. Aiding Starling in her quest is Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by the illustrious Anthony Hopkins. Starling's collaboration with the incarcerated Lecter, himself a dangerous killer, is under constant scrutiny by those who wish that access exclusively for themselves. That comes to fruition in a scene that features its two leads, plus one prolific genre writer-director throwing a wrench into Starling's efforts.

This Ain't His First Cameo

The cameo in question can be found late in the film, during the final meeting between Starling and Lecter. The former is once again forced to play by the latter's "quid pro quo" rules, flaying herself open emotionally before Lecter will give her further information on Buffalo Bill's psychological profile. This time, the life of the killer's latest victim is in the balance, and the clock is ticking. A visibly distraught Clarice has to dig deep and explain to Dr. Lecter why she ran away from her cousins' Montant ranch as a child (hint: it has something to do with the film's title). The meeting rewards Starling with the final clue she needs to nail Buffalo Bill ("How do we begin to covet?"), but is cut short when known sleazebag Dr. Chilton (Anthony Heald) interrupts with an agent with a walkie-talkie, played by none other than George A. Romero, sans his trademark black-rimmed glasses. For all of the chills throughout the runtime, this scene is the most important in "Silence of the Lambs," precisely because of Clarice's desperate confession, and the absolution she can grant herself by saving a metaphorical lamb of her own.

While a treat for horror heads, Romero's cameo wasn't his first. Prior to "Lambs," the Godfather of the Dead could be glimpsed in many of his own films from 1968 onward, most notably the opening credits sequence of his 1978 midnight movie classic "Dawn of the Dead" as a director operating at a chaotic network station while the dead arise and walk the earth. The "Creepshow" director would later appear as Police Chief Arthur Katz in his "Diary of the Dead," Romero's fifth sequel to "Night" before his death in July of 2017.