Savini, Tom 1946-

views updated May 11 2018

Savini, Tom 1946-


Born November 3, 1946, in Pittsburgh, PA; married Nancy Hare, 1984; children: Lia (an actress). Education: Attended Carnegie-Mellon University.


Actor, special effects makeup artist, special effects supervisor, director, stunt performer, and stunt coordinator. Tom Savini Ltd. (special effects company), principal; Terrormania (haunted house attraction), Pittsburgh, PA, owner; Douglas School of Business, Monessen, PA, teacher of makeup special effects classes. Worked as a teenager in a traveling group that presented horror and magic shows at movie theatres; other work as a teenager included volunteer monster creator and makeup designer for a local television program called Chiller Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA; Optic Nerve Studios, Inc., special effects creator, 1994. Military service: Served as combat photographer in Vietnam.

Awards, Honors:

Saturn Award nomination, best makeup, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, 1980, for Dawn of the Dead; Saturn Award, best makeup, 1986, for Day of the Dead; Lifetime Achievement Award, New York City Horror Film Festival, 2003.


Film Appearances:

Arthur, Martin, Libra Films International, 1979.

Blades, Dawn of the Dead (also known as Dawn of the Living Dead, George A. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead," Zombie: Dawn of the Dead, Zombies, Zombies: Dawn of the Dear, and Zombi), United Film Distribution, 1979.

Nicky, Effects (also known as Death's Director and The Manipulator), International Harmony, 1980.

Disco boy, Maniac, Analysis Film Releasing, 1980.

Morgan, Knightriders (also known as George A. Romero's "Knightriders"), United Film Distribution, 1981.

Second garbage man, Creepshow (also known as Cuentos de ultratumba), Warner Bros., 1982.

Himself, Il mondo dell'orrore di Dario Argento (documentary; also known as Dario Argento's World of Horror"), Vidmark Entertainment, 1985.

Himself, Document of the Dead, 1985.

Spirit of Jack the Ripper, The Ripper, Liberty Home Video, 1986.

The creep, Creepshow 2, New World, 1987.

Himself, Drive-in Madness! (documentary; also known as Screen Scaries), Imagine Video, 1987.

(Uncredited) The monomaniac, "The Black Cat" segment, Due occhi diabolici, Taurus Entertainment, 1991.

Himself, Dario Argento: Master of Horror (documentary), Vidmark Entertainment, 1991.

News photographer, Innocent Blood (also known as A French Vampire in America), Warner Bros., 1992.

Lieutenant Ron Vargo, Heartstopper (also known as Dark Craving), 1993, Tempo Video, 1996.

Roland, The Demolitionist, Simitar Video, 1995.

Sex Machine, From Dusk to Dawn, Dimension Films, 1996.

Himself, HalloweenThe Happy Haunting of America! (documentary), Chuck Williams Productions/Whiz Bang Entertainment, 1997.

Deputy Hughs, Children of the Living Dead, Spartan Home Entertainment, 2001.

Eddie Rao, Eyes Are Upon You (also known as Demon Lust), 2001.

Uncle Joe, The Monster Man, 2001.

Rouge, Web of Darkness, Renegade Films/Savage Armadillo Productions, 2001.

Salt Lake City detective, Ted Bundy (also known as Bundy), First Look International, 2002.

Stranger, Blood Bath, 2002.

Jesus Christ, Zombiegeddon, Nickel Duck Productions/Wild Range Productions, 2003.

Kane, Vicious, MTI Home Video, 2003.

County sheriff, Dawn of the Dead, Universal, 2004.

The higher power, The Absence of Light, New Illusions Pictures, 2004.

Victor Tonelli, Unearthed, Pheromone Films, 2004.

Himself, UnConventional (documentary), Revolution Earth Productions, 2004.

Man, "The Psychic" segment, Death 4 Told, Asylum, 2005.

Stephen, Forest of the Damned (also known as Demonic, Johannes Roberts' "Demonic," and Johannes Roberts' "Forest of the Damned"), American World Pictures, 2005.

Machete zombie, Land of the Dead (also known as George A. Romero's "Land of the Dead," Land of the Dead—Le territoire des morts, and Le terre des morts), Universal, 2005.

Cabby, A Dream of Color in Black and White, Lions Gate Films, 2005.

Fate, 2005.

Sheriff, Beyond the Wall of Sleep, Lions Gate Films Home Entertainment, 2006.

Prester John, Sea of Dust, 309 Productions, 2006.

Himself, American Scary (documentary), Z-Team Productions, 2006.

Deputy Tolo, "Planet Terror" segment, Grindhouse (also known as Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" and Robert Rodriguez's "Planet Terror"), Dimension Films, 2007.

Killer, Horrorween, Adirondack International Pictures, 2007.

Matthew, Small Time Crime, 72nd Street Productions, 2007.

Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (documentary), ThinkFilm, 2007.

Film Work; Makeup Artist or Special Effects Makeup Artist:

Deathdream (also known as Dead of Night, The Night Andy Came Home, Night Walk, The Veteran, Whispers, and Soif de sang), MPI Home Video, 1972.

Deranged (also known as Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile), American International Pictures, 1974.

Dawn of the Dead (also known as Dawn of the Living Dead, George A. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead," Zombie: Dawn of the Dead, Zombies, Zombies: Dawn of the Dead, and Zombi), United Film Distribution, 1979.

Martin, Libra, 1979.

Effects (also known as Death's Director and The Manipulator), International Harmony, 1980.

Eyes of a Stranger, Warner Bros., 1980.

Friday the 13th, Paramount, 1980.

(And horror sequence designer) The Burning, Filmways, 1981.

(And stunt coordinator) Maniac, Analysis Film Distribution, 1981.

The Prowler (also known as The Graduation and Rosemary's Killer), Sandhurst, 1981.

Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (also known as Blood Splash, Nightmare, and Schizo), 21st Century Film, 1981.

Xiao sheng pa pa (also known as Till Death Do We Scare and Siu sang ong ong), 1982.

(With others) Alone in the Dark, New Line Cinema, 1982.

Creepshow (also known as Cuentos de ultratumba), Warner Bros., 1982.

Midnight (also known as Backwoods Massacre), Independent International Pictures, 1983.

(And special effects supervisor) Friday the 13th—The Final Chapter (also known as Friday the 13th: Last Chapter and Friday the 13th: Part 4), Paramount, 1984.

Day of the Dead (also known as George A. Romero's "Day of the Dead"), United Film, 1985.

Maria's Lovers, Cannon, 1985.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2 (also known as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Cannon, 1986.

Invasion U.S.A., Cannon, 1986.

Monkey Shines (also known as Ella and Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear), Orion, 1988.

Red Scorpion (also known as Red Exterminator), Shapiro-Glickenhaus Home Video, 1989.

(And supervisor) Due occhi diabolici, Taurus Entertainment, 1991.

Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh (also known as Picking Up the Pieces), Paramount Home Entertainment, 1991.

Trauma (also known as Dario Argento's "Trauma"), Republic, 1993.

Heartstopper (also known as Dark Craving), 1993, Tempo Video, 1996.

Killing Zoe, October Films, 1994.

Backstreet Justice (also known as Dead Wrong), Prism Pictures, 1994.

Special effects supervisor, Cutting Moments (short film), 1997.

Special makeup effects supervisor, Cold Hearts, 1999, Synapse Films, 2002.

Special effects supervisor, Web of Darkness, Renegade Films/Savage Armadillo Productions, 2001.

Ted Bundy (also known as Bundy), First Look International, 2002.

Film Work; Other:

Director, Night of the Living Dead, Columbia, 1990.

Stunt coordinator, Children of the Living Dead, Spartan Home Entertainment, 2001.

Television Appearances; Specials:

A Night of Movie Magic, The Discovery Channel, 1995.

The American Nightmare, Independent Film Channel, 2000.

Dario Argento: En Eye for Horror, 2000.

Hollywood Goes to Hell, 2000.

Bogeyman II: Masters of Horror, Sci-Fi Channel, 2004.

Dream of the Dead: George Romero, 2005.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

A-Z of Horror (also known as Clive Barker's "A-Z of Horror"), 1997.

The 100 Scariest Movie Moments, Bravo, 2004.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

"Horror Makeup: Fright Factories," Movie Magic, 1995.

Peter Reynolds, "Lost Boy," Sheena, 2000.

Voice, "Worst Episode Ever," The Simpsons (animated), Fox, 2001.

"Frightvition 2002," The Midnight Movie, 2002.

Appeared in "Halloween Candy," Tales from the Darkside, syndicated.

Television Appearances; Other:

Motorcyclist, The Boy Who Loved Trolls, 1984.

Chemical/weapons engineer, Mr. Stitch, Sci-Fi Channel, 1996.

Television Makeup Effects Specialist:

The Assassination File (also known as Out in the Cold), 1996.

(And designer) Mr. Stitch, Sci-Fi Channel, 1996.

Television Director; Episodic:

Directed an episode of Tales from the Dark Side, syndicated.



Scream Greats, Vol. 1: Tom Savini, Master of Horror Effects (also known as Scream Greats, Vol. 1), Paramount Home Video, 1986.

Il mondo di Dario Argento 2: Il museo degli orrori di Dario Argento, 1997.

The Dead Walk: Remaking a Classic, Columbia TriStar Home Video, 1999.

Two Masters' Eyes, 2003.

Savini's EFX, 2003.

The Many Days of "Day of the Dead," 2003.

Behind the House: Anatomy of the Zombie Movement, Artisan Entertainment, 2004.

Creature Feature: 50 Years of the Gill-Man, Cinematic Heroes/Gill Film, 2004.

Tom Savini: The Early Years, Blue Underground, 2004.

Interviewee and director, Chill Factor: House Call (also known as Tom Savini's "Chill Factor"), 2004.

The Dead Will Walk, Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2004.

(In archive footage) Nightmares in Foam Rubber, 2004.

After Effects: Memories of Pittsburgh Filmmaking, Synapse Films, 2005.

The Shark Is Still Working, Finatic Productions, 2006.

The Witch's Dungeon: 40 Years of Chills, Colorbox Studios, 2006.

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2006, Triple C Productions, 2006.

Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw, Dark Sky Films, 2006.

It Runs in the Family: The Making of a Sequel, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2006.

Appeared as teacher and created special makeup effects for the music video "Twisted Sister: Come Out and Play," Atlantic Video, 1986; appeared in and created makeup for "Be Chrool to Your Scuel" by Twisted Sister.



Grande Illusions, Imagine, 1983, reprinted as Bizarro!, Harmony Books, 1986, then as Grande Illusions: A Learn-by Example Guide to the Art and Technique of Special Make-up Effects from the Films of Tom Savini, 1993.

Grande Illusions, Book II, Michelucci, 1988.

Contributor to periodicals.



International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 4: Writers and Production Artists, 4th edition, St. James Press, 2000.


Aspire!, January, 2000, pp. 4-6.

Dark Side, December, 2002, pp. 26-32.

Fangoria, March, 1996, pp. 64-68.


Tom Savini Official Site,, April 13, 2007.

Savini, Tom

views updated Jun 27 2018


Makeup Artist and Makeup Effects Designer. Nationality: American. Born: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 3 November 1946. Family: Married Nancy Hare, 1984. Education : Journalism major at Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh. Career: Actor in North Carolina; 1976—first association with the director George A. Romero who cast him in Martin; television work includes episodes of Tales from the Dark Side.

Films as Makeup Artist and/or Makeup Effects Designer Actor:


Deathdream (Dead of Night) (Clark)


Deranged (Gillen/Ormsby)


Martin (Romero) (+ role as Arthur)


Effects (Nelson) (+ role as Nicky); Dawn of the Dead (Romero) (+ role as Motorcycle Rider)


Maniac (Lustig) (+ role as Disco Boy); The Awakening (Russo); Friday the Thirteenth (Cunningham); The Burning (Maylam)


Eyes of a Stranger (Wiederhorn); Prowler (Zito); Friday the Thirteenth, Part II (Miner); Midnight (Russo); Nightmare (Scavolini)


Creepshow (Romero) (+ role as Garbage Man #2); Alone in the Dark (Sholder)


Maria's Lovers (Konchalovsky); Friday the Thirteenth: The Final Chapter (Zito)


Day of the Dead (Romero); Invasion USA (Zito)


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (Hooper)


Creepshow II (Gormick) (+ role as The Creep)


Monkey Shines (Romero)


Red Scorpion (Zito)


Due occhi diabolici (Two Evil Eyes; The Facts in the Case of M; Valdemar; The Black Cat; Edgar Allan Poe) (Romero, Argento)


Bloodsucking Pharoahs in Pittsburgh (Smithee/Tschetter)


Trauma (Argento); Heartstopper (Russo)


Killing Zoe (Avary); Necronomicon (Gans/Kaneko)


The Stitch (Avary—for TV)


The Assassination File (Harrison—for TV) (+ role as Chemical Weapons Engineer)


Cutting Moments (Buck); Claustrophobia (+ d, role)


Cold Hearts (Masciantonio)

Other Films:


Knightriders (Romero) (role as Morgan)


Night of the Living Dead (d)


Innocent Blood (Landis) (role as News Photographer)


The Demolitionist (Kurtzman) (role as Roland)


From Dusk Till Dawn (Rodriguez) (role as Sex Machine)


Eyes Are Upon You (Goldberg) (role as Eddie Rao); Wishmaster (Kurtzman) (role as Pharmacist Helper)


By SAVINI: books—

Bizarro, New York, 1983.

Grand Illusions: A Learn-by Example Guide to the Art and Technique of Special Make-up Effects from the Films of Tom Savini, Pittsburgh, 1993.

By SAVINI: articles—

Segnocinema (Vicenza), March 1982.

Écran fantastique (Paris), no. 33, April 1983.

Time Out (London), 22 September 1993.

On SAVINI: books—

McCarty, John, in Splatter Movies: Breaking the Last Taboo of the Screen, New York, 1984.

Russo, John A., Making Movies, New York, 1989.

Wiater, Stanley, Dark Visions: Conversations with the Masters of the Horror Film, New York, 1992.

Brown, Paul, and Nigel Burrell, Tom Savini: The Wizard of Gore, Mark V. Zeising Publisher, n.d.

On SAVINI: articles—

Film Comment (New York), vol. 17, no. 4, July-August 1981.

Starburst (London), no. 47, 1982.

Écran fantastique (Paris), no. 24, May 1982.

Cinéfantastique (New York), vol. 21, no. 3, December 1990.

* * *

Tom Savini, a makeup artist who specializes in special effects scenes of bodily disfigurement and mutilation, has (for better or worse) played a major role in the development of the modern horror film. It was his innovative work in prosthetics and latex, alongside that of other makeup effects designers such as Rick Baker and Rob Bottin, which at the end of the 1970s assisted at the unholy birth of what has come to be known in critical circles and the fan press as the "splatter movie." This is a form of horror film which brushes aside the Manichean struggles between Good and Evil which had characterized earlier horror films, offering instead a fascination with the impact of violence on the human body. In splatter movies, objects of violence which were usually hidden from view—most notably, the internal organs—are displayed to the film audience in graphic and unforgiving detail.

Savini worked for three years as a combat photographer in Vietnam, and it was there that he first encountered the scenes of violent death which he would later recreate on film. "[In Vietnam], I almost stepped on an arm once," he says. "A Viet Cong was shot by a buddy of mine and when he fell, a grenade he'd had primed under his armpit went off and just blew him to smithereens. I saw a lot of grisly stuff all right, and my stuff in films has been pretty grisly. If I've got anything of a reputation at all, I'm probably notorious for how real my stuff looks . . . well, most of the time. I would say in that respect, the realism of my stuff, the grisliness, the anatomical correctness of it probably does come from that experience. But I don't want to give the impression that I do this work because of my Vietnam experience. Not at all. It's all in the script. Somebody writes this stuff."

Returning to America, he pursued journalism then an acting career for a short while before following in the footsteps of his idol, the silent screen star and makeup master Lon Chaney, and moved into the area of effects makeup for the stage, then the screen. He quickly made a name for himself through his involvement with a number of major (and quite a few minor) horror films, including Friday the 13th and, perhaps most significantly, a series of films for director George Romero—Martin, Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow, Day of the Dead, Monkey Shines.

It can be argued that Savini, through his effects work, offers us a distinctly modern view of an alienated human existence. The assaulted bodies he creates are all flesh, and no spirit. They function as mere containers of organs and liquid substances, as sites upon which various makeup skills and techniques can be unleashed. Like Rick Baker and Rob Bottin, Savini has acquired a substantial cult following, most notably in the pages of Fangoria magazine, but also through books and videotapes detailing his work.

Savini's signature effect is the exploding head: shotgun-to-the-cranium gimmicks feature in Maniac, The Prowler, and Day of the Dead. But the importance of Romero's input to Savini's oeuvre can be gauged by comparing the uninspired decapitations and stabbings of such glumly misanthropic items as Maniac or Friday the 13th with the outrageous, transgressive "splatstick" of Romero's zombie movies—which offer a ghoul losing the top of his head to a helicopter blade like a breakfast egg, a severed head used as a bowling ball with eye-socket fingerholes, or a villain snarling "'choke on 'em" to the zombies gobbling his entrails. Recently, his collaboration with Romero has been eclipsed by work for the Italian visionary Dario Argento, who produced Dawn of the Dead, directed (with Romero) the two-part Two Evil Eyes (for which Savini recreated Poe horrors like the naked woman bisected by a pendulum and the exhumed corpse with all its teeth plucked) and the drab decapitation-saga Trauma (featuring a handy noose gadget that automatically guillotines with as much resonance as an electric can-opener). His fame can be seen as part of the shift in the nature of horror to which he himself has contributed. Within this the increasing foregrounding of and fascination with special effects techniques, both in films and in horror fanzines, has made him as much a star of the genre as any actor or director. "Yes, I think the effects people are becoming the stars of the films," he says. "What the critics say about films like Friday the 13th—that they don't have much plot or characterization and are an exercise in one death after another—is absolutely true. The special effects are the stars of those movies. I can't say that [this] bothers me. But I will say that there was a magic alive in a lot of the older movies—the horror films, the swashbucklers, whatever—that we don't see today. I personally feel that it's a lot smarter to leave things to a person's imagination, let him fill things in for himself. When your mind completes something, it's much more valuable to you, I think."

Part of Savini's familiarity with audiences may also boil down to the fact that he has indeed worked as an actor—taking major supporting roles for Romero in Martin and Knightriders, enjoying himself as a monster-fighting biker dude in Dawn of the Dead and Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn, and playing Jack the Ripper in the made-for-video The Ripper—and branched into direction, with a few installments of Tales from the Darkside on TV and a Romero-scripted remake of Romero's seminal Night of the Living Dead, which surprisingly holds back on the gory make-up effects as it plays clever variations on the original film.

—Peter Hutchings, updated by Kim Newman and John McCarty