RIP Richard Ricci, 1st zombie to take a headshot in Night of the Living Dead

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Richard Ricci is probably not a name that's known by every horror fan, but he did play a very important role in horror history. When it comes to the average zombie, everyone knows, "kill the brain and you kill the ghoul." That rule was established in the 1968 George A. Romero classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which is also the film that introduced the idea of flesh-eating zombies (which Romero wasn't even referring to as zombies at the time, he was calling them ghouls). And when the time came to demonstrate the fact that headshots put down the living dead, it was Ricci who played the ghoul.

At roughly the halfway point of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the character Ben (played by Duane Jones) uses a rifle to shoot at a zombie that's trying to reach through a boarded window. The zombie is shot in the chest, and Ben is shocked that this shot doesn't kill it. He shoots the zombie in the chest again. It keeps coming. That's when he tries shooting it in the head, and discovers that is the only way to re-kill the dead. Ricci played the zombie that gets shot because the scene required him to have squibs strapped to his body – and the crew of the low budget production wasn't quite sure if these squibs were going to work like they were supposed to. Romero jokingly told Ricci that he should play the zombie because "I'm pretty sure you won't sue us if things go wrong."

Ricci wasn't likely to sue because he was one of the ten investor-producers behind NIGHT's production company Image Ten. In fact, he was even present for the moment when Romero and the film's co-writer John A. Russo decided that they were going to make a movie.

Sadly, Richard Ricci has now passed away. Russo and fellow Image Ten partner Gary Streiner confirmed Ricci's passing in Facebook posts. According to a birthdate listed online, Ricci was 80 years old.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD wasn't Ricci's only film credit. He also appeared in Romero's films THERE'S ALWAYS VANILLA and KNIGHTRIDERS, and worked as a grip and/or electrician on such films as CREEPSHOW, JACK'S BACK, and WARLOCK.

Our sincere condolences go out to Ricci's family, friends, and fans. His role in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD didn't last very long, but it taught us a valuable lesson that we still remember.

(Note: Ricci wasn't the first zombie Ben killed in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, he bashed some others with a tire iron before that, but it wasn't until he shot the Ricci ghoul that he realized destroying the brain was the only way to handle the situation.)

Richard Ricci Night of the Living Dead

Source: Facebook

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.